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Stuart Harper On May - 12 - 2011

Sette Sempre Unica: Roma Accentuate The Positive

In a season plagued by adversity Roma have for once a modicum of clarity; they simply need to win their last two league games while hoping Udinese and Lazio falter. Sadly however, that’s as clear as Roma’s outlook becomes as a myriad of complexities refuse to go away.

On paper, Saturday night’s stalemate against the now champions AC Milan was highly respectable, but the point and clean sheet however, merely papered over a number of cracks.

Mirko Vucinic cut a forlorn figure throughout, and having squandered a definite goal-scoring opportunity it’s fair to say the season-end can’t come soon enough for the listless Montenegrin. Meanwhile, the second-half substitution of Marco Borriello failed to improve Roma’s attacking options and despite the Giallorossi’s dire need for all three points, Roma appear a frankly toothless force without Totti.

Worryingly for Vincenzo Montella’s managerial aspirations, the rookie tactician failed to adapt and adjust against a Milan for whom a point was the chief objective. With the game ebbing away, l’aeroplanino persisted in trying to ‘play through’ a well drilled Rossoneri rather than maybe switch to a more direct method – furthermore, exemplifying a reluctance to modify, each of Roma’s three substitutions were ‘like-for-like’ positional changes.

Of the evening’s three personnel changes, the final carried significance greater than strategy alone, as Montella gave the nod to the 17-year old Gianluca Capari over Jeremy Menez. Despite Menez’s indifferent form it is inconceivable that this switch was based on football sensibilities alone.

The questions raised by Montella’s substitutions is thus - has he compounded tactical limitations by allowing a rift to cloud his judgement? Or, is Vincenzo’s resoluteness an admirable characteristic that will serve him well as a developing coach? At this juncture and with points of paramount importance, should personal pride be forsaken?

Judging by a growing sentiment amongst Romanisti, the deployment of Capari rather than Menez has met with widespread favour and points towards a growing chagrin towards the Frenchman.

On the subject of Montella, the media seemingly sense a short-lived tenure in the air and are revelling in the possibilities following an interesting week for conspiracy theorists. Fresh from an ascent to the Coppa Italia final, Delio Rossi has spoken about managing Roma, suggesting that his Lazio past should not be a hurdle to one who is professional. Whether the Curva Sud see things that way is another matter however.

Meanwhile, it is all but official that Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea will finish this campaign empty-handed and here in England, media speculation suggests that Carlo’s sacking is now inevitable, with Porto’s Villas Boas or former charge Gus Hiddink set to replace the Italian. Further fuelling this conjecture is sightings of Ancelotti in Rome, and Walter Sabatini in Manchester this past week.

Speaking of rumour and conjecture, as we near the summer transfer window it is unavoidable (certainly with Roma’s fragile state), that news outlets, forum boards and twitter will be awash with largely fabricated truths. Of these murmurings; those surrounding Daniele De Rossi are a concern.

‘DDR’ has just one year remaining on his contract and with life in the capital having been tainted by personal issues, probability indicates a summer move could be likely. Irrespective, it is imperative that Roma avoid another Mexes-type situation where a contract expired, giving way for a free transfer. Reassuring sound bites from Di Benedetto however, suggest that this is unlikely as the American this week voiced consternation towards Rosella Sensi’s negligence which effectively gave Philippe Mexes a free ticket out of Rome – so if nothing else, Roma’s financial housekeeping is being

Finally, Wednesday evening saw Roma put up a valiant fight against Inter in the Coppa Italia semi-final, second-leg. Alas, much like Saturday evening, it was Roma’s opponents who profited from a sterling stalemate as Inter progress to the final 2-1 on aggregate. A deft passing game and a Borriello goal proved insufficient as Eto’o opening the scoring and Inter’s woodwork denied the Giallorossi.

As Milan once again proves itself as the peninsula’s home of calcio, Romanisti will hope that glory can return to the capital sometime soon. For that to happen an awful lot of work needs to be done but with positives to be drawn from successive clashes against Italy’s premier two teams, this season is from far over and a fourth place finish would feel like a hugely significant success and a triumph against persistent adversity.

Sunday sees Roma travel to Sicily to take on a Catania team ensconced in mid table safety. With nothing to play for, Roma could have more taxing away trips, and despite the absence of De Rossi and Mexes, i lupi will look to convert form and urgency into points.

With matters not entirely in Roma’s own hands, all that can be done is ‘control the controllable’ and win the last two remaining games. Totti is back for Sunday, Borriello is once again on the score sheet and following respectable performances against Champions past and elect, now is the time to accentuate the positive and forge ahead.

Stuart Harper

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

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