Lets begin with the club’s pre-season. A reasonably successful pre-season, results wise, yet a disruptive and tumultuous time off the pitch, once again, hints at mission impossible for yet another new coach.
Thoughts on our pre-season?
Anthony Wright - It’s never easy going at Roma – the fans promised the club they wouldn’t forget the Coppa defeat to Lazio and they have made that clear, especially at the Open Day. There’s a lot of frustration around the club which is overshadowing what I think is an excellent appointment in Rudi Garcia. The transfer market hasn’t helped the mood, but if the team can carry on the performance levels they showed in pre-season friendlies (particularly against Chelsea) into the league season then hopefully we can start focusing on what’s actually happening on the pitch.
Greg Cimilluca - Promising. I think looking at the state of perpetual change Garcia has been under, the team has weathered the storm well. A credit to Rudi G.
Alexander Fredriksen - It’s evident that Garcia and the team has a long way to go, and after the two previous seasons I think the fans acknowledge the fact that these things take time. Some skepticism from the start can perhaps do us some good.
Lee Roberts - I’ll start with our pre-season fixtures. For me, the level opposition has not been strong enough. We’ve only played 2 teams of any note, in Bursaspor and Chelsea. The rest have been MLS sides, amateurs and a Serie B team. Not challenging or competitive enough in my opinion, and I think this could affect our start to the campaign. Have a check on Napoli’s pre season fixtures, that’s the level of opposition we should have been playing IMO. Off the pitch, everything looked to be going quite smoothly (by Roma standards!), but the last week or so with the imminent sale of Lamela has sent us back into a turmoiled state yet again.
The club have reinforced quite well during the mercato, but will Lamela’s imminent exit undo Sabatini’s good work thus far, or do you feel the club can replace the young Argentinean?
Enzo Giorani - People wanted wealthy owners when the American consortium took over but perhaps they didn’t realise that wealthy people don’t get wealthy by accident. They are businessmen, not charities, and they are in this to make money. While the sale of Lamela is disappointing, it’s a good business decision. You buy players when the price is low and sell at the peak of their value. I think it’s highly debatable whether Lamela would have fetched more than 30 million in the future so his sale was inevitable. Can they replace him? Of course they can, but unfortunately it’s late in the piece now. We might have to wait until January.
Marco Demarinis - The mercato felt like a step in the right direction until the point when Lamela was being forced out the door. Judgement will have to be reserved until September 3, but it’s hard to see the clubs vision right now.
Anthony Memole - Lamela leaving would be a big blow to the fans but I think he is replaceable on the field in the short term. Zeman’s Roma inflated Erik’s goal totals and he suffered inconsistency last season, seeming lost when he’s not in possession. However he is a great talent and at 21 has time to develop and become a superstar.The biggest obstacle in replacing him is lack of CL or EL to tempt signings. Already we’re seeing that in the proposed replacements who have much less potential than Erik, save maybe Ljajic. If Roma can sign 2 – 3 quality players with the transfer funds from Lamela it will help with squad depth in their all or nothing push for a CL spot this season. Problem is that Lamela is the worst player for Roma to trade away PR-wise other than DDR or Totti. He’s the poster boy for the “project” and was Sabatini’s most important and exciting signing. Seeing him leave saps even more confidence from the fans and puts into question the competency of the entire American experiment.
The midfield was a big problem area for Roma the last two seasons. How will it be different this season, better or worse?
AF - When you put Bradley beside De Rossi, you want to lock Bradley to defensive duties and let De Rossi be the one to roam forward with his deadly right foot. Unfortunately, it was Bradley with his non-existing finishing abilities that found that space a bit too often. I think the midfield will be alot more interesting with Strootman. Not only will he score more goals than Bradley, but since he share some of the same qualities as DDR – they can turn into a very dynamic and versatile duo.
AM - I’m really excited about Kevin Strootman, I think he could be one of the standout players of our season. With Pjanic and De Rossi, the first choice midfield three looks very strong and Bradley and Florenzi are more than capable of deputising. The key will be how quickly they grasp Garcia’s tactics, constantly moving and offering fluidity and flexibility. And let’s face it, the midfield was hapless at times last season – it would be hard to be much worse.
GC - I think there are two factors that will show improvement to our MF. One: Kevin Strootman. When he returns, he will add a dynamic sense to our MF as well as appropriate amount of grinta. Two: Garcia’s style of movement within and out of positions for MFs should help stabilize the trio and not shoehorn them into a predefined role.
MD - The midfield is the teams strength right now. With Strootman, DDR, Pjanic, Bradley, and Florenzi we have a good group that’s very fluid. The difference will be Strootman who brings that extra steel, vision, and what I feel was the missing piece that could allow Pjanic to be the bridge between midfield and attack.
Where do you feel Totti will be best utilized, on the left wing or as a false 9?
GC - False 9 no doubt. Unless we get an amazing striker that should be his role. There are many reasons why not least of which when he is on the left wing, we no longer have a left wing, As a false 9 he can drift back, move forward and most importantly dish to speedy wingers crashing in.
Daragh Tavey - I think we’ll see Totti occupy the left wing, as we’ve seen this past year. However, we do have a tendency to struggle to break down the weaker sides. In the second half versus Pescara last season, AA dropped Totti deeper to spearhead the midfield, which totally changed the momentum of the game. He found a lot of joy roaming between the lines, picking up a lot of space, creating space and picking passes. Granted, we still failed to break Pescara’s two banks of 5 down in the second half – simply due to a severe lack of organisation and movement. Of course, the opposition were poor, but this is the opposition which we struggle against. I would like to see Garcia maybe experiment with Totti against weaker sides. Provide a bit of unpredictability to our game.
LR - I think he’ll be lined up on the left of the attacking 3, but Totti is Totti and he’ll roam about and play where he sees fit.
AW - It would be interesting to watch a Gervinho-Totti-Lamela front three, with two dynamic wide forwards capable of switching flanks and the magisterial Totti through the middle. But I’d prefer to see a real number 9 in the centre, so Totti will have to be used on the wing.
With Osvaldo gone does Roma need another attacker or striker this transfer window?
MD - Absolutely, we just gave up 2 of the top 5 goal scorers in the league. With Marco Borriello looking to be offloaded, at forward were emptier than Nonna’s liquor cabinet after Christmas.
AF - For sure. Borriello is a ok backup, but too expencive to be a bench warmer. Destro is injured. Someone is coming.
LR - Yes. Say what you want about Osvaldo, but replacing 27 goals in 58 games is going to be a challenge. I don’t think Destro is up to the job on my own, so yes in my opinion we do. With Lamela going too, we actually need to find a way of replacing 31 goals from last season.
AM - Yes, Borriello is not the answer, and his wages are killing the finances. We need someone competent enough to be a consistent scoring threat while Destro recovers.
Is Mattia Destro the long term answer for the center forward position?
DT - I’d like to think so. Has all the tools to become a top center forward! I don’t, however, feel comfortable heading into the new season dependent on Destro for goals (when he returns, of course). As I’ve said from day one when we signed the guy, I really feel the move happened a season or two too early. Despite his performances at Siena, he was still extremely raw in certain areas of his game, which almost went unnoticed as media and tifosi hopped on the bandwagon. When you put things into perspective, the guy only had one full season under his belt, prior to his move to Rome (which was at Siena – made a few appearances for Genoa). A season which was highly glamourised by the media, while in reality, he struggled for periods of the season also. Another season or two at Siena or elsewhere would’ve benefitted him greatly. The pressure in Rome is much more intense, particularly for such an inexperienced player. But in short, yes, has all the tools to become a top player in the long run.
GC - TODAY? No. Can he be? Yes. He has to show it though. He has to stay on the field (health, cards) and perform over time. He has the skills to be that, but he needs to show it. So far, a good Coppa record doesn’t do it.
AM - It really depends on his staying healthy and how much more he can improve his finishing. He oozes talent and has excellent mobility which sets him apart from Osvaldo and Borriello. With consistent finishing, he’d be top class.
LR - I’m yet to be convinced by Destro. He’s shown signs of great potential, but he also flatters to deceive a lot of the time. This season is a big one for him.
What are the keys for Rudi Garcia, new to Serie A, to give Roma the best shot for a CL spot this season?
AW - Preparing himself and the players for games against the ‘lesser’ teams in the same way that they would prepare for matches against Lazio or Juventus. Adjusting tactics for each game is all well and good, but if Garcia can’t ensure his players focus for 90 minutes every time they step onto the pitch then it’ll be the same story all over again.
MD - The key is to solidify our defensive posture, and concede less. He’ll need to bring consistency, whether we’re playing Chievo or Juve. Not to mention navigating through the circus that is Rome.
AM - Rudi Garcia must prove his tactical intelligence and improve the mental strength of the squad. He is adapting to a new league and must show that he can be flexible about his tactics to get the best out of his starting squad. He also needs to be a great motivator. Roma has suffered a mental fragility that will continue to undo the team until they find confidence and consistency. It’s a tall order, but I have hope, as he was successful in France with limited resources there as well.
How long will the Frenchman get to achieve results? How long should he get?
EG - I hope he’s given time. At least two seasons. This revolving door we’ve had going on for the last few years has to end sometime and at some point we have to have faith in someone and stop blaming the coach the minute results don’t go our way. Garcia is an excellent coach with a good record and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t succeed if given the space to work and the full backing of the club and fans.
AW - How long will he get? Probably not as long as he deserves if the Roman media (and fans) start to get the knives out after a few bad results. Hopefully he’ll at least make it past the end of the season, unlike Luis Enrique or Zeman. He should get at least a couple of years.
DT - I would like to think the board have learned from their mistakes, and are willing to be patient with Garcia. In previous years, on paper, we’ve had sides capable of posing a threat to those CL spots, yet the revolving doors at Trigoria has hindered our progress on the pitch. So much change in recent years from players to management, provides an incredible obstacle in itself. It may take another average season, but if that’s what it takes to get the club back in the right direction, then so be it. So long as Saba and the board recognises this and stick by Garcia. The board and fans look for instant success season after season, with coach after coach, which inevitably leads to more changes when high expectations aren’t met. We are in desperate need of some stability! As long as Garcia is given time, I genuinely believe he can be a success here. Should be given a minumum of two years.
With Totti’s renewal looming, how do you see his role in the future of Roma once he hangs up his boots (I know, I know, it is anathema to speak of his ‘retirement’)?
EG - I find his impending retirement particularly depressing because he’s the same age as me… Once he hangs up his boots I’ll have to finally accept the fact that I’m getting old! But seriously, I’m sure he will still be involved in some way, shape or form. As an ambassador, mentor, coach or director.
AF - Well… I think Christian Totti can be a good player for Roma, and his father will probably be lurking around. Not that unlikely!
MD - I see him being more of an ambassador than coaching, as he’s always said he could never be one. Technical director like Zidane at Real Madrid perhaps
Our ultras. Problem or no problem? Why?
AW - Ultras are part of the Italian game. The pressure that the curva brings is part of being a Roma player – if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. When pressure turns into abuse and violence though, then of course it’s a problem. However punishing clubs with fines is merely treating the symptoms, rooting out the cause will only be got at by educating the idiotic minority.
EG - Big problem. I think they are out of control, far too full of their own importance, and poisonous to the atmosphere of the club. Until they get sorted out somehow they make it unjustifiably harder for the club to be successful than it should be. I hope something changes this season because when we get back into Europe, with the type of stunt they pulled at the Milan game last season, they are a disaster waiting to happen.
GC - This is a tough one. Fans always have the right to cheer as they please. That being said, there have been several documented cases where fans have gone too far. The players are saying the right things “we want to win for you…get behind us…” etc. but they take their “we support the shirt only” comes across with a bit of hypocrisy. If you want to support the shirt – then support it. Booing (or far worse as they have done) those that wear the shirt is counterproductive and against their vow to support the shirt. I know utopia in all supporting fans does not exist, and perhaps shouldn’t but as long as they keep it to the field and play their part..all should be good.
LR - Look, I don’t advocate violence, attacking team buses with flares and an assortment of other objects, or following players to restaurants or going to their homes and abusing them there. That is crossing the line. BUT, these guys spend a lot of their hand earned cash on following Roma. They have seen 3 exceptionally poor seasons on the spin, culminating in the ultimate humiliation with defeat to ‘them’ in the Coppa final at the end of last night. That was the breaking point for many, and it will take a long long time to repair the wounds of that travesty. As far as I’m concerned, they pay their money, they can say and chant what they want inside the stadium (within means, obviously – no racism…etc). Let us not forget, that the ultras have not and never will abandon the team. They will still be there, week in, week out, win or lose. They aren’t like the fair weather fans who only turn up when we’re challenging for Scudetto. They are just fed up of failure after failure, and I don’t blame them.
Quick Fire Round:
1) Who will be the highest impact signing of the off-season?
DT -Kevin Strootman
EG – Kevin Strootman
AF – Mehdi Benatia
MD – Kevin Strootman
GC – Kevin Strootman
LR – Kevin Strootman
Sam Rubio – Kevin Strootman
AM – Kevin Strootman
AW – Kevin Strootman
2) Who will be the surprise (overachiever) player of the season?
DT – Gervinho
EG – Morgan De Sanctis
AF – Maicon
MD – Mehdi Benatia
GC – Morgan De Sanctis
LR – Maicon
SR – Tin Jedvaj
AM – DDR, I say he gets his mojo back.
AW – Alessandro Florenzi. I don’t think Gervinho will be as bad as many are suggesting he will be either.
3) Who will be the biggest flop?
DT – Federico Balzaretti
EG – I don’t think there will be one.
AF – Mattia Destro
MD – Gervinho
GC - Torosidis. I think time may be an issue and will try to over-impress.
LR – Morgan De Sanctis
SR – Gervinho
AM – Gervinho
AW – Nicolas Burdisso
4) One player you’d welcome to the club (realistic)?
DT – German Denis
EG – Balotelli (In my little fantasy world it’s realistic…)
AF – Nani
MD – Christian Eriksen or Davide Santon
GC - Ljajic (is he realistic? Lol)
LR – Not that I’d want him to leave Saints, but Luke Shaw.
SR – Chicharito
AM – Adem Ljajic
AW – Dimitar Berbatov
5) One player you’d happily drive away?
DT – Marco Borriello, purely due to his salary. In terms of performances, Balzaretti.
EG – I’m loyal to all our players as long as they are loyal to Roma.
AF – Taddei. Time is up buddy. If not it had to be Borriello, but I kinda like the guy despite his salary.
MD – Rodrigo Taddei
GC - Of what’s left, Boriello.
LR – Federico Balzaretti.
SR – Dodo
AM – Borriello (that salary, ugh!)
AW – Rodrigo Taddei
6) Player to look out for?
DT – Miralem Pjanic
EG – Gervinho. He wasn’t used properly at Arsenal.
AF – Player X up front. He should be good.
MD – Miralem Pjanic
GC – Maicon
LR – Mehdi Benatia
SR – Miralem Pjanic
AM – Pjanic, it’s his year.
AW – Miralem Pjanic
7) Young player to look out for?
DT – I’m going to be different, seeing as we’re now quite short in the wide areas, and say Caprari.
EG – Totti!!!
AF – Jedvaj might be mature enough to feature in a few games. Don’t expect him to be another Marquinhos, but he is exciting.
MD – Florenzi, if he still counts.
GC – Alessandro Florenzi
LR – Alessio Romagnoli
SR – Mattia Destro
AM – Mattia Destro
AW – Tin Jedvaj
8) American owners: Yay or nay?
DT – Yay.
EG – Jury still out.
AF – Yay. We would be bankrupt by now if not.
MD – Good intentions, poor executions.
GC – Yay
LR – Off the pitch = Yay. On the pitch = Nay.
SR – Yay till they sell Lamela.
AM - Yay, with serious reservations.
AW – Yay
9) Content with the squad? Yes or no?
DT – Still short up front. Will reserve judgement until the window closes.
EG – Yes
AF – Given the circumstances, it’s hard to say yes. Controversial sales of Lamela and Osvaldo demands replacements. Sabatini have done good all summer, so I give him the benefit of the doubt to redo the masterwork he did with replacing Marquinhos.
MD – Not if Lamela goes without being replaced.
GC - As of today, no. But close.
LR – So so.
SR – Content with Lamela in.
AM – No, need more depth.
AW – No. When we’re top of the league I’ll be content with the squad.
10) Predicted finish for the season?
DT – 4th
EG – 3rd
AF – 5th
MD – I’m going to say 4th. I just can’t see us being ahead of Juve or Napoli, and Milan has Balo.
GC – 4th
LR – 5th, behind Juve, Fiorentina, Milan & Napoli.
AM – Third place is my dream but so much would have to go right for this team. More realistic me says 4th – 6th place with EL qualification. 10th Coppa Italia would be a nice bonus
AW – 5th