The whirlwind romance between Roma and Claudio Ranieri came to a bitter end this weekend as i Lupi surrendered a 3-0 lead against Genoa and fell to their fourth successive defeat. Ranieri went out in the most dignified way possible, by offering up his resignation rather than facing the sack. Rosella Sensi and the Roma board moved quickly to appoint Vincenzo Montella as his successor, promoting the legendary striker from his position as Coach of the Under-15 side until the end of the season.
The goal for the man known as the Little Aeroplane is obvious: to finish in the Champions League places. Less clear is exactly how he will set about achieving said goal. He is taking over a squad that has been ravaged by injuries and is almost completely devoid of confidence. Montella, however, is ready and willing to put himself in the firing line should he fail, telling the team: “The choices will be mine and, if I get things wrong, the responsibility will be all mine.” This approach could be just the tonic the Roma squad need.
Towards the end of his time in charge, the policy of squad rotation Ranieri stuck to religiously was having a negative effect on a number of players. Mirko Vucinic has struggled to replicate last season’s stellar form, as have Juan, Nicolas Burdisso and Francesco Totti among others. While it is always easy to level blame at a departing Coach, trying to fit into a starting eleven in a constant state of flux can take it’s toll on even the best players.
Montella is unlikely to continue with Ranieri’s selection policy, which suggests such underperformers as Leandro Greco and Paolo Castellini are unlikely to see much action for the rest of the season. Without the threat of rotation hanging over their heads, senior players such as Daniele De Rossi, Francesco Totti and the returning David Pizarro will be charged with energising and inspiring the side with much improved performances.
Having been part of the side Totti captained to the Scudetto in 2001, it will be interesting to see how the relationship between Montella and Er Pupone develops. As Totti was virtually the only player to walk away from the game against Genoa with his head held high having contributed two assists and a goal, he looks likely to retain his place in the side.
Fate has been kind to Montella and his career as a top-flight manager will start with relatively tame trips to Bologna and Lecce either side of a home encounter with Parma. These games offer an opportunity for Montella to build the confidence of the squad before the daunting trip to the Ukraine for their Champions League second leg comes around. The game against Shakhtar will be a massive test for Montella as the Ukrainian side are exceptionally strong at home and need only a draw to progress.
While appointing Montella is certainly a gamble on the part of Sensi and the board, his does possess a great many of the tools necessary to succeed. With the fans and players behind him, L’Aeroplanino could make a go of things with Roma, only this time as Coach.