At the start of the season, it looked like the Serie A would have its most competitive season yet. The old powerhouses patched themselves up over the summer: Juventus bringing in Carlos Tevez, the return of Kaka to Milan, and Inter hiring the man who could be their most stable manager since Jose Mourinho. But of course the new contenders, the big spenders Fiorentina and Napoli were the ones who everyone kept their eyes on, expecting both sides to possibly contend for the scudetto. Yet amidst all the expectations placed upon all these sides, it’s Roma who have risen above the rest with a perfect record having won all six matches thus far.
Nobody had intentionally forgotten about Roma when predicting title-contenders, it was just that too often had great expectations been placed on the Giallorossi, only to see them struggle to find consistency and internal harmony. But after an easy 5-0 win against Bologna, Roma are now beginning to impose themselves as the top dog with fluid and attacking play.
The French architect of the side’s rebirth, Rudi Garcia, is showing his Spanish origins in the way he has set up his side thus far. High pressing, possession, and fluidity are the key ingredients to the way Roma plays. Garcia sets his side up in a 4-3-3, using Totti as a false centre forward, along with the speed and stamina of Gervinho and Florenzi on the wings. In the midfield the strong physical duo of De Rossi and Strootman break up anything headed towards the Roma defense, and then distribute with grace to Pjanic and the fullbacks Balzaretti and Tsoridis who both constantly rise up the field, stretching defenses.
Thus far this has been the perfect formula for Roma; giving Totti (who just a couple of days ago turned 37) freedom to float around the opposing midfield and defensive lines, spearheading the one-touch passing which the Giallorossi use to quickly burst up the field has created lots of goals distributed all across the team. The central defender Benatia scored his second of the season against Bologna, and who can forget Balzaretti’s tear-inducing goal against Lazio in the Rome derby the past midweek. In fact, of the fourteen players who played against Bologna, only five haven’t scored this season for Roma, and that’s counting the goalkeeper De Sanctis.
There seems to be a freedom with which Roma have been playing, and it was incredibly apparent in their latest victory netting five goals each one prettier until the last. Bologna just couldn’t keep up with the quick tempo that Rudi Garcia’s side played with in the first half, an infectious passing display which served Gervinho two fantastic counter-attacking goals. Along with a Benatia’s volley and a surreal chip from substitute Adem Ljajic which pops in flicking under the crossbar, Roma’s attacking display was supreme, held up by an unstoppable pressing defensive style which gave Bologna no time to breathe.
When asked post-game about whether Roma were a perfect side thus far, Garcia responded, “There is no perfect team, there’s always something better to do but, the merits go to the players, they played with enthusiasm, joy, and when it was possible playing one-touch. We have some talents and you could see that. The objective is to return to Europe and do a final sprint with the others, the favorites Juventus and Napoli. Superior? We’ll see when we play against them, right now their two points behind, and two points are nothing”.
Rudi Garcia’s side will be traveling next week to the San Siro to face Walter Mazzari’s 4th placed Inter Milan, followed up by a home return against Napoli. Two stern tests which could Roma’s chance to assert themselves as the leaders of the Serie A.
Editor’s note: Read more articles by Niccolo on his blog at www.soccerwrapup.blogspot.com.