A few words from the editor – It is with great pleasure I welcome back Stuart Harper after a recent absence to the pages of Serie A Weekly. Stuart has been one of our best received writers during the last year and his coverage of AS Roma has surely been missed, welcome back Stu!
Whether other tifosi feel the same it is hard to say, but for this particular Romanista, watching Roma this year has been a surreal experience, like watching through frosted glass. One can see the colours and one instinctively knows that it is the Giallorossi, but it doesn’t feel quite like it should.
The summer months that yielded an unprecedented amount of change inevitably led to the expected and frankly dreaded transitional phase. Time would be needed for the mass of new faces to feel familiar with each other, with their new surroundings, and for them to be taken to the hearts of Olimpico faithful.
Maybe it is because Roma have traditional erred on the judicious side when it comes to imported talent – when compared to say Inter at least, or because our dearest, most cherished sons are products of the Curva Sud itself, but the sudden and disparate glut of imports have maybe yet to feel like bona fide ‘i lupi’.
A derby day victory would have gone some way to ingratiating ‘new Roma‘ with the fans and would have made for a much more convivial and indeed more productive atmosphere around Trigoria. As it happened, Lazio cruelly snatched the spoils and Luis Enrique’s season stuttered once more. Since then, two defeats and three points against Palermo have followed, further perpetuating the sense that Roma’s engine is running at far from optimum and is prone to stalling at any given time.
Talk of Roma becoming the reincarnation of Barcelona was always fanciful nonsense, you simply can’t throw together a team and expect them to mirror a side that has been forged through several epochs and the mythical La Masia. However, where the Giallorossi are unable to accurately ape the Catalans technical attributes, Luis Enrique may benefit from borrowing their ‘forward first’ mentality.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Spanish tactician has deployed his new charges in a cagey, almost tentative formation. Most notably, Roma have lacked a player in an orthodox striking role and despite many observers predicting excitement at the Olimpico, Roma have scored more than once in only two of their nine matches thus far – and while many would advocate a reappraisal of Roma’s defensive issues, a reluctance in front of goal will always complicate a team’s true capabilities.
Of course, Barcelona are able to work without an archetypal striker. Their well oiled midfield can systematically and instinctively thread their way through even the most congested final thirds – for Roma however, this level of intuition and intricacy is some distance, possibly several seasons away. Therefore, one would would urge Enrique to dispense with the mode of football in which he was schooled, and for now forsake artisanship for something a little more basic, albeit effective.
Effective in this instance, means having a man operating as a traditional centre-forward berth, be that Marco Borriello, Pablo Osvaldo or any other from Roma’s harvest of striking options. Regardless of who, there is a certainly case for having a target man, especially with the range of supply options offered by Roma’s creative-centric midfield.
Quite simply the Giallorosso need to ask more questions of opposition defences and up until now, the absence of an out and out striker has made life too easy for opponents who can defend higher up the pitch. Better still, possibly go one step further and play Bojan Krcic or Erik Lamela off the said striker to afford Roma the much storied ‘big man, little man‘ strike partnership – a tactic which has served to haunt many rearguard units across Europe.
Ultimately, few teams can effectively operate without a striker deployed in the appropriate position and after nine games, Roma have hardly looked like a free scoring unit. Obviously this has a little to do with Enrique’s desire not to lose games, but clearly things need adjusting for Roma’s latent potential to fulfill its clear potential and Enrique needs to engender a greater goal box threat.
So, with a succession of winnable games upcoming, starting with and no disrespect to Novara, Roma have a golden opportunity to gain momentum before facing Juventus just before Christmas. And with the Bianconeri currently eight points clear of the capital club, a little more ambition and attacking chutzpah will help to keep Roma in touch with the leaders – all of which returns us to the original point.
A return to a more direct brand of attacking football – certainly one that yields points, will help clear the somewhat hazy picture as it stands. The chemistry between the team and tifosi needs a spark, fans need a reason to believe – and if given it, there are few more vociferous supporters than Romanisti.
Yes, the brand of calcio being advocated is hardly revolutionary, but a return to basics may well propel ‘new‘ Roma into a synergistic new strata with their fans, and a raucous, ‘on board‘ Olimpico can make a significant difference and may prove to be the catalyst in making the unfamiliar, familiar.
On Saturday last the Giallorossi got the cart moving again with a 2-0 victory over newcomers Novara at their synthetic grass stadium Silvio Piola in northern Italy.