Roma coach Luciano Spalletti warned the embattled Serie A side to expect hard toil at the club’s training ground after officially signing an 18-month deal on Thursday.
Former coach Rudi Garcia, who led Roma to two consecutive runner-up places behind Juventus the past two seasons, was sacked on Wednesday after Roma had slipped to fifth place at seven points behind leaders Napoli. Spalletti, who won three trophies in a four-year spell at the Stadio Olimpico from 2005-2009, was confirmed as the club’s new coach on Thursday after returning from Miami where he met co-owner and president James Pallotta.
The 56-year-old Italian admits he faces a tough task amid what is the tightest race for Serie A supremacy since the early 1990s. But in an interview with the club’s website, Spalletti indicated he expects a fully professional approach from the players at their Trigoria training complex as he bids to turn their season around.
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“My message hasn’t changed since I came to Roma the first time: I arrive early at Trigoria, I go home late and the time spent there is geared towards helping the team and the club,” said Spalletti.
With only one win in their last seven league outings, Roma’s confidence has hit an all-time low. The ‘Giallorossi’ have so far shipped 22 goals – seven more than Napoli and Juventus and eight more than Inter Milan, all of whom, along with Fiorentina, are vying for the title this season. Roma may have hit 36 goals, only two shy of league-leading Napoli, but Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko is having a terrible time in Serie A having scored only three times in the league so far.
Although Spalletti is expected to switch the 4-3-3 system used by Garcia for his preferred 4-2-3-1, his priority is to restore confidence. But he warned Roma will have to play “good football” if they are to have any chance of challenging for trophies.
“I hope that by pressing the right buttons and communicating in a clear and precise way to the team, our true character and winning spirit will return,” he said.
“This is more important than systems and statistics.”
He added: “This year we don’t have a choice, several teams are playing well in the league: our team is fine but we have to be playing good football if we are going to keep pace with the others.
“My main focus is for us to become a team that is playing good football.”
Spalletti has already succeeded where Garcia failed, having led the team to Italian Cup glory twice in his previous spell before taking over at Zenit St. Petersburg. In four years with the Russian side, Spalletti won two league titles and a Super Cup, but he admits his heart has never left Rome.
“I’ve never left this city or this club. Both have a special place in my heart and it’s emotional to be coming back here,” he said.
“My son returned to the city to study and is a fan, he follows all our games.”
Roma host Verona this weekend in Serie A and a week later Spalletti faces the acid test with a visit to resurgent champions Juventus, who are just two points off Napoli in second place.
“I want us to get to work as soon as possible. Of course I will be drawing on my past experience, but this is a fresh start,” he said.
“We have to work in a serious manner. It doesn’t just depend on us. When you’re a few points behind, as we are now, you’re also subject to how your rivals are playing,” he said.
“But we have to give our absolute maximum to give ourselves every chances of succeeding.”
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