Looking Back At the Rubicon

Let's not feign shock, let alone surprise. On some level we must have known that this, now, was a bridge too far. It's not a day of jubilee, but this has happened because the circumstances are forcing it, and that's that.

In Spalletti's resignation, he shoulders perhaps an unfair amount of blame for the state of the club. The club failed to deliver on any of the (available, attainable) near dozen players he had jotted down on a list in the beginning of summer, and he has gotten virtually nothing of what he'd wanted.

The backup goalkeeper we've known to be needed only came in the final hours, and he's injured for as long as Doni is, making it window dressing and little more. For the defense came Burdisso, and that's about everything moderately positive one can say about Roma's market. In midfield he saw Aquilani move away, and no one but a wing player from serie B come in. It was always a vain dream that Roma would be able to buy a really good attacker, but I don't imagine it was anything but frustrating for Spalletti to see every single one of those dreams fade into the skies, even as the dreams grew less prestige full and more reasonable with every passing week. It started one year ago with Mutu, continued this summer with the likes of Negredo, Pavluychenko, Shevchenko and Toni. That it ended with a primavera player being the only attacking reinforcement this club managed to bring in is an insult. I don't blame Spalletti if he took it as one.

The players already in the club have tuned out, too. They're not running anymore, they're not making the sacrifices they once did to make this team click. I think that is in large part because Spalletti is failing to reach them any longer. And whichever side in this you take (lazy prime donne or coach on suicide watch), the club has to operate in the world of pragmatism. It's easier to change the coach than it is to force a large turnover of the entire squad, or to change ownership and management, even if those alternatives had been better if feasible. So it had to be done. We can rue the circumstances that made it so, but not lament the fact that Spalletti is now gone. He wasn't fired, he resigned and relinquished four million euro in net wages over the coming two years - he obviously wouldn't have done that if he didn't feel as if the tank was running on empty and he genuinely had nothing more to give in this job.

Spalletti is a coach blessed with a vision that at a time was entirely his own, and at the same time taken apart by his own insistence on forcing that vision. He had half of Europe's coaching elite wooing him and name dropping his style of football as the future of football. Not impressive, not solid, none of these ordinary praises. The future of football. Anyone who can take a team of Cassettis, Tonettos and Perrottas within half an hour of winning lo scudetto, and knock out Real Madrid in their own house is obviously a very gifted tactician. But he's also the coach who ran into a big red wall at Old Trafford, and after he got up he ran right back into it. Seven times over. There are more examples, but ultimately it comes down to what was visible in his post game press conference on Sunday, where he spent some time blaming the loss on back heel attempts by his players: he's lost the dressing room. The mentality issues that have always been there had gone too far, and the team no longer responded to him, they stopped giving their all for a futuristic idea, and that's when it came crashing down.

It's seems now that Ranieri is taking over for the remainder of the season. He's a coach that once famously said that as a Roman and romanista, you can't call yourself a coach until you've coached Roma. I don't know what to expect from him now, but for a more pragmatic attitude towards choosing line ups. It's only fair that after five years of pushing the boundaries of player positions and roles, after four years of Totti the roaming attacker and playmaker rolled into one, after four years of Simone Perrotta the trequartista, after Mirko Vucinic the left wing, a situation in which a coach plays the players in their actual positions can be seen as revolutionary. Let that be Spalletti's legacy; that he challenged our notions of how to play football, and made us dream again for a little while.