The writing was on the wall following another Roma capitulation, this time a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Cagliari. A day later Zdenek Zeman was dismissed as Coach. That was February 2. Installed in the short term was Aurelio Andreazzoli, a technical Coach who first arrived at Trigoria under Luciano Spalletti.
Zeman’s sacking triggered the usual list of linked replacements for 2013-14. Walter Mazzarri, Massimiliano Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti and Laurent Blanc were put forth as main candidates. Franco Baldini admitted the Giallorossi were interested in the latter. Others such as Christian Panucci, Marco Giampaolo and Alberto De Rossi were also mentioned. Yet given Andreazzoli’s start to life in the Lupi hotseat, could Roma’s next permanent Coach be right under their noses?
He hopes to be given an opportunity. “I am absolutely ready to be the Coach next season. If I accepted the job now, why wouldn’t I in future?” That was in February. In a later interview Andreazzoli stated: “If I’m honest, I do think that I deserve to be confirmed in the job.”
The second Zeman era saw the odd breathtaking performance, but endured an abject ending. A five-match winless streak opened 2013, culminating in the Cagliari result and sacking. Roma then sat eighth, six points adrift of Europe.
Under Andreazzoli the Giallorossi have clawed back into European contention and currently occupy sixth, level on points with Lazio in the last Europa League spot. In nine matches they’ve won five and lost just twice. Defensively they’re more compact, conceding only nine goals. They’re still capable at the other end, netting 14.
Shaky moments remain, as witnessed by Torino’s equaliser last Sunday. On the whole it is an inexperienced defence prone to the odd error. But they are improving. Following a disappointing opening contest at Sampdoria, Andreazzoli’s Roma look a far more cohesive unit than previously and are no longer bound to one style and system. The Giallorossi alternate to suit personnel available and opponent.
Defensively Roma are helped by the return to form of goalkeeper Marteen Stekelenburg. His relegation to the bench was one of the more puzzling Zeman decisions. The Dutchman was immediately reinstated by Andreazzoli and showed his worth. Daniele De Rossi is another to have benefitted from the change on the bench, seeing less of it as a result.
The 59-year-old has a supporter in defender Leandro Castan. “Now the Coach speaks with the players. Now there is harmony. Zeman didn’t say a single word to me in six months. Andreazzoli from the first day asked me what I liked and what I didn’t...I’m rooting for Andreazzoli to stay.”
Initially sceptical, Roma legend Giuseppe Giannini too has been won over. “Andreazzoli has managed to give the team more solidity. He is doing really well with the opportunity he has been given. If he continues like this then he would deserve to stay. Especially as I wouldn’t want another Vincenzo Montella situation.”
Another feather in the Andreazzoli cap comes in the form of the Coppa Italia. Should tonight Roma hold their 2-1 first leg advantage over Inter, they’ll reach the decider versus Lazio. Winning the competition would seal Roma’s place in Europe next term. Just securing a Derby della Capitale Final may do so too, depending on Lazio’s final League position. Walter Sabatini has called the Inter match “fundamental for our season.”
It might ‘only’ be the Coppa, but rest assure both sides of the Roman divide will be pining for a Cup triumph over their other. It would look favourable for Andreazzoli’s coaching ambition to steer Roma to Europe, seal their 10th Coppa triumph against their hated rivals, plus their first trophy since 2007-08.
Bigger names have been linked, but the Giallorossi must ask if they can lure them to the capital. There is also the question of squad stability – would another change be beneficial? And as Giannini alluded to, Roma let a talented Coach slip through their fingers when Montella was overlooked on a permanent basis. He went from strength to strength as Roma fumbled. Would they regret the same type of situation occurring?