A Study in the General Decay of a Team (Roma-Basel and Parma-Roma)

I long held out vain hope that Roma were having a slow start, but that the point gap to the real competition was by no means so large a crevasse as to be insurmountable. There was still time to get things together and keep up. Still is, I suppose. But it's time to alter the expectations on this team. We can't reach for the higher steps in the hierarchy of needs when we're struggling so mightily to fulfill more than the very basic ones, such as not losing and conceding goals.

During the midweek CL game Roma failed to even do that, losing at home to Basel. After the win against Cluj I claimed that no teams in the competition can any longer be treated with much indifference, as they all possess some basis of quality which took them that far. I maintain that, which justifies Basel's existence in the tournament and, in a larger sense sucks the shock out of their win. But concerned as I am with the success (and by the lack thereof) of AS Roma, it's inexcusable. Less for Basel's lack of glamor than for, you know, playing at home with a pretty good team that shouldn't feel inferior to very many teams. At least not on paper.

The Parma game was a step in the right direction, I suppose. No loss, no goals conceded and all that jazz. But the other, more brutal side of that same coin is that Roma played the team with the least amount of points in the league. Roma did look like a better side than Parma, but the fact that it was marginally does nothing to console miserable souls tonight. If anything, the mediocrity the home team displayed only devalued Roma's slight superiority, and served as a constant reminder of who exactly Roma were taking on and only just managing to look better than. It wasn't pretty.

As he has done previously, Ranieri challenged his own starting lineup with his subsequent substitutions in a showdown for best mind fuck. A 4-4-2 featuring on its wings one attacker, and one right back would seem to be a sufficient amount of mindfuckery for one team and set of fans to handle. If only. After accidentally(?) stumbling onto a set-up that made sense when he pulled Totti, and had all but one players act in a formation that suited them (4-2-3-1) and made them fluid enough to look like a real team, he soon destroyed his own fortune with the next substitution. The decision to take Mirko off for Baptista is bewildering enough, but to do so six minutes into the second half? It had all the feel of a message ("See, I made all my changes in time, I was being pro-active!) and none of the feel of a tactical move he could have possibly thought would help the team. And if he did, the completely factual law degree I just made up makes me believe there could be ground for firing him due to gross incompetence on the spot.

Towards the end of the Parma game, Brighi stood by the sideline listening to new instructions from Ranieri while emptily looking up in the sky. Maybe it was nothing, maybe it's making too much out of a nothing incident. But I can't say I didn't empathize with Matteo in that second. "What now? What could you possible want now?"