Roma Club Focus: On the edge of reason
Another week, another win for Rudi Garcia. Roma continued their perfect start to the season with a 3-1 win against Parma on Monday evening, again demonstrating the team spirit that the Frenchman has instilled in them as they had to come from behind this time to pick up the three points.
Having beaten newly promoted Livorno and Verona, Parma were billed as being Garcia’s first real test and the coach was fully aware of the dangers they posed. Before the match, he identified Amauri, Antonio Cassano and Jaime Valdes as the ones that his team would have to watch closely, as well as stressing that his team must not rest on their laurels after a good start to the season.
The step up in quality from the first two games was evident and much of the first half was a tactical battle between Garcia and Roberto Donadoni. Roma cautiously probed for a way through, reluctant to commit too many men to the attack, but neither Antonio Mirante nor Morgan De Sanctis had much to do in the first half. The warning signs were there though; De Sanctis was fortunate not to concede when the Giallorossi defence failed to pick up Jonathan Biabiany from a corner midway through the half but he stabbed over from a few yards out.
Then just before half time, Biabiany headed in a Mattia Cassani cross and Roma were behind for the first time this season. Garcia said after the game that he told his players he wanted to see them come back and win in the second half, both because of how difficult it is to do away from home and to reiterate that Roma are a true team. “It means we haven’t won as 11 players but with the whole squad. The three substitutes came on and helped us to win”, the coach explained.
Roma needed a fast start in the second half and got it as they equalised within minutes through the ever-impressive Alessandro Florenzi. Then came the moment of controversy – for Parma at least – when Francesco Totti made it 2-1. Replays seemed to show that Massimo Gobbi was playing Totti onside when Kevin Strootman played a perfect ball for Totti to run onto, but even the next day Parma’s official Twitter account posted the comment “for us this is offside. Have a look at this photo” with a freezeframe of the pass.
Unsurprisingly the Gialloblu made no mention of Marco Borriello being incorrectly flagged offside in more or less the same situation, but whether or not Totti was offside Roma were ahead. As the second half went on the game was far more open than it had been in the first period, and Garcia’s side finally put the game to bed when Strootman converted a penalty following some fine play from Gervinho.
Much derided when he signed for the club this summer, Gervinho has given Roma a different dimension in his appearances so far. While his finishing has been poor and his confidence is clearly lacking, he remains willing to run at players and create spaces for others to operate in.
The movement between Garcia’s front three has often been talked about and Gervinho is an important part of these tactics, and at the end of the match Pjanic added that there is similar fluidity in midfield. Strootman, who has slotted into the side seamlessly, and De Rossi are both comfortable in both defensive and attacking phases of play, and Pjanic himself is reaping the benefits of Garcia’s more patient style after struggling for form under Zdenek Zeman.
With all that said though, Parma was really just the warm up. For Garcia this weekend’s derby brings entirely new pressures and expectations from supporters, particularly given Roma’s recent record in the stracittadina. Having won five in a row under Claudio Ranieri and Vincenzo Montella, Roma are now without a win in five against Lazio, including the infamous Coppa Italia final.
The run is some way from their worst ever streak against the Biancocelesti (10 games from 1948-1953 and 1995-1998), but this game marks a perfect opportunity early in the season for Roma to start making amends for May 26.
The derby is the real litmus test for Garcia. The Frenchman has won around many Roma supporters who were underwhelmed by his appointment, and beating Lazio on Sunday would further enhance his growing reputation. Roma also have the benefit of a full week to prepare for the game, while Vladimir Petkovic’s team have Europa League commitments in midweek.
A win would mark Roma’s best start to a league season for more than 50 years, put them alone at the top of the table (at least for a few hours) and give the tifosi something to shout about after so long without three points in the derby. No pressure then Rudi.