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Stuart Harper On April - 21 - 2011

Sette Sempre Unica: Disunited States

The ink is barely dry, and already the size of the task awaiting Roma’s new owner is emphatically clear. Rather than welcome Di Benedetto with successive home wins, the Giallorossi succumbed to league and cup defeats, scuppering any hopes of a honeymoon period for the American regime.

Having triumphed against the odds in Udine, the visit of an ailing Palermo side appeared to be an attractive proposition, the ideal fixture to commemorate a momentous new era. Fittingly, an early penalty from Totti heralded Di Benedetto’s reign but Palermo, and the returning Delio Rossi celebrating at full-time – the out of form Sicilians emerging 3-2 victors.

With the league defeat still smarting, Tuesday offered Roma a readymade opportunity to make amends by securing a Coppa Italia lead against Inter Milan. With Totti still serving a ‘cup only’ suspension, Montella was charged with prizing goals from a side wholly reliant on their captain (seven from Roma’s previous eight goals have come from Er Pupone).

Montella looked towards a goal shy Borriello to lead the forward line, assisted by Mirko Vucinic. Alas, neither prospered on what was a frustrating evening with the former AC Milan striker suffering a head injury, and the Montenegrin missing a gilt edged chance at 0-0.

The appearance of a clearly disheartened Jeremy Menez failed to ignite Roma’s offensive charge and Dejan Stankovich’s long range salvo separated the sides at full-time. Clearly for Thomas Di Benedetto, things may well get worse before they get better.

Away from the Olimpico, the baptism of fire continued for Di Benedetto as La Repubblica printed a scathing ‘exposé’ of Roma’s finances, and while Roma were quick to address scurrilous accusations concerning financial irregularities, it appears that the Bostonian’s tenure is off to a tumultuous start on all levels.

Thankfully, Di Benedetto’s real area of expertise lies in finances and in time, he and his people will untangle the presiding mess. Where he has less influence, certainly until the summer, is on the field of play, and yet here is where Roma desperately seek immediate improvement in both league and cup formats.

Fully six points shy of Lazio in fourth and a goal down to Inter with the away leg forthcoming, Montella is entering into a pivotal phase for one so inexperienced - an inexperience that came to the fore against Inter, with l’aeroplanino struggling to tactically cope without Totti orchestrating matters in the final third.

While Mirko Vucinic is currently being singled out for criticism, the fact that Jeremy Menez escapes close scrutiny is somewhat baffling. His demeanour screams of abject disinterest and it is clear Menez has allowed peripheral matters to turn his head. Rather than fight with greater resolve, it appears Menez has given up, content to hide on the bench and happy to permit a clash of personalities with Montella to excuse himself from trying.

It is painfully obvious that Roma have become heavily reliant upon Francesco Totti but he alone can’t propel Roma to fourth position. Quite simply one or more of capitano’s cohorts must remember that they are being handsomely remunerated and cease to use the turmoil surrounding Roma as an excuse for under performing.

In the instance of Menez, whether the blame should be shared between he and Montella is open to conjecture, but whatever the issue, hatchets must be buried and if Menez wants out, he should at least remember that he’s in the shop window - starting with yet another home tie on Saturday against Chievo.

Clearly Roma’s league fortunes are not in their own hands, but hope still remains for the second-leg of the Coppa Italia. Away from Rome, the Giallorossi have fared well under Montella, most recently with an away day win against form team Udinese, given Roma’s prevailing home form, the San Siro genuinely looks a more inviting proposition right now and under Leonardo, Inter are prone to ‘Schalke-like’ aberrations.

Clutching at straws? Undoubtedly yes, but until the likes of Borriello and Menez step up to the plate and share the responsibility shouldered solely by Totti, that’s all we Romanisti can do.

Stuart Harper

Freelance sports writer covering football, calcio & futbol. A Villa, Roma & Barca fan. Cycling too.

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