Zdenek Zeman was asked several questions about Juventus at his presentation Press conference when he signed for Roma this summer. The media know they can always get a juicy quote out of the Czech and he obliges, whether it’s a dig at doping allegations, Calciopoli or the ‘Stile Juve.’ He is seen by many as a truth-teller, a man who was kept from top-ranking jobs and success purely because he is an uncomfortable presence for the powers that be. A Coach whose idea of all-attack football would revolutionise Serie A if only everyone would drop the pretence and adopt his vision. Zemanlandia, they call his magical teams and the atmosphere they create for the fans. It was Juvelandia we saw on Saturday night.
“Juventus were clearly superior throughout the entire match.” Those were the words Zeman uttered in his famous monotone drawl after a 4-1 thrashing that felt more like 8-1. The Bianconeri could’ve set a new record for goals in a single game if they had kept up the pressure of the first half, but Italian teams do insist on taking a breather, as if 90 minutes is an implausibly long time to be running around for. The result was irrelevant, because after that performance it was evident to even the most blindly passionate Roma supporter that they were crushed like an ant under an industrial-strength steamroller.
I am so glad that this match was not marred by red cards or refereeing errors. If anything, the official could’ve been harsher by giving Rodrigo Taddei a red card for stopping a clear scoring opportunity before the first goal. No excuses, no conspiracy theories, no alibis. Juve were simply better.
So why has Zeman never found true success? Because he doesn’t win. His sides are always entertaining to watch – not necessarily for their own fans, but certainly for all neutrals – but their weaknesses are glaring. The defence was an absolute shambles in Turin with offside traps failing to be activated in midfield and motorway-sized gaps between players. If they don’t move the ball quickly, or in this case get anywhere near the ball, then the attacking approach vanishes and all you’re left with is an embarrassing back four. We’ve seen this season that Roma even manage to flip that switch during a single game, going from a dominant opening hour and 2-0 lead over Bologna to losing 3-2.
You know what you get with Zeman and a shocking defence is pretty much guaranteed, so nobody can suddenly complain that they leak goals. Everyone was aware of this when he was hired. I’m sure he will bring his entertaining attack to the squad eventually and give fans plenty to cheer about on mad rollercoaster journeys. However, if Roma fans expect to win trophies, then they’ve really got the wrong man.