An Idealist Without Illusions

Last week, I happened upon a first edition of Theodore Sorensen's biography of his longtime boss, Jack Kennedy. It cost me less than it would have to buy a cup of coffee afterwards, and go sit in a pretentious cafĂ© reading it. There are two points I'm cumbrously building towards here: for starters, even though I love the Internets, to hell with your digital books. Secondly: I spotted the below passage in the first chapter, describing JFK's character. My mind, by now ruined by years of following Roma, tried to apply this new information I had gained on Roma, i.e. Luis Enrique:
When asked what kind of President he hoped to be, liberal or conservative, he replied, "I hope to be responsible." Perhaps his wife summed him up best as "an idealist without illusions."

Hold that thought.

If I start out this commentary of Roma-Atalanta by saying that on Saturday, Luis Enrique showed us a team which did act differently than in other games, can I trust you all to read nothing more into it than he merely adapted his vision to the circumstances of this particular game? It does not mean he abandoned his beliefs over night, nor does it mean the team raged against the machine and overrode the Spanish decree.
         Roma may have conceded the idea of ball possession against Atalanta, but if anything it made Luis Enrique's point all the clearer: possession is a means to an end, not the end itself, and it was not his intention to have a team so overly deliberative as it was (for example) in the first half in Parma. Yet Roma stacked shots on shots on shots, finding all the space and time granted them by Atalanta that they had previously only talked about internally, and which had previously only lead to slow advancements. Roma complemented deliberateness with assertiveness without abandoning completely the formerlet's not for a second confuse relatively equal share of the ball for going defensive and cowardly. It was still a win on Roma's terms, no Faustian pact struck. With this tweakrather than overhaulsuddenly Roma were consistently threatening instead of only when the opposition slipped up and lacked in attention. De Rossi's penetrating ball over the top to Bojan, Simplicio's run and one-two with Pjanic are moves which both bear the sign of a team confident enough to set aside dogmatism for pragmatism when a favorable opportunity presents itself. The difference between Roma doing it against Atalanta, and other coaches' teams, is found in the reminder that there are six million ways to die from, so choose one. Substituting ball possession for a faster route isn't more or less offensive per se, it's just a different way of attacking.

As with everything, there are degrees also to adapting yourself for a particular game. This wasn't Capello playing three defensive midfielders against dead-bottom Ancona in 2004, nor was it Ranieri introducing a three man defense on the eve of an away game in Naples. This retained the fundamentals of what makes the team work, but removes the fundamentalist's view that it all needs to happen in a special way (which in this case would be by stifling the opponent with ball possession).