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Stuart Harper On November - 20 - 2011

Roma Focus: Them’s The Breaks

On Novara’s synthetic surface, Roma had to dig deep, and dig they did, unearthing three much needed points thanks to a blend of persistence and vision.

Against dogged and at times enterprising resistance, Roma looked to their new acquisitions as architects of an away day three points, rekindling the capital club’s assault on Serie A - but then came an unfortunately timed break for international football.

For passionate, club-centric tifosi, the brief hiatus for international friendlies can prove an unwelcome interruption, and for Romanisti, fresh from a successful raid on the north and with lowly Lecce next, the break proved an unwanted momentum killer.

If any of Roma’s fervent support remained ambivalent about the absence of Serie A action, the return of a stricken Nicolas Burdisso should serve as evidence to suggest that a break in league proceedings are more curse than blessing. The Argentine tore cruciate knee ligaments in action against Columbia and Roma will have to function without the South American for what may prove to be the remainder of this season.

Burdisso, as Francesco Totti testified, will prove to be a big loss in Roma’s rearguard. In a side swamped with new recruits, the presence of experience is an invaluable commodity - especially within a defensive unit that it is all but brand new - sometimes one has to wonder as to the legitimacy of meaningless friendlies, certainly when those games involve long distance travel.

Speaking of the injuries and experience, ‘il capitano‘ is rumoured to be fit enough to face Lecce this weekend. Totti has missed several games thanks to a hamstring injury but recent reports suggest a return on Sunday evening. Almost inevitably, Totti will walk straight back into Roma’s starting XI, but the real question however is should he?

The presence of Totti in his favoured position serves to force Pablo Daniel Osvaldo into a wide left berth, creating a void where an orthodox forward plies his trade - an area in which Totti is unable to ‘explode into’ given his abject lack of pace.

As mentioned previously in this column, the absence of a traditional forward, certainly when that man is Osvaldo, is somewhat of a travesty. The imperious Argentine, as evidenced against Novara, has the physical and mental attributes to wreak havoc in and around the six-yard area, not withstanding a drive and propensity to simply score goals. More than once Osvaldo caused problems for Novara’s defence and ultimately, was unlucky to snag just one goal on the night.

Thus, if Totti is to return to action against Lecce, Luis Enrique maybe better served by deploying capitano in the centrocampista role, rather than his desired trequartista position. The latter of which, as mentioned, negates Osvaldo’s effectiveness. Whether Enrique can cajole Totti into the centre of midfield is unlikely, but should the Giallorossi icon buy into such a ploy, Totti could prove to be the ultimate conduit, functioning in a role which demands vision and guile far more than pace - a seemingly good fit for the game shy capitano.

Irrespective of tactical nuances, on paper at least, Lecce ‘looks’ to be one of those ‘should win’ games regardless of who plays where. The visitors are languishing in the relegation zone, some six points behind Roma, and a cursory glance at the table suggests a certain home win. Curiously however, that’s not the entire story.

The southerners are finding greater prosperity away from their Stadio Via del Mare home. With just one point from five home games, Lecce have found the road a much happier place to be, with seven points to show from five away day sorties. This said, the Stadio Olimpico represents Lecce’s sternest test thus far and Roma can ill afford to drop points against such opposition - certainly if the upper echelons of Serie A are to be kept within reach.

Ideally, and although somewhat sacrilegious, it would be good to see Luis Enrique resist a temptation to reinstate Totti just because he is fit. The personnel who prospered at Novora should be afforded a chance to repeat their feat, and while obviously this includes Osvaldo in the orthodox strikers position, it also means giving Miralem Pjanic a prominent, Totti-esque position - a break he deserves on recent form, a break tinged with positivity for once. Forza.

Stuart Harper

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

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