Walking in a Zeman Wonderland: The Bright Side For Roma
After 20 games in Serie A, AS Roma find themselves sixth in the league table. Growing pressure has mounted upon coach, Zdenek Zeman, to change his tactics and establish a stronger defensive foundation. Yet despite the increasing pressure from fans, Zeman remains stubborn and will not change. Is it for the best?
Zdenek Zeman is renowned throughout Italy for his attacking philosophy and general approach of “we’ll score one more than you” to football. His sides pour forward, looking to press the opposition into submission and flood the attacking third. It is high octane football at its very best and neutrals marvel at the sight of Zeman’s teams.
However, AS Roma fans are being reminded that all may not be rosy in ‘Zemanlandia.’ On numerous occasions this season, the Giallorossi have taken the lead only to end up the losing side. One can only imagine how their fans felt as Roma fell do defeat at home to Bologna 3-2 in September or against Udinese in October; ironically losing 3-2 once more. Any neutrals will have relished these games though.
Zeman has struggled to get his side firing away from home too. Most recently, Roma lost 1-0 away to a stubborn Chievo and followed this up with a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Napoli and Edinson Cavani.
The combination of these defeats has led loyal fans to question Zeman’s tactics and pine for a more defensive approach, away from the Stadio Olimpico, in particular. Roma fans believe that Zeman is being naive in the belief Roma can succeed by out-scoring opponents in each match and that the player’s fitness levels can withstand the rigours of his approach.
But is Zeman really naive?
Zeman is doing the best job he can with the defensive resources available to him. Roma’s transfer policy has been questionable as they’ve failed to strengthen the defence adequately over a period of two-three years.
Among the current playing staff are the injury prone Nicolas Burdisso; the talented but yet unproven, Leandro Castan; and the youngsters: Marquinhos, Dodo and Ivan Peris. Federico Balzaretti joined from Palermo last summer and has done an adequate, if unspectacular, job for Zeman’s defence. However, the lack of pace at centre-back is worrying and Burdisso cannot function at this level.
The club need to act this month and sign players with the pace and fitness levels Zeman demands. Any signings have to be calm in possession and most importantly, their egos must mesh with Zeman’s philosophy. We have witnessed the ongoing issues between Danielle De Rossi and Zeman; allegedly due to the midfielder’s struggle to fit into the system. Roma do not need a repeat of this.
But the football Roma play is often spectacular to watch. When they attack opponents with breath-taking speed and flair, they are unstoppable. The perfect example is the 4-2 demolition of AC Milan last December. Roma pressed Milan effectively and forced cracks to appear in Allegri’s team. Totti and co. then ruthlessly exposed these cracks and hammered home Roma’s advantage. Milan were left shell-shocked.
If Zeman can add two or three more players to this squad, there is no reason why they can’t climb the league table.
“Zemanlandia” is a journey. One which Roma fans are already well on and must relish the thrills and spills along the way.
Zeman will argue that he should not change his approach and Roma knew what they signed up for when he was appointed last summer. He will not change.
Zdenek Zeman is a rarity in life, let alone football. He is a maverick, determined to do things his away and avoid clichés.
Fans of many clubs would wish for him to coach their sides to victory. Because Zeman may not guarantee immediate results, but given time, he will achieve glory and will do it with panache. Roma fans have just got to enjoy the journey on route to success.