I don’t often get moved to write. Well, wait – I take that back. I OFTEN get moved to write, I just generally don’t do it. I usually try to leave it to the podcast (LaMagicast) for my airing of grievances/joys/analysis. I have however, hit a wall that requires me to put pen to paper. I hope it is worth your time.
What I have learned is, the number of times a player, coach and/or organizational head is quoted in any of the many media outlets that the team needs to play with more consistency is not in short supply. What I don’t think has been said enough is what type of consistency they are referring to.
To clarify things, let’s take a look at the word itself:
con-sist-en-cy (/kənˈsistənsē/) noun:
- Agreement or logical coherence among things or parts
- Correspondence among related aspects; compatibility
- Reliability or uniformity of successive results or events
I am willing to wager most are referring to definition 3. All people want is to see them play in a manner that produces results in kind. The converse of that, states they are a world-beater one weekend and then lose to a minnow the next (aka, “The Roma way”).
The larger point is being missed, however. Are they not trying as hard? Are they not as good as we thought? Do they get lucky/unlucky on a week-to-week basis? By and large the answer is NO. I believe they want to and are on the pitch trying to beat Pescara. Palermo. Chievo. Milan. Juventus. In an even manner.
What causes the issue then? How can they swing SO high to SO low SO quickly?
Easy. The answer is (/kənˈsistənsē/).
But I believe it is more about definition numbers 1 and 2. Roles are important in sports. Crucial even. Strategies come and go. Formations come and go – but having a well-defined role on a squad is essential for consistency. Roma, as a team, lack this.
I am not saying that players have the right to be inflexible. Quite the contrary. Again, let’s look at the converse scenario. Today’s Roma represents the problem whereas say, Spalletti’s Roma represents the converse. Regardless of the formation chosen, week-to-week the players knew what they were responsible for. It is no surprise that when watching them that it seemed like they had been playing their entire careers together. It simply just worked. Yes they had blackouts (including losing to lesser teams). Yes they lost their way in games. But it was never down to consistency; at least not THAT consistency. The one I choose to speak of.
Fine – forget Roma. Is Iniesta asked to be a different type of player week to week? Is Ronaldo? They are superstars so they shouldn’t count? Ok fine – let’s bring it back to our beloved Roma.
“Why is it that Daniele De Rossi plays so well for gli Azzurri and can’t quite replicate it for Roma (like he used to)?”. I used to think the answer to this was based around the TYPE of role he played for nazionale vs. club in recent years. But at the end of the day – it is the same – it just comes down to Prandelli has given him a role since he took over and DDR has done it with aplomb.
It does not change.
He knows what is expected (wait for iiiiiit) not only of himself but also of his teammates on the pitch in all 3 phases. I would even go so far as to say that even applies to when he was slotted in at CB to a degree. Obviously some things change there but I think overall the mantra closely resembles what his marching orders tend to be. Again – it does not change. Months off from International duty and he will step on the pitch and immediately knows what his role is. That is incredibly essential for success.
Now let’s even take it to how things have gone the last couple of years in the midfield area again (while issues persist everywhere this phase needs it the most work). I think most of us would agree that Miralem Pjanic is a very very good footballer. He has been a valuable member of the team but at the same time I find it hard to believe we have scratched the surface of getting the most out of him. Regista, Trequartista, LWF, WMF, CMF, DMF … I like tactical flexibility but that is pushing it a bit. There has been no…what’s the word.. ah yes, consistency.
Injuries and squad depth play a part. I am not unaware of that situation and at times players are forced to play out of position. I get that. I do. But if we remove sports and think about our own professional careers (of which it is becoming increasingly more obvious that writing is not mine), imagine being a writer and coming into work and being asked to be a developer/programmer. Now imagine the reverse. Now imagine you have to be the accountant. Are there those that can fill all of those shoes? Sure. But in life as in football they are few and far between – and even in greater gaps to find those that do it successfully.
To the individual and to the whole team concept, they count. Players need to understand their part to see where they fit in to the whole. Otherwise it is difficult to grasp why it is that they have to do what they are doing. DDR needs to know what Pjanic’s role is and vice versa. So they can see how they are to work together. And they need repetitions. Another sports staple that is crucial for success. They need to be in those roles practice after practice-game after game. That is why the mercato is so important. A mid-fielder or defender or striker can’t just be any MF/DEF/FWD – they must be the type that is needed for the team. That can, how do I say this.. fill a role! To quote the late Herb Brooks (USA Hockey Coach), “I’m not looking for the best players…I’m looking for the right ones.”
It’s not that I don’t think this isn’t being communicated. But it is changed too frequently and they have to re-up each week to a new role and new roles for their teammates. No, I do not think that the gap is too far but when you are trying to get consistent results, you need consistent play. And to get that, you need consistent roles.
Roles count. Clearly defined, Consistently performed roles.
(If all else fails, we should try this)