The pressure cooker in which Italian Coach work is unlike any league in the world. Erratic Presidents, impatient fanbases and a scathing media culture which leaves no move or choice uncriticised.
As one of Italy’s fiercest derbies features this weekend, the Derby della Capitale, both managers know all too well that Roma and Lazio see those forces multiplied.
Eusebio Di Francesco’s appointment was met with scepticism and some anger by Romanisti, after Luciano Spalletti broke the records points total for the club in the previous season. The former Sassuolo man was deemed to be unfit to replace the now Inter manager in the dugout.
The 3-1 defeat to Inter early in the season did him no favours as he tried to win over the Roma faithful. However, since that loss in Week 2, the Giallorossi have only lost one other game, to table-toppers Napoli. They now boast Serie A’s best defence with seven goals conceded in 11 games and have defied all doom and gloom predictions.
Di Francesco knows all too well about the pressures of football in Rome. He played for Roma from 1997-2001, picking up a Serie A winners’ medal along the way. Whilst the noise became louder and louder whether he was fit to manage Roma, he kept relatively calm in Press conferences, and now it’s paying dividends.
They’re five points behind Napoli, albeit with a game in hand. Most Serie A pundits this season have focused on Napoli’s domination and Juventus’ decline, but heads are starting to turn towards Di Francesco and Roma. They might just have a say in the Scudetto and have already humiliated Chelsea in the Champions League.
Lazio are most likely wishing people would stop talking about them. They’re in a similar position to their crosstown rivals, a point ahead with a game in hand as well. They’ve arguably received as many plaudits as Napoli this term, with Ciro Immobile and Simone Inzaghi the main receivers. Much like Roma, they weren’t expected to be anywhere near the top of the table at this stage of the season.
The similarities don’t stop there, as Simone Inzaghi spent time at Lazio during his playing days, 10 seasons in fact, scoring 28 goals in 133 games. Despite Roma arguably having a better squad from top to bottom, it’s Lazio people are tipping to have a chance at the Scudetto.
“There is pressure in Rome, people expect a lot from us and we are all constantly being tested,” Inzaghi admitted. That’s an understatement. Both Di Francesco and Inzaghi won Scudetti during their respective time in the Capital. They’ve experience what it’s like to be in a title race down the stretch and have the Italian media lambast your every move.
No doubt these experiences have led them to downplaying their team’s chances this season and laying low. The truth is, if both teams continue playing as they are now, with Roma on a four-game winning streak and a Lazio on six (nine including the Europa League), they won’t be able to keep quiet about their team’s chances for very long.
Both Coaches embody a certain calmness that can be rare to find. The issue with managing in Rome is that tacticians can start off like this, but once the Corriere dello Sport are on your back every day of the week, it can lead to some cracks starting to appear.
The Derby della Capitale on Saturday will be a great test to see how either Coach deals with an increase in pressure. It’s likely one will have to deal one of the worst defeats a manager in Rome can be condemned to, the other will most likely to be tagged as Scudetto rivals to Napoli and Juventus. We’ll see if they can deal with it.