Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Julian De Martinis On June - 20 - 2011

Roma’s Mercato: Where’s The Defence?

Thomas Di Benedetto is a stranger in a strange land. As an American in charge of an Italian football club - Italy being infamously insular when it comes to calcio - the Bostonian needs to make a strong and favorable impression immediately upon the minds of Romanisti. The club’s most noticeable problem is a leaky defence, the likes of which is prone to spectacular mistakes in judgments and awful concessions. Yet with so much transfer talk centered around attacking players, where do new defenders fit into the minds of the new look Roma?

Thus far in early mercato, Roma have been linked with a host of attacking names, but a dearth of defenders. In terms of possible acquisitions, strikers and midfielders seem to be a hot commodity. Bojan Kirkic looks increasingly likely to arrive as both the player’s agent and Walter Sabatini, the Giallorossi’s Sporting Director, have confirmed interest. Erik Lamela has been discussed and scouted as well as fellow Argentine youngster Rickey Alvarez.

Even departures about the club revolve around Mirko Vucinic and Jeremy Menez. The former’s agent claims that something is broken at Roma, while the latter has already had a bust-up with former coach Vincenzo Montella; one of the two looks certain to leave.

All of this attacking speculation has largely left defence on the back burner. The only defender reasonably linked to Roma thus far has been Arsenal’s Gael Clichy, besides minor rumblings about Newcastle’s Jose Enrique. In fact, the only exception to the rule seems to be in the goalkeeping department, where both Alexander Doni and Julio Sergio have been available to leave, with Emiliano Viviano and Maarten Stekelenburg expressing their interest in joining the club.

On the basis of last season however, the Roma attack is rather potent. The side were tied for the fourth most goals scored in the league with fifty-nine, with three forwards scoring ten goals or more; Francesco Totti (15), Marco Borriello (11), and Mirko Vucinic(10) and the team averaged eleven shots per game. In fact, it was the Roma defence that truly cursed the side last year, tying the league’s fourth highest position for conceding goals with fifty two.

The Giallorossi were amongst the very worst sides in the league in terms of protecting a lead, losing from winning positions against Palermo, Catania, Sampdoria, and infamously Genoa amongst others. By bringing in Luis Enrique and Walter Sabatini, Di Benedetto’s strategy is evident: Roma will focus around attacking play and young athletes. Enrique, former coach of the Barcelona B squad, looks to emulate the senior Spanish side and advocates instilling a similarly attacking mentality at the capital club. His preference is based around a 4-3-3 and fast pressing, where offence is the first line of defence, perhaps partially solving the conundrum.

There may be other reasons as to why so little about defence has been mentioned: it may be focused upon once Enrique decides his attack is set, or perhaps the hierarchy is waiting for the price of certain players to fall or secret negotiations to occur.

Nevertheless, despite all of the discussion about attacking forays and wingers, it is Roma’s defense that needs to be drastically altered. Philippe Mexes’ departure to Milan only intensifies the issue further, an already severe issue given the advancing age of stalwarts John Arne Riise, Juan, and Marco Cassetti. Romanisti need not despair just yet, as the mercato is very long and much has yet to be done, but it remains curious that many of the murmurings thus far seem to ignore the one aspect of the team that need improvement the most.

Julian De Martinis

Calcio, Azzurri, and Roma tifosi. Blogger, correspondent, podcast host (@LaMagicast). Lover of books, movies, wordplay, family, and a good cappuccino.

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