Roma Club Focus: Uncharacteristic efficiency
With two wins from two, Roma are looking uncharacteristically efficient so far under Rudi Garcia. There should be no getting carried away just now (after all, the six points have come against two teams who were in Serie B last season), but it is just the start that Garcia needed.
Roma have often struggled to perform against the teams in the bottom half of Serie A in recent seasons, but the two performances against Livorno and Verona have offered a great deal of promise for the season ahead.
Not only was there no sign of mental fragility in the face of defensive cohesion, but Garcia has actually got Roma playing as a team rather than a group of individuals.
There is a great sense of team spirit within the camp, which Adem Ljajic commented on after less than a weak as a Giallorossi player. “This is a wonderful group, they’re all great people”, he told TRS after scoring on his debut at the weekend.
Ljajic’s goal was excellently taken, picking up the ball 30 yards from goal and driving at the Hellas defence before firing a shot into the bottom corner. Miralem Pjanic’s strike a few minutes before has to be an early contender for goal of the season as he controlled a pass from Francesco Totti before clipping a Totti-esque pallonetto over Rafael from outside the box.
Equally worthy of mention from Sunday evening is another fine performance from Maicon; the full back forced the opening goal with his deflected cross, and his attacking play down the right hand side gave the Giallorossi attack another dimension.
The real star of the show against Verona though was Totti. The captain was outstanding up front for his team, whether it was in the centre dropping deep to find the ball or when he drifted out to the wing to allow Gervinho to operate through the middle. Whenever Roma created an opportunity, Totti was nearly always at the heart of the move; he played 10 key passes during the match according to WhoScored.com, no one else played more than three.
To flip the coin though, there could be a danger that stifling Totti could be to nullify Roma’s attacking threat. The front three’s fluidity and ability to interchange positions during a game has been too much for Livorno and Verona, but the real tests for Garcia’s forwards are yet to come.
Without Pablo Osvaldo in the squad, Roma lack a quality centre forward who can offer the same sort of penalty box presence as Osvaldo. Unable to negotiate a return to Genoa, Marco Borriello remains an option but is unlikely to get the regular game time he needs to find his best form.
Roma were in fact looking to sign Fabio Quagliarella on transfer deadline day, while Genoa’s Alberto Gilardino was an alternative, but Walter Sabatini was unable to secure a deal for either forward. Juventus boss Antonio Conte reportedly refused to let Quagliarella leave, and despite talks of swapping Gilardino for Borriello having gone on for most of the summer, there was too little time left in the day to complete a deal after the Quagliarella move fell through. In the end the only deadline day deal that Roma were involved in was to loan Valerio Verre to Palermo.
With the exception of the centre forward though, Roma’s squad looks relatively healthy with the transfer window now shut. There have been significant departures in the forms of Osvaldo, Marquinhos and Erik Lamela, but the latter two have been well replaced by Mehdi Benatia and Ljajic. The highly talented Kevin Strootman is an excellent addition to the squad, while Sabatini has added players with both experience (Morgan De Sanctis, Maicon) and potential (Tin Jedvaj, Lukasz Skorupski) to the squad.
Although Roma were unable to shift the likes of Rodrigo Taddei and Julio Sergio, others including Matteo Brighi, Panagiotis Tachtsidis and Maarten Stekelenburg have been sold, while the usual raft of youngsters have been farmed out on loan or on co-ownership deals. Most notable was the sale of 50% of Nico Lopez’s rights to Udinese; the forward has shone for Uruguay’s Under-20 side and won the Silver Ball at this year’s Under-20 World Cup, but was rarely given an opportunity to show his undoubted ability at Roma.
The squad looks well set for the campaign ahead though, and a contract renewal for Totti would help to increase the bonhomie around the club. But continuing the good results on the pitch will be the real sign of progress under Garcia, and the real tests are about to start as Roma prepare for a trip to Parma while the derby looms on the horizon.