Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don't

The international break is here again to pester us with its forced presence, so this is a good time to sit back and muse on some numbers as we avoid, to the best of our efforts, watching anything involving Nicola Legrottaglie and Simone Pepe in a blue shirt.

Roma's win against Napoli puts and end to Ranieri's first five serie A games in charge of Roma, and despite scenes in Sicily that tested our very belief in the sport as an appealing way to spend a Sunday afternoon, it's turned out better than expected. I refuse, mostly due to a desire to have some remnants of nerves left come March, to look at the table and start counting opponents' points, or waste energy cheering against Fiorentina, Milan or Genoa or whichever team we think Roma will be competing with at the end of the season. I was wary first of using a cliché, before I remembered that it isn't a cliché at all, rather it's something forgotten much too often: the only thing that counts is what position in the table you hold on May 16th.

The only thing of real importance until then is the points Roma collects. As long as Roma do their's, forget about everyone else. And on that note, some numbers from the five games under Ranieri: in these five games, Roma has taken 11 (out of 15 possible), creating an average of 2.2 points per game. Multiplied by the 36 games Ranieri will lead the team this season in A, we land on 79 (79.2) points. If that sounds like a lot, it's mostly because it is. In the past three seasons, that would be good for two second place finishes, and one third place finish (07/08), an outcome that would be a great success considering the expectations as Roma embarked on this season, as well as the storm of a season start. In fact, Ranieri's record has only been bettered in the five weeks that he's been in Rome by Inter, whose return was 12/15 points.

If it's far reaching to extrapolate out of these five games the final position and number of points, there are other things to consider. For some reference point to last season's disastrous campaign, we can look at Roma's return in those five exact games last season: instead of eleven points now, a paltry four (one win against Fiorentina, and a 1-1 draw with Napoli; away losses to all of Siena, Palermo and Catania). This is dismissing the context in which all of these games took place, but I'm not sure that's to the advantage of Ranieri's 09/10 team. For example, the rain in Palermo, the injuries in today's game, the injury situation in general right now all serve to strengthen, not diminish, the claim that Roma is better now. Or more solid, whatever you like.

Today against Napoli, there was a clear and visible improvement over the performance against Catania a week ago. It was an intense and fast paced game in the first half, and it slowed down considerably after the break, in part because of diminished attacking lust from both sides, in part due to tactical changes by Ranieri. It wasn't a game of memorable individual performances (I feel it redundant to name Totti and his two goals; the first opportunistic, the second masterfully executed), but there were moments that held some promise. Much like Inter - Udinese on Saturday night, it wasn't so much a case of the home side overwhelming the guests and humbling them into submission, but it's still three points. Both games, the one in Milano to an even larger degree, were at times so evenly matched that no one could have been surprised by either team taking all three points. And in both games, it was the teams with the better and more experienced players that made sure their team won; I doubt these are all coincidences.

Continuing the numbers theme, we note that with today's goals Totti reached the level of Gabriel Batistuta. Both players have now scored 184 goals in serie A. Next objective to take down: Beppe Signori, four goals removed. At this pace, you can expect Checco to reach, and surpass, that sometime in the very near future (Milan away sounds good for four Totti goals, and not entirely ludicrous a notion).

An ironic, if wholly unfunny, development in the game was the two injuries in the first 25 minutes that forced two substitutions to be made, when Ranieri the day before had complained about the state of the training pitches at Trigoria ("There's more sand than at the beach"). The decay of Trigoria's grass isn't news, and was brought to the attention of the management at the end of last season by Spalletti, which makes its condition even less excusable. Today it was Motta, Bertagnoli and Totti, whose injury surely didn't happen as he shot the goal, but has been, at the very least, aggravated by training every day in the pot hole ridden, sand filled pitches of Trigoria.

The decision not to address the issue properly is disappointing, if not surprising from this management. This is the same group of people which pretends to build a great new stadium, but cannot for the life of them give any sorts of answers on what it would cost, or where the money to pay this unknown figure would come from.

The Sensis have twice failed to meet deadlines to repay parts of the money owed (400+ million at last count) to the bank Unicredit, but aren't sweating it, as they're reported to have tried to assure Unicredit that they hold assets whose worth far surpass that debt, so UC should take a chill pill. I'm unsure how much, if at all, this was thought through to the end, because all I read (assuming their claim of holding these kinds of assets is in fact true) is that the Sensis has the money, but that they just feel like don't paying. Again: these are the people trying to either secure a bank loan in order to build a 55.000 stadium, or attract investors and convince them to trust the Sensis with their hundreds of millions.

Of a more cowardly nature was their silence on Thursday night. After Stefano Okaka scored the opening goal in the game against CSKA Sofia, he cut his celebration short, due to some of his own fans instead of applauding him, met him with boos. Okaka himself played it down after the game, and said he neither heard nor saw anything. That's understandable, if not admirable. But he's a kid trying to get through, I don't blame him for taking the easier of two routes. I do blame the club, however, for their complete lack of indignation at whoever it was that booed and jeered a player nurtured through all of Roma's youth teams. The only reason is Okaka is black, and Totti, DDR, Aquilani and the others famously aren't.

It doesn't matter that reports point out four guys in Curva Sud; the lack of action or condemnation from the club grants them a sense of entitlement they absolutely do not have.