After going through a disastrous campaign last season, having achieved a lowly seventh position in the table, Roma look like a much revamped side this time around. With the personnel at their disposal, it’s a mystery why they have been underperforming over the last few seasons, with everything from feverish player commitments to bad management responsible for the demise of a club once considered to be amongst the elite in Italy. However it’s a new season, and with it comes another opportunity to turn a new leaf and start over and the Romans will hope to do exactly that for the Giallorossi faithful, who’ve been by their side through thick and thin.
For much of last season, Roma employed the 4-3-3 with former coach Luis Enrique trying to imbibe the Barcelona gene at the Olympico, failing miserably in the process. While they won over many a heart through their almost perfect passing game, their failure to capitalize on the vast amount of possession hurt them real bad and the results were there for everyone to see. But with his successor, Czech Republic’s Zdeněk Zeman, being probably an even more staunch supporter and advocate of the formation employed by Enrique himself, apart from the new faces nothing much is expected to change as far the formation is concerned.
Roma are definitely stronger this season and will line up with new signing Federico Balzaretti set to mantle the full back role, with his marauding runs up and down the left flank just like he did for Italy at the Euros this summer, with Piris, Castan and Burdisso completing the defence infront of Dutch international goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
Having signed young American international Michael Bradley from Chievo, the midfield trio definitely looks stronger this campaign with Bosnian Miralem Pjanic on the left of the trident. However, much will depend on the man the Romans call as the Capitan Futuro, world cup winner Daniel De Rossi, who once again made his mark on the world stage with Italy at the European Championships, as he embarks on his role at the centre of the midfield three.
Upfront Roma are a little spoilt for choice, with the likes of Pablo Osvaldo, Erik Lamela, Bojan Krkić, new signing and protégé Mattia Destro and club idol Francesco Totti at their helm. It’ll be interesting to see who partners Erik Lamela and Francesco Totti at the centre of the attack with stiff competition between Osvaldo and Destro for the role of the hitman flanked by the duo. Whatever the case, expect a very attacking Roman side this term, who will definitely concede a lot as well with the defense being their Achilles’ Heel.
No stranger to Italian football, hailing from the beautiful city of Prague, Zdeněk Zeman returns to Roma once again after 13 seasons, having been in-charge for two seasons from 1997-1999. What’s interesting about this man is the fact that he had been at the helm of arch rivals Lazio from 1994 for three seasons before taking over at Roma, and hence can be called as an Olympico veteran.
Much of Italy has this man to thank for, as he is responsible for launching the careers of national heroes such as Alessandro Nesta and Francesco Totti, who later on in their careers would go on to become world champions with the Azzurri and are today considered as amongst one of the best players to have ever kicked the ball.
A staunch supporter of the 4-3-3, his teams are known to play attacking football, but at the same time are accused of conceding a few goals too many. Having led Pescara to the top flight this season, the Giallorossi will take solace from the fact that his side scored a mammoth 90 goals in the process last season and will hope he could get Roma back amongst the top 4 sides in Italy, something his predecessor Luis Enrique failed to achieve and miserably so.
Zeman is often celebrated for his insistence on fair play and respect for his opponents, and for his long-time battles against doping and everything that soils, in any way, a fair football culture. Expect sparks to fly however, as the outspoken manager has already begun a war of words with the hierarchy at Juventus, over the 10 month suspension and touchline ban handed over to Antonio Conte over his involvement in the match fixing scandal that has engulfed the peninsula once again
With American businessman and partner at the Fenway Sports Group - that also owns Liverpool in England - Richard Benedetto flushing in a lot of funds into the club he supports thanks to his Italian roots, Roma have not been shy of loosening their purse strings this summer just like they did last season.
Having sold a host of ageing players like Gabriel Heinze, Davide Pizarro, Matteo Brighi and Fabio Simplicio, the club have made a statement of intent that they are building a young side for the future and the youngsters brought in to replace them only lend credibility to that. Roma have splashed cash very carefully investing in youth in every department having bought in the likes of Ivan Piris, Leandro Castan, Brazilian left back Dodo and Marquinhos and the Argentine striker Nicolas Lopez, who are all in their twenties and amazingly South American by nationality.
But the signings that are definitely going to make a mark are that of Italian international full back Federico Balzaretti, American international Michael Bradley and Italian wonder-kid Mattia Destro who are all expected to be important first team players crucial to Roma’s chances this season. Having sold Fabio Borini to Liverpool, the club has done well to replace him with the next big thing of Italian football in Destro who made a mark last season having scored 12 goals for Siena, thus sparking a tug-of-war between a host of top clubs in Italy for his signature.
Potential signings in crucial positions:
With the signing of 18 year old Brazilian defender Marquinhos from Corinthians on loan with an option to buy next season, this might be it for the club in the transfer market having been one of the most active clubs not only in Italy but also in Europe as far as the transfer market is concerned. Still looking weak and inexperienced at the back but with no names being linked to the Giallorossi and 11 days to go for the market to close, all indications are that Roma are all set to start their campaign at home against Catania this Sunday with whatever they have at their disposal. Having enjoyed a good pre-season, Zeman will be content with the squad he has to build with the future in mind.
However, just like last season, their best player and rock in midfield Daniel De Rossi is once again being linked with a move away to Manchester City with the Citizens willing to splash out the moolah for someone considered to be amongst the best defensive midfielders in the world. Recent reports suggest the Italian is not interested in leaving his boyhood club but its football and nothing can be ruled out until the end of the transfer market. Holding on to him, might in itself be considered as an important signing for the club.
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
With Zeman as their coach, much will depend on how he utilizes the talent he has upfront with the likes of Pablo Osvaldo, Erik Lamela, Mattia Destro, Bojan Krkić and the immortal Francesco Totti available for selection to lead the line. The attack is definitely their biggest strength as it is also one of the best in the peninsula, however it all comes down to how effectively it is supported by an equally strong midfield consisting of Bradley, Pjanic and the indispensable Daniele De Rossi whose defensive work in midfield will be crucial in helping the inexperienced defense expected to be leaky at the back. Not to forget the bench strength comprising of the experienced former Italian international and world champion Simone Perrota and the Brazilian Rodrigo Taddei along with a pinch of youth in new signing Tachtsidis who will fill in at central midfield as and when required.
A no brainer this, the defense is definitely a liability as it is vastly inexperienced with players who are yet to be tested at the highest level. Roma have looked to sign youngsters like Marquinhos, Dodo and Leandro Castan to bolster their defense following the departure of the disastrous Simon Kjaer and ageing Gabriel Heinze and will look upto the experienced stalwarts in Nicolas Burdisso, Federico Balzaretti and Maarten Stekelenburg to help in with their transition into the more competitive Serie A, known for its tactical battles.
Also, Maarten Stekelenburg’s form will be crucial at the back as the Dutchman didn’t really enjoy a good first season in Italy last year having been in fluctuating form to make a rather disappointing start to his Serie A career.
|AS Roma||4-0||Zagłębie Lubin
PLAYER TO SHINE
The name of Roma may be synonymous with the likes of club patrons such as Daniele De Rossi and captain cum demi-god Francesco Totti, but if there is one player everyone is expecting to shine this season it has to be the 21-year old Italy international Mattia Destro who many have tipped to be the next star of the national team. Roma struck gold with this transfer beating the likes of Juventus and Milan to his signature and will hope their gamble pays off, more so after the sale of Fabio Borini who had quickly become the fan favourite last season.
Destro was picked in the preliminary squad for the Euros by Cesare Prandelli, but rightfully missed the bus with the coach handing him his first cap against England this month and he did not disappoint. He enjoyed a good last season at Siena having scored 12 goals and 4 assists in 30 matches and will look to continue his growth to emulate great Italian strikers of the past so badly being missed in Italy.
Sri RamThe new and freshly built Giallorossi side under Zeman will make instant impact through the 4-3-3 formation. More will be expected from last season’s arrivals such as Erik Lamela and Miralem Pjanic as they have settled nicely. Mattia Destro and Michael Bradley will be the ones to watch out for this season. Loyal legends, Totti and De Rossi, will ease of the pressure to make sure they entertain us with goal mouth action. As usual we, the Roma supporters, begin season with the same expectations as last and a battle for a Champions League place.
Ajay MenonThe new season brings the return of Zemanlandia on the bench, which makes this roller coaster ride far more interesting than previous seasons. There is no pressure of Europe, but our target has to be to get back in the Champions League. Additions have been excellent thus far, the likes of Balzaretti, Destro, Bradley, Castan, Piris, Marquinhos and De Rossi re-affirming his love makes this the best summer mercato in recent times. Zeman's brand of attacking football, Francesco Totti on the left wing of his standard 4-3-3 formation is just one of many things I am looking forward to this season. Daje Roma!
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