Not So Much As a Bubble

This morning La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote about the 'new look' Roma on display against Siena. Of the champagne football Spalletti practiced and preached, the article reads, there's "not even a bubble left". Amen. But that's not something we can wake up and be surprised to learn, it's been known subconsciously (if nothing else) since Ranieri was hired. Out with the champagne, in with the the blue collar workers who pick the grapes.

The game was in the same neighborhood as the worst Roma games, quality wise, that we've seen in many years. It was sluggish like a Diesel engine in February, and it was mostly unimaginative. But all of that translated into three points. As far as teams nearing the brink of crisis, with a coach making his debut, that's not a terrible trade to make.

You could be up in arms over the pathetically old and slow starting line up, you could complain of better players being held back to start with, you could bitterly note that for more than an hour there was no discernible difference between this team and the one that lost two games and let in 6 goals earlier this season. None of that is necessarily wrong. But even if I hold no illusions of Ranieri serving up champagne football in the future, it's wiser to hold off on judgment considering his choices until we see if they are repeated, or it they were committed due to the special circumstances that coaching a team for the first time creates. That starting line up won't be constant, and it will change and evolve. In some part due to players regaining fitness (Vucinic, and Baptista, who said to Ranieri they couldn't handle any more than the minutes they played), and in some parts due to a higher sense of security allowing experimentation.

There were some positive notes to provide us with a false sense of optimism:

Despite Mexès being made a fool of by Maccarone (for around the 13th time in his career, I think), the defense did fine. Siena's most dangerous play except for the goal was a mishit cross by Fini which Julio Sergio had to pull out the stops for. Other than that, solid. We saw early signs of the advanced defensive line of Ranieri, which made the team more compact. Ok, the goal can be said to be a direct result from that as it was a counter attack, but it was still something the defense could have dealt with, Mexès was there. Physically, if not mentally.

Elsewhere in the world, namely ten, fifteen or so meters further up the pitch, Pizarro looked good in a more advanced role as a trequartista/central-midfielder-who's-unshackled-and-allowed-to-go-past-the-mid-circle. He started the game as such, but was pulled back when Brighi was injured, only to be allowed more freedom again the last twenty or so minutes. The passing there was more precise, no doubt a consequence from something so banal as him being closer to the team mates making runs into the box. That kind of final pass delivery can be very valuable whenever Totti isn't in a mood of doing everything humanly possible at once.

As for the turnaround of fortunes: I maintain that Spalletti is a better coach than Ranieri, and that he plays a more attractive football, which is something I don't believe to be inconsequential for a football fan. But I have a hard time envisioning how this game, if Roma were still coached by Spalletti, wouldn't have ended 2 or 3 goals to nothing for Siena. I place no real values in that, I'm just saying.

Connected to that, and being able to turn around the result, was Roma's attitude. I don't doubt that Roma for the opposing players were annoying as all hell yesterday. Roma were aggressive, and up in the faces of everyone. Ranieri mentioned it in the post game press conference, and said he wanted "more bandits" in his team. Someone to stand up, someone who backs away from no one, dead or alive. Someone like DDR, for example:


That was on the back of game long heckling by the home fans, who sang about his murdered father in law, and urging Danielino to join him in death (they're very creative, the horse lovers). It was a display of some of the ugliest sentiments in calcio, a showing of human indecency in a time of hurt for a man who's seen his family go through more problems in the past year than most can handle. Indeed including his own. I don't want to believe, either, that I'm writing this from the indignant point of view of someone who harbors an unhealthy amount of love for DDR (I do), I hold the same low regard for the romanisti who used to sing similar chants about Vincenzo Paparelli in derbies.

By the by, is the worst moment in a footballer's career when he's standing in a wall and sees Riise step up? More than the actual consequences should the ball hit him, I think of the grueling couple of seconds before he connects. The fear, the anguish. Maybe that's why there was a hole in the wall the size of the Colosseo, maybe Curci is a double agent. Either way, it was about as cathartic as a kick of a ball can be.