After consecutive years of second place finishes, Roma are fully aware anything short of lifting their fourth Scudetto trophy will be a bitter disappointment that is likely to reverberate throughout the capital.
The frustration spilled everywhere last season as the Giallorossi saw Juventus cruise toward their fourth consecutive league title and a return to the Champions League ended abruptly thanks to a brutally competitive group followed by an immediate crash out of the Europa League.
A new look Roma side will look to vanquish their past demons and make good on the promise of a rebirth engineered by club president James Pallotta in 2015-/16.
Embattled sporting director Walter Sabatini barely maintained his position and the significant summer transfer deals must come good for the Giallorossi to make that crucial last step to the summit of Italian football.
A house cleaning was in order and Roma started at the back waving goodbye to Jose Holebas, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, declining to renew Davide Astori’s loan and ending the failed experiment that was Ashley Cole.
After a solid season on loan at Sampdoria, promising defender Alessio Romagnoli was sold to AC Milan for an astounding €30 million, Andrea Bertolacci for another €15 million and the club used those fees to reinvest and now have a wage bill in excess of €100 million for the first time in club history.
Polish net minder Wojciech Szczesny was plucked from Arsenal and should challenge veteran Morgan De Sanctis who is still capable of pulling off astounding saves and inconceivable blunders, sometimes within moments of each other.
Lucas Digne was brought over from Paris Saint-Germain and should settle in at left back while a deal for Stuttgart central defender Antonio Rudiger appears imminent after the club thwarted a bid from Chelsea.
Seydou Doumbia was also sent back to CSKA Moscow which provided some additional funds while clearing out an unnecessary body from a potent attack.
It is the changes up front that will likely catch the eye of most observers as the Lupi added a pair of wingers to an already potent lineup.
Roma picked up Iago Falque from Genoa after the Spanish international won many plaudits upon his return to Italy, banging in 13 goals for the Grifone with a silky left foot that is reminiscent of team mate Juan Iturbe.
Joining Falque is Egyptian playmaker Mohamed Salah who burst onto the scene in January with Fiorentina and, after a summer of bitter back and forth banter between the Viola and the Giallorossi, the Chelsea-owned product should pick up where he left off and add much needed quality in the attacking third setting up Roma’s attackers and quality midfielders.
The crown jewel of the summer signings, however, was Edin Dzeko who comes over in a loan deal that is nearly certain to turn permanent based on appearances. The marquee signing gives Roma a proven target striker who should pair interestingly with captain Francesco Totti to form an attacking side with more sheer quality than many European sides.
A relative unknown three seasons ago, Garcia came over from Lille after the failed Zdenek Zeman adventure and took Italy by storm in his debut Italian campaign.
An up and down season last year did little to tarnish his reputation as a thinking man’s coach but the Frenchman now faces his sternest test as the Giallorossi are no longer a well kept secret and Garcia will have to manage a club with the highest of expectations both domestically and in the Champions League.
The new regime has made significant strides expanding the club’s brand worldwide, increasing accessibility through smart social media outreach and plans for a “new colosseum” in Rome have all offered the possibility of a new name on the world stage but Garcia must deliver on all this promise.
Questions will be asked about how Garcia can avoid the crucial missteps of the previous two seasons when the club faltered at critical moments in the season but Roma boast arguably the best midfield in Italy with Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman, Miralem Pjanic, Radja Nainggolan, Seydou Keita and Alessandro Florenzi available, a frightening front line that combines both speed and skill and a true “number 9” to play alongside the legendary Francesco Totti.
There is perhaps only one club who enter this season with loftier expectations than Roma. However, it can also be argued Juventus fans may expect a slight dip in form coming off a season where they nearly pulled off a historic treble and rattled off their fourth straight scudetto.
Clearly the club’s ambitions point to a Scudetto and a deep run into the Champions League in order to make good on the global branding effort Pallotta has so carefully executed upon in his short tenure.
The quality of the squad certainly merit these goals but the club will have to push past the ghosts of the recent past and take a lesson from Antonio Conte’s and then Massimiliano Allegri’s Juve sides whose mental toughness was evident not so much in the big matches at the San Siro but, more importantly, evidenced in the hunger it displayed grinding out results week after week against the provincial sides.
A deeper squad was delivered and, barring significant injury, the depth and quality should provide Roma the ammunition to push through a packed fixture calendar. However, the lessons of the mind are what this club must conquer and they seem more than ready for the challenge.
A brutal Champions League group taught this club valuable lessons and gone are many of the weak links and poor signings of the recent past. Additionally, the club still looks to add depth before the market closes and they have shown a willingness, if not a proven ability, to significantly add players in January.
Given Garcia’s experience and with a mixture of good health and an expected dip from the champions in Turin, expect a celebration in the capital as Totti lifts another scudetto trophy.
Expected finish: 2nd. (NB: this is not necessarily Joe Ginto’s opinion but the average of our editors’ predictions.)