La Roma dei sogni è tornato. Yep that’s right, the Roma that makes us dream is finally back. After three seasons of mediocrity and very little hope of achieving anything worthwhile, the start made to the 2013/14 season has no doubt got many of us imagining what this campaign may have in store for Totti & Co.
By: Lee Roberts
Whilst Rudi Garcia will be looking to keep feet firmly on the ground inside Trigoria, outside the walls of Roma’s HQ there is some excitement returning for we long suffering Romanisti. Realistically, talk of a top 3 finish or a Scudetto challenge is still very premature but for the time being at least we have been given something to look forward to, with a maximum haul of points from our first three games for the first time since 2007. We can begin to dream again, and this is in no small part thanks to the new man at the helm. I look at the positive impact of Garcia’s reign so far.
Managing Roma is a poisoned chalice and would provide even the most experienced & successful managers in world football with an enormous challenge, so you could forgive Garcia if he felt daunted at the prospect of joining the Giallorossi. The man from Nemours arrived in Italy with no experience managing outside his native France, and is still young in managerial terms at 49 years old. The parallels between the footballing atmospheres of the northern French of Lille and the Italian Capital are non existent, and something Garcia will never have experienced before. He also arrived in Rome at extremely troubling times, walking straight into what was a very unpleasant atmosphere all round in the aftermath of May 26th. So the style in which he has begun his reign in Rome has been very impressive and highly promising. He has already made a big impact on his players, several of whom have come out in praise of his abilities. There has been talk of a change in mentality and motivation since his arrival. Francesco Totti who has given his royal seal of approval, describing the Frenchman as the ‘manager of the future’. Winning Capitano over is half the battle for any new manager at Roma and Garcia already appears to have Totti right on side. He has also received many compliments from various media outlets, not least for his immediate grasp of the Italian language. The man himself discussed the importance of the language upon arriving, and promised he would learn quickly. Some have been suitably surprised & impressed at just how fast he has managed it. In his press conferences he comes across as decisive, determined, a man of great character, highly driven and ambitious. You sense he is not here to mess around or to provide a stop gap, he wants to win and he wants it now. He is also a bit of a perfectionist, having already made several requests to the Roma hierarchy such as raising the training surfaces at Trigoria to exactly the same level above water as the Stadio Olimpico’s pitch.
Whilst Roma’s squad will still be on a learning curve with Garcia, the successful start to the season suggests they are doing so quickly. Back in June during his press conference unveiling in New York, he responded to a question from the media about his ideas about the game by saying, “My objectives and football philosophy are without a doubt offensive, but I am well aware that in order to win a game you also need an excellent defensive base”. Indeed, one of the most noticeable and pleasing aspects of I Lupi’s play so far this season has been a much sturdier rearguard than we have become accustomed to in recent years. One goal conceded from the opening three rounds is some improvement on the six goals shipped after as many matches in the previous campaign. There were a few scares during last night’s win at Parma, but in general Roma have rarely looked in danger of conceding, indeed restricting Livorno and Verona to three and two attempts on target respectively. Critics will point out that this was against two newly promoted sides, and that far sterner examinations of Roma’s new look defence are yet to come. They are right of course, but it’s a good foundation to build on going forward. We are still an attack minded side though, as shown by eight goals scored so far, our new found defensive solidness having no adverse effects on the team’s ability going forward.
The other most notable improvement under Garcia so far has been the patience and character displayed by the team in all three games. At Livorno and at home to Verona, after goalless first 45′s and despite having already missed a number of chances the side did not panic, showing admirable perseverance and concentration which ultimately paved the way to victory. Roma teams before would have easily lost patience and discipline at the frustration of taking time to break a team down but we saw no signs of this in the opening two games. At Parma, a step up in quality from our first two opponents, we were presented with a different kind of challenge to overcome. A first goal of the season conceded, and a 1-0 deficit at half time. How would the team respond was the question on most Romanisti lips at the interval, what would Rudi do in attempt to turn the game around. Whatever he said in the locker room at had the desired effect. A step up in gear and an immediate response after the break, followed by two further goals completed the turnaround and showed this team has the desire & character to match that of the boss.
Sunday’s game represents another step up the ladder in terms of quality of opposition, not to mention being the most important fixture on the Roma calendar. If the same qualities shown so far are to be replicated, then we present ourselves with a very good chance of avenging May 26th and claiming a first derby win in six attempts. It would also be the first time Roma have won the first four fixtures since the 1960/61 season!
But for now, lets sit back and enjoy a rare good start to the season. A start is all it is, but at the very least it gives hope back to Romanisti and a chance to dream again. After years of disappointment, it’s a very welcome feeling.