What happened to A.S. Roma?

A.S. Roma started this season like a house on fire. Their new signings had bedded in well, Rudi Garcia was the name on everybody’s lips, and it looked as though the Giallorossi would genuinely push Juventus all the way in the race for lo Scudetto. Since around the turn of the year, however, it has all fallen apart. We asked Vito Caressa, sports journalist and  
president of the Magica Roma Club, Toronto, to explain:

A.S. Roma started this season with the ambition to win the Scudetto, but are now fighting for second place.  That would guarantee direct qualification into the 2015-16 Champions League group stages. Several factors led to this downgrade of expectations. I have identified at least four:

First and foremost, injuries: too many of them and often at the same time.

If any club loses two or three key players, the whole team suffers. In January, at a crucial point in the Scudetto race and with league-leaders Juventus only one point ahead, Roma had about seven players injured.

In addition to those injuries, Roma were forced to do without the services of Gervinho and Keita, who were both away on national team duty in the African Cup of Nations. Add to these eight or nine players including the odd suspension, and one could field a full team! Of course Roma’s squad was competitive, but the large number of absences forced those who were left behind to play every match. Valuable players like Totti, Nainggolan and Pjanic were forced to take the field every three days, due to busy domestic and continental schedules.

The lack of results which came from mounting injuries, exacerbated the players’ discouragement at the sight of a growing gap with Juventus.

Injuries also forced Juventus to play poorly. As soon as they had a number of players injured at the same time (Pogba, Pirlo, Caceres), they won two or three matches purely due to the feats of Carlos Tevez. When the Argentine was missing, they lost to Parma.

Similarly, Lazio dropped their fine form, after eight wins in a row, with injuries to Parolo, De Vrij and Biglia.

The second reason is the negative psychological effect of the infamous 7-1 defeat suffered at the Olimpico against Bayern Munich. This heavy defeat scaled back expectations of the players, who probably misled some fans into believing that they could beat the German champions, after the resounding 5-1 win over CSKA Moscow, and an away draw at Manchester City.

Thirdly, some players haven’t performed as well as management had hoped. Iturbe, for one, hasn’t played as well as he did at Verona. Touted “rising stars” (Uçan, Paredes and Sanabria) were used very little; while Maicon was not as devastating as last season, and Ashley Cole has not made a positive impact.

The final factor: a disastrous January transfer market campaign.

Roma gave away Borriello and Destro, two center forwards, and got Seydou Doumbia (a veteran who wasn’t fully fit, coming from the African Cup of Nations).  Ibarbo, meanwhile, was said to have arrived in Rome already injured.

The coach, Rudi Garcia, declared earlier in the season that Roma would win the Scudetto. To be fair, Roma played very well in the direct encounter in Turin against Juventus, and would have won without the referee’s errors. Maybe Garcia’s words were rushed, but the Frenchman perhaps meant to motivate the team, especially after the undeserved defeat at the Juventus Stadium.

Roma’s elimination from the Coppa Italia and Europa League was the result of tired legs without valid alternatives ready to take over.

In the season’s remaining weeks, with some players returning from injury, Roma are lining up consecutive victories. Their play is perhaps not as spectacular as last season, but it bodes well for the final push for second place.

Vito Caressa

President, Magica Roma Club

Toronto, Canada

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