Champagne Wishes

Tonight, AS Roma holds its annual Christmas party before everyone scurries on down to Rio, Valparaíso, the Maldives and elsewhere as soon as they exit the locker room of San Siro on Saturday. They will cut up a slice of panettone, traditional Italian Christmas cake par excellence, and toast in champagne's Italian cousin prosecco. Next year in London! Usually it ushers in a period of relative serenity for Italy's football clubs, coaches having survived long enough to eat a slice of panettone considered safe for the time being (which has birthed the euphemism of coaches not getting to eat panettone meaning they've been fired before the break). It is not a time of introspection and uncomfortable questions, all parties involved tending to prefer sun-drenched R&R. 

This year, however, the to-do list left after the party is more significant than in recent memory as Roma will stare down Milan's league leading team on Saturday night. (Hopefully, also break them down.) It is do or die, a loss ending the year on a minor scale with Milan pushing ahead by 13 points. Even if one no longer holds vain illusions of Roma still contending for the title, it would be a sad conclusion to an arguably terrific year for the club. No other club has amassed more points during 2010, Roma's curse of course being that football is staunchly anti-Gregorian and adheres instead to its own calendar.

Last year, Roma gave itself the best Christmas present it could hope to get, as we found Luca Toni wrapped in red and yellow velvet ribbons, crouching awkwardly but eagerly under the tree. It—he—helped save Roma's season, even transform it. The bad news is that in part due to his contribution during five fantastic months last spring, Roma has advanced to a level where adding something as basic as Luca Toni can't have as big an impact any longer. We've hit a plateau, and there isn't a shortcut like Toni to jump us onto the next one. Now, it takes hard work and more of the aforementioned introspection to move on. Launching a firestarter, I'd throw out questions like "how come Roma haven't won away since May?", "will kittens die if Roma practiced some kind of attacking schemes an hour or two a week, or what other explanation could there possibly be for not doing it?", lock the door and see where it goes from there. I kid, but somewhere in there are real questions that desperately need an answer. Preferably on Saturday, but if not then at the latest by the start of next year and we lick our collective wounds. Champagne wishes, three points in Milan, shit would be ridiculous.