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Roma seeks redemption, the third Revolution starts
After two ruinous years, giallorossi trust in the first French coach in Serie A's history: Rudi Garcia. Lamela, Marquinhos and Osvaldo left: how the club replaced them?
by Antonio Gallo
It was the 56th minute of the match against Hellas Verona. Until that moment, Roma was playing as they often did in the past two seasons: holding the reins of the match and producing a lot of goal occasions…with no success. When Kevin Strootman lost the ball in the heart of Verona’s half, I thought to myself “That’s it. Now the usual counter and the match is gone”. I was already so mad because of the situation that I almost didn’t see the Dutch guy standing up and winning the ball again, fighting against another opponent before passing to Totti. Il Capitano served a perfect ball that Maicon, with a little luck, converted into a goal.

In that moment, I realized that Roma had changed. Rarely have I seen the players so angry and greedy for victory. All and each of them were fighting for every ball. I’ve seen Totti (37 years old) running after some poor Verona devil and conquering the ball with a heavy tackle. Again, ten minutes before the end, the score set on 3-0, he was running trying to intercept a back pass of a defender to the keeper. Basically each player gave everything for the victory. Admirable.

I wondered whether the team I just admired was the same that lost the final of Coppa Italia against Lazio just three months ago. Some players have changed and the most talented and promising ones are gone. Marquinhos and Maarten Stekelenburg were supposed to lead Roma’s defense this year, but they were sold to Paris-Saint Germain and Fulham respectively. The right winger Erik Lamela was considered to be a key player for the future of the team, but the offer of Tottenham couldn’t be refused. The feeling between the striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo and the Curva Sud - the toughest Roma supporters - has never been really warm (little euphemism) so almost everybody was happy when the best Roma’s scorer of the last season signed a contract with Southampton.

To replace these players, Roma bought the 17-year-old Tin Jedvaj, a Croatian central defender who still has to prove his talent and Adem Ljajić (21) who is at least comparable with Lamela, in my opinion. The other two “big hits” of Roma’s market have been Gervinho (26), very fast right winger from Ivory Coast, strongly requested by the new coach and Kevin Strootman (23), one of the most interesting midfielders in Europe. Maicon and Morgan De Sanctis with their 32 and 36 years respectively were considered by the tifosi makeshift solutions for the right full-back and the goalkeeper positions.

Considering the names, one might say that the market wasn’t that good for Roma this year as half of the regular attack was sold (Osvaldo and Lamela scored 31 goals together in the last season), together with the best defender and a good keeper, but is it really like that?

Besides the economical reasons - everybody would kill for a plus 20 millions in the club’s budget - it is clear that the players hired this summer are more suited to the ideas of the coach. With Ljajić, for example, a problem was solved, that tormented Roma in the last years: to have a real left winger who could guarantee both support to the attack and enough defending ability at the same time. Maicon and De Sanctis might be not so young anymore, but they have personality and are used to play under high pressure and able to teach and lead the younger teammates.

For supporters used to the silences of Stekelenburg, It is now funny to follow a match in TV and to clearly hear the keeper yelling here and there to adjust the positioning of the defense (De Sanctis). It is even superfluous to discuss here about the importance of Kevin Strootman for the midfield of Roma. He possesses a perfect mix of strength, technique, and class that can really make a difference during a match.

Of course the players deserve all the due credits for the impressive performance they offered on Sunday. Nevertheless the most important cog in the Roma machine is Rudi Garcia. When the new coach arrived in Rome, he wasn’t really welcome with open arms but rather with indifference and scepticism. The memory of the defeat inflicted by Lazio was too vivid and grievous to be wiped off by a new coach who had never seen the Serie A before…and being half Spanish and half French for sure didn’t increase his appeal.

Despite that, Garcia began his work persuaded of his own coaching ability and of the goodness of the players he had. His methods, a mix of hard physical and tactical training, are not much different from those of any other coach. What is new in Trigoria, Roma’s training center, is the attention that the new trainer pays to the details. Having started his career as athletic trainer, he personally organizes the physical work of the team during the week keeping an eye on each exercise. Development and supervision of defensive tactics is the job of one of the coach’s assistants, Claude Fichaux, who works with Garcia since the times of Lille. Neither during the matches is anything left to chance. There, Garcia can rely on one of his closest co-worker, Frederic Bompard, who observes the first half of the matches from the upper tier of the gallery and, in the half-time, instructs the coach about the movements and the tactics of the opponents, especially about those details which are difficult to see from the bench.

Besides all this, Garcia seems to have succeeded where his predecessors failed: building up a team out of a bunch of players. In the past two seasons, the impressions that one got while watching Roma matches was of eleven individuals playing on their own, following the coach’s indications with as much reluctance as a schoolboy can have while doing his homework.

Now a change can be felt. In the first two matches of the season, one could see eleven players moving on the pitch as an almost perfect mechanism. Strikers and midfielder were helping the defense when necessary, and all together were the players attacking…as a team should play. Most interestingly (but this can be just my impression), this way of playing seemed to be amusing for the players, even though extremely exhausting. This change in the players’ attitude can be ascribed solely to the new coach.

Of course, the modest level of the first two opponents has to be kept in mind, being Livorno and Verona just been promoted to the Serie A. Nevertheless, it is important to notice that Roma had the main problems while playing against modest teams, in the past two seasons.

If this is the real Roma, the club might have found that special coach they have been looking for a long time. If it is the real Roma, we are going to have fun this year.

Thanks to our reviewer Noemi Stacconi

Tuesday, September 10 th, 2013
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