By Aditya Bajaj
There are overachievers and there are underachievers. While the likes of Udinese and Catania have exceeded all expectations in recent seasons, Roma on the other hand have continued to disappoint.
The fact that Antonello Venditti – the songwriter of the club’s official anthem – even asked the owners to stop using it, sums up the disenchantment between supporters and Roma's hierarchy.
Once a regular in the Champions League as one of Serie A’s ‘big four’, the Giallorossi haven’t even been close to qualifying for Europe’s elite competition – let alone done well in it since the end of the Sensi family era back in 2011.
Sold to Thomas Richard DiBenedetto – a partner in the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) who also own the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool – the club has enjoyed significant investment over the past couple of seasons but the results have remained the same.
Having signed players like Erik Lamela, Bojan Krkic, Gabriel Heinze and Maarten Stekelenburg it seemed the 2011-12 campaign would finally be the season where Roma stood up to the likes of Milan, Juventus and Inter. Sadly, though, it proved to be nothing more than another false dawn.
Luis Enrique, the man handed the responsibility of bringing the club back to its feet, failed in trying to incorporate the tiki-taka philosophy he mastered with Barcelona B back in Spain, as Roma finished a miserable seventh - failing to even qualify for the Europa League.
He quit citing a need for a break, and the story continued last season when Zdenek Zeman was brought back for a second term with the club sold on the promise of ‘Zemanlandia’.
In many ways the Czech certainly provided entertainment. Roma played some of the best attacking football in Europe during his time in charge, but a complete neglect of the side's defence saw him fired in February leaving the Giallorossi in eighth position and Europe a distant dream once again.
His time would be more fondly remembered for his altercations with core players like Pablo Osvaldo, Maarten Stekelenburg and Daniele De Rossi, with the decision to drop the trio polarising the dressing-room as a result.
None could have described the situation better than Miralem Pjanic himself, when the midfielder said the club’s all-attack style of play was their strength but also their biggest weakness.
|Man of steel | Roma boosts a midfield consisting of Strootman, De Rossi and Florenzi|
The results improved to some extent under interim coach Aurelio Andreazolli, but he was never seen as the man to take the club forward in the long term and ended his tenure with a Coppa Italia final defeat to arch-rivals Lazio.
Perhaps letting go of Vincenzo Montella in the summer of 2011 and instead opting for Enrique may prove to be the club's biggest regret. The former Roma forward has been a revelation during spells in charge of Catania and Fiorentina, who have played some of the best football in the league under his tutelage.
However, Roma have made all the right noises in the transfer market this season, starting with the appointment of former Lille coach Rudi Garcia.
The Frenchman won the double with the Ligue 1 club back in 2010-11 and it’s under his guidance that current Chelsea star Eden Hazard found his feet and became a household name. It was also Garcia who made Arsenal sit up and notice of Gervinho, even if he failed to realise his potential before being reunited with his former boss at the Stadio Olimpico thiss summer.
It has been a fruitful mercato so far and just like previous campaigns Roma have reinforced with quality signings. Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman arrived from PSV and his presence alongside Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi could form one of the best midfield trios in Serie A.
An already potent attack looks even more dangerous with Gervinho returning to play once again with Garcia. The winger will hope to regain his confidence and play an important role in an attack that already consists of the likes of Erik Lamela, Mattia Destro, Pablo Osvaldo, Marco Borriello and the evergreen Francesco Totti.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for Garcia will be to handle the mercurial Pablo Osvaldo.
There are no doubts about his talent. He is still in Italy’s plans for next year’s World Cup in Brazil and scored 17 goals in 31 games last season, but it’s his temperament and attitude that threaten to taint his career in the capital city. With no potential suitors for his signature, it would be of immense benefit for both the club and the player if he keeps his head down and concentrates on his game with a potential World Cup spot hanging in the air.
Another area of distress is a leaky defence that conceded a monstrous 56 goals in 38 league games last season.
Marquinhos has been sold to Paris Saint-Germain for €35 million but a very able replacement in Mehdi Benatia had already been signed on from Udinese.
Serie A veteran Maicon returns to Italy after a disappointing spell with Manchester City, but his experience will be key alongside the likes of Leandro Castan, with the young defender set to partner Benatia at the heart of the defence.
With Maarten Stekelenburg sold to Fulham, former Italy international and Napoli goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis will take up the spot between the sticks and it will be interesting to see if he can help to sure up the most porous of rearguards.
It’s not like the club doesn’t have a good squad. In fact, they have arguably more depth than the likes of Milan, Napoli and Fiorentina, but what really needs to change is the attitude of the team when up against Serie A's so-called smaller clubs.
Roma picked three points against the likes of Juventus, Inter and Milan last season but it was inconsistency against lesser opposition that proved to be their downfall.
With Juventus strong favourites for the title, the race for the remaining two Champions League spots will be incredibly fierce.
Winning Serie A is still a distant dream for Roma and there is still some time to go before the Olimpico once again rejoices like they did in the summer of 2001.