2015-16 SERIE A REVIEW

ROMA

2015-16 review

Serie A Pts P W D L F A
3rd 80 38 29 7 6 80 32

Coppa Italia: Round of 16 / Team rating: 6 / Top scorer: Salah (14)

Europe: Champions League Round of 16

 
The mid-season crisis compromised Roma's objectives, writes Andrea Tallarita, but the club's measured response suggests they are on the right track.
 

The Roma revival

 
The 2014-15 season had left a bitter taste in the mouth of Romanisti. Coach Rudi Garcia did not deliver on his promises, whilst sporting director Walter Sabatini's transfer strategies back-fired awfully. With both men confirmed in their positions by President James Pallotta, fans were unsure what to expect for the following year.
 
Sadly, the shortcomings of these two key Giallorossi figureheads resurfaced, almost compromising the entire season. Sabatini's decision to sell or loan away the team's most prominent young Italians (Alessio Romagnoli, Andrea Bertolacci, Mattia Destro, Daniele Verde) alienated many of the fans, while his big summer signing, Edin Dzeko, once again failed to deliver. 
 
Garcia's tactics came apart in the Champions League, as the Italians lost 6-1 to Barcelona and qualified from the group stage with a measly six points, while his Serie A run grinded to a halt around November. The mid-December defeat to Serie B minnows Spezia, which saw the Lupi crashing out of the Coppa Italia in the Round of 16, was the apex of humiliation.
 
In mid-January, Pallotta sacked Garcia and signed former Roma Coach Luciano Spalletti, in a move that many saw as belated. The Tuscan set up a tough new regime, reformed the team's defence and led them into a remarkable run that almost snatched second place away from Napoli. Their games against Real Madrid in the Champions League were both lost 2-0, but the team still showed substantially improved aggression and discipline.
 
 
Spalletti was helped by a winter transfer strategy that finally clicked. Stephan El Shaarawy  found his form after years in limbo and added zing to the team's attack. Diego Perotti, signed from Genoa, was exactly the type of all-round workman that Spalletti likes.
 
Indeed the only blot during the new tenure was the controversy with club legend Francesco Totti, who complained about the limited playing time he was being given. Spalletti's harsh disciplinary response initially had the backing of the club, but keeping Totti on the bench became increasingly hard to justify as the player's performances improved exponentially. The situation remains unresolved, as Totti will discuss a possible contract renewal this summer.
 
Roma finished third with 80 points, compared to 70 from the year before, and only two away from second-placed Napoli. On the whole, fans have reasons to be disappointed. The team went from second to third in Serie A, and has little to show for their Champions League and Coppa Italia efforts. Even so, it would be a mistake to call this season a shambles.
 
Yes, the club faced a crisis. Their tactics imploded and the players at one point lost all confidence and sense of purpose. Matters got worse as fans protested against new security measures in the stadium and refused to support the team. Such crises, however, are a constant in football. Juventus faced a similar predicament  at the beginning of the season, Inter and Fiorentina had their own later, and even someone like Jose Mourinho couldn't prevent a total collapse at Chelsea.
 
Roma's response to the crisis is thus more revealing than the fact they had a crisis in the first place. By and large, they handled it quite well. The club did a remarkable job of fixing what was wrong both on the pitch and in the squad. Pallotta should probably have appointed Spalletti earlier, but that's reasoning in hindsight.
 
The failure to attain a concrete target this season is painful, but it must be seen in context. Over the last 15 years, Roma's response to the cyclical dips in football performance always saw them sliding down to sixth, seventh, eighth place. Plotting their placements on a graph shows a schizophrenic up-and-down bounce between second place and the higher mid-table zone. The new ownership's objective was that of turning Roma into a consistent top three contender, and this season's result is a testament to their success.
 
Yes, Roma faced a crisis – and yet they retained Champions League football, and will go into the next season able to reinforce the squad without having to sell any of their star players. There are still issues to be fixed, but this is a distinct improvement over the previous years. It is all the more impressive when you consider that competition from Napoli and Inter suddenly became a lot fiercer.
 
Roma's roster is steadily getting stronger, their new manager looks driven, and work for the property stadium continues. The transfer department is likely to undergo a major overhaul too, if Sabatini does what everyone expects him to and leaves in the summer. Short-sighted forecasts spell doom, for the wolves are still quite distant from the quality, confidence and financial power of Juventus. But their growth is real and their foundations are solid, more so than any other team in Serie A except for the title-holders. Romanisti should rejoice. Their team has come a long way, and they're still going up.

The Coach – Rudi Garcia (Weeks 1-19) Luciano Spalletti (Weeks 20-38)

Rudi Garcia's limitations as a Coach resurfaced before he was sacked in January 2016, and Roma were plunged into a results crisis. Incoming Coach Luciano Spalletti successfully revitalised the team and instituted discipline, though not without controversy, particularly in his dealings with Francesco Totti. His tactical ideas are sound, but the jury is out on whether his psychological approach will bear fruit on the long run.

Player of the Year – Mohamed Salah

There are several candidates here, what with Radja Nainggolan's consistency in midfield and Francesco Totti's beautiful resurgence. But the Egyptian Mohamed Salah was Roma's best resource in the attack throughout the year. Not only did he score more goals than anybody else, he provided incredible service to the team with his link-up play and his defensive runs.

Did you know? 

- Roma had two of the three oldest players fielded in Serie A this season, namely Francesco Totti (39) and Morgan De Sanctis (37). 
 
- Midfielder Miralem Pjanic stands alongside Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne as the only Serie A player to make it into double digits in both goals (10) and assists (12).
 
- Roma scored more goals on set pieces (18) and on counter-attacks (5) than any other team in Serie A. 

Squad

No Pos Player Apps Gls Assists
25 GK Wojciech Szczesny 34 0 0
26 GK Morgan De Sanctis 4 0 0
1 GK Bogdan Lobont 0 0 0
44 D Kostas Manolas 36(1) 2 2
24 D Alessandro Florenzi 31(2) 7 3
3 D Lucas Digne 32(1) 3 3
2 D Antonio Rudiger 29(1) 2 0
13 D Maicon 12(3) 1 2
35 D Vasilis Torosidis 6(5) 0 0
87 D Ervin Zukanovic 6(3) 0 1
33 D Emerson 1(7) 1 0
23 D Norbert Gyömbér 0(6) 0 0
5 D Leandro Castán 4(1) 0 0
6 M Kevin Strootman 2(3) 0 1
48 M Salih Ucan 0(3) 0 1
16 M Daniele De Rossi 23(1) 1 2
20 M Seydou Keita 16(4) 1 0
21 M William Vainqueur 4(12) 0 2
15 M Miralem Pjanic 30(3) 10 12
4 M Radja Nainggolan 33(2) 6 1
52 M Lorenzo Di Livio 0(1) 0 0
14 M Iago Falque 13(9) 2 2
8 A Adem Ljajic 0(1) 0 0
93 A Marco Tumminello 0(1) 0 0
97 A Umar Sadiq 2(4) 2 0
8 A Diego Perotti 14(1) 3 7
27 A Gervinho 13(1) 6 1
22 A Stephan El Shaarawy 15(1) 8 2
7 A Juan Iturbe 3(9) 1 0
10 A Francesco Totti 2(11) 5 3
9 A Edin Dzeko 21(10) 8 6
11 A Mohamed Salah 32(2) 14 6