Roma Club Focus: The six year wait is over
Roma win their opening game of the season – now there’s a sentence we’ve not seen for six years. Rudi Garcia’s first official match in charge ended in a 2-0 win at Livorno thanks to goals from Romans Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi, but despite the win there was much for Garcia to ponder as the end of the transfer window edges closer.
Florenzi had a chance to open the scoring after just a few minutes when a quickly taken free kick found him in space inside the box, but Francesco Bardi kept his low effort out.
From there, Livorno were quite happy to sit back and let Roma have the majority of possession, and while Garcia’s team showed creditable patience as they probed for a way through there was a concerning bluntness to the attack. Garcia was also caught by TV cameras speaking to tactics coach Frederic Bompard up in the stands on the phone as he searched for an answer to the problem.
It was not until Marco Borriello was substituted for Gervinho, a change that moved Francesco Totti from the left wing to the centre, that Roma finally started to penetrate Livorno’s defence.
Until the change the closest Roma had come was a long range effort from Totti that clipped the bar, but with the captain through the centre the Giallorossi scored twice, Florenzi struck the post and Maicon brought a fine save from Bardi. Where Roma were largely sterile before, they became more productive with Gervinho giving the sort of support on the left that Maicon had been offering on the right.
Daniele De Rossi said afterwards that the win was only against Livorno, musing that “we’ve beaten Livorno – we’ve not done anything yet”. There is truth in this and there will be tougher tests to come, but seeing off the newly promoted Tuscans is not something to be sniffed at entirely.
Last season Roma dropped seven points against the three promoted sides – had they not, they would have qualified for Europe. Picking up points against the ‘lesser’ sides in Serie A is something that Roma must do under Rudi Garcia; beating Juventus and Milan is of little use if Roma then lose to Sassuolo or Verona the week after. There is clearly a good team dynamic under the Frenchman, but only time will tell if Roma have finally shed the problem of mental fragility.
However there are concerns from the game that must be addressed before the close of the transfer window. Roma were hamstrung by the lack of an effective prima punta; Borriello offered few outlets and there was often no one for Totti or the impressive Maicon to look for in the penalty area when they had the ball on the flanks. I still feel that selling Pablo Osvaldo was the right decision for the good of the team, but having sold him he needs to be replaced. There is the money to do so, but increasingly little time.
Erik Lamela’s absence was also painfully and clearly felt, and the Argentine remained on the bench as substitutions went on around him. Unsurprisingly Garcia refused to talk about Lamela’s future after the game, but with Tottenham Hotspur putting a €30m offer on the table (or more or less depending on what you read), it was an ominous sign for the future. Romanisti can only hope that the money is quickly and effectively reinvested, with Fiorentina’s Adem Ljajic currently looking like target number one.
It looks almost certain that Lamela will leave for the Premier League, and it is difficult for the owners to turn down the money that Tottenham are offering. As with Osvaldo though, Lamela will need to be replaced and there is only a limited time left in which to do so. [Adem Ljajic has now been signed].
By the time Hellas Verona visit the Stadio Olimpico next week, fans will expect at least two new arrivals. The win against Livorno is a promising start for Garcia, but Roma’s season will hinge on what Walter Sabatini and Mauro Baldissoni are able to do in the final days of the transfer window.