Rudi Garcia, Daniele De Rossi and the rest can continue to throw cold water over those mentioning the dreaded ‘S’ word, but it is now beyond dispute the Giallorossi are Scudetto contenders, maybe even favourites. It’s not just the fact they have started the season with eight consecutive victories – something only title-winning Juventus achieved in 1930-31, 1985-86 and 2005-06 – but how they earned those wins and against who.
This Roma side has already faced huge tests of its capabilities. When Jonathan Biabiany gave Parma a half-time lead at the Tardini – the only time the Lupi have trailed all season – they fought back for a 3-1 success. The Derby della Capitale was psychologically delicate, hanging in the balance and the kind of test that in the past would’ve damaged self-confidence, but they pushed Lazio aside. There were head-to-head showdowns at the top of the table with Inter and Napoli, but the Giallorossi kept clean sheets with stoic defending and took their chances with clinical precision.
Friday night’s victory felt particularly special and a sign that Roma really can do it this season. Francesco Totti went off in the opening half-hour, but for once the team did not crumble when its captain and leading light was off the field. Other players with completely different characteristics stepped up and took control of the situation. Miralem Pjanic grabbed the reins going forward, leaving De Rossi to lead the troops from the back. That is perhaps the greatest sign of all that things are changing in the Capital.
Looking back over Roma’s eight Serie A wins, they have been surprisingly different. This team can maintain possession and swarm all over opponents, or it can sit back and play the counter-attack depending on the situation. The crucial element is the entire team knows which approach to take at what time. They read the game like few others and that is something that has been sorely lacking at Milan or Fiorentina. You see no dips in concentration at key moments, nor failing to change gear when the opposition is struggling.
Can they keep this up for an entire campaign? It’ll be tough, but for a team with quality players eager to prove themselves under a new Coach after a tough couple of years and with no European commitments to hold them back... sound familiar, Juventus fans?