Wednesday December 6 2017
Roma slowly but surely

Roma did a remarkable job topping their Champions League group, but Andrea Tallarita believes their achievement should not be overstated.

And so, down with Qarabag, the way it was meant to be, with none of the unnecessary drama that usually follows the Roma colours. For this reason and others, this legitimately feels like a different season for ‘romanisti’ everywhere.

The result of the match was a predictable win. The outcome of the group, with Roma topping a heavyweight free-for-all, only a season since they were knocked out by Porto at the playoffs, is an unexpected triumph.

Given the high, this might seem like a strange moment to point out that the Giallorossi are, in fact, performing within reasonable expectations. The team pack a punch, agreed, but this is not quite the same as saying that they punch above their weight.

At the beginning of the season, it was remarked that Roma had traded away strength in their starting XI in favour of increased depth. Having turned into a team with less firepower and more flexibility, they could be expected to improve their results against the smaller teams and see their record deteriorate against the bigger sides.

So far, this is exactly how things turned out, on the domestic and international stage alike. The Lupi won every game they played against those rivals, whose starting XI had a smaller aggregate financial value than their own, with the single exception of a draw against Genoa.

They also lost or drew every game against outfits of greater value, with the single exception of a win against Chelsea – and perhaps one against Milan, although I see no need to explain why the latter don’t count as a 'big team' this season.

The consistency of Roma’s progress suggests that not only their strengths but also their structural weaknesses remain the same. In spite of this, fans and pundits alike seem unable or unwilling to see anything but the former, excited by how 'different' this season feels, and emboldened by results such as this remarkable Champions League qualification.

We have seen this multiple times in 2017-18 already. Prior to the capital side’s 3-1 defeat to Inter, a great deal of their fan base were expecting a win, even though the result made sense in retrospect.

Their solid run of victories against smaller teams in November came to a juddering halt with a 2-0 loss at the hands of Atletico Madrid, and it came as a genuine shock to the circles in the capital, even though this too was fairly predictable.

Now, this Champions League result is bound to fuel another surge of unrealistic enthusiasm, but it’s also destined to deflate when ‘romanisti’ realise their victories so far are consistent with their manifest level and not transcendent of it, and that their vulnerabilities still haven't been redressed.

One of these vulnerabilities lies in the fact that their psychological hold under pressure still hasn't been appropriately tested. This speaks to what has been a chronic problem for Roma in the past, and it’s naive to assume that it just whisked away.

The players must be careful about keeping a clear head going forwards (starting with slap-happy Daniele De Rossi), and the Coach must be especially wary.

We mentioned in our season preview that Coach Eusebio Di Francesco represented Roma's greatest variable. He has performed admirably so far, making full and efficient use of the team's resources, and he deserves all the praise he is receiving.

Make no mistake though, the jury is still out on him. That he has not caved in to the environmental pressure of managing a club as big and as capricious as the Giallorossi is only a reflection of the fact that he hasn't really experienced the said pressure yet.

He will, when – and not if – things stop going his way. So far, he has suffered a handful of setbacks but never any genuine trouble. His team are performing as expected, the dressing room is peaceful and their seasonal objectives all remain within reach.

Things will get rougher in the second half of the season, and then we'll see what he's made of. He knows tactics, that's been demonstrated beyond doubt, although that alone is not enough to lead Roma to success.

Still, these are good times for the Lupi, and topping the group means they now have decent odds of returning to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in a decade. And yet what seems really exciting about them are their prospects on the long - and not the short - term.

Counter to the excitable popular mood and despite a Serie A standing that could even improve by February, it remains unrealistic to expect Roma to take home the Scudetto. This was meant to be a transitional campaign, the first step in a new project.

The good news, however, is that the building blocks for said project seem to have been laid wonderfully. The new Coach is delivering, the players are young and valuable, the market strategy looks solid, and even the stadium project is moving forward.

No-one else in Serie A has a future that looks so bright. If you think you're having fun this season, you're in for a serious treat.

Have your say...
@Jono - To progress in any competition, don't you need a bit of luck as well?
on the 7th December, 2017 at 12:25pm
@juvenitini86 - more money for Juve from the market pool :)
on the 7th December, 2017 at 12:23pm
@ Alex:

On the contrary, Liverpool should pray they don't face JUVENTUS next.
on the 7th December, 2017 at 7:34am
Roma have been a bit lucky this season and I can't remember the last time I could say that about them. In the CL they were lucky to play consecutive matches against Chelsea when they had a slump in form and were lucky not to lose to Atletico in the first match. Any other year they would be reduced to Europa League, never mind winning the group. Hopefully they can build on their momentum.
on the 7th December, 2017 at 1:06am
hope you enjoy your goats Riommanist
on the 7th December, 2017 at 12:25am
juvenitini86 Liverpool play better attacking football than Napoli. In fact Juventus should pray they don't face Liverpool next.
on the 7th December, 2017 at 12:00am
And with Napoli's loss, at least 2 teams represent Italy with pride against Europe's giants (and BPL teams, but jokes aside I think City are a threat).

Looking at postmatch interviews, I despise this team's mentality so much. Deserve last 16? If only Ukraine? They may play Europe's best football but they're Serie A's weakest club.

After Inter, this Napoli can't be allowed to win the Scudetto.
But we have our own demons to conquer. Roma's achievement aside, we've reacted well and can go further
on the 6th December, 2017 at 11:42pm
Against Athletico Roma didn't field their first choice players. And we didn't concede any goals at home. The goal is to get a top four finish in serie A. Anything else is a bonus.
on the 6th December, 2017 at 5:02pm
Interesting analysis, the thing that only thing I liked the most about this piece is the last paragraph. This is true and Seria A teams need to rip a page out of Romas book because nothing is being done in the league by other teams to bring Seria A to 2017. EPL is scrap and look at all the money the teams are making.
Bringing the North American Marketing mindset will help this ROMA grow!!!!
on the 6th December, 2017 at 4:48pm
Roma is not expected to win this cup. So, they should just relax and enjoy the experience. They will earn some much needed cash and learn from the better teams they will come up against. Let's not forget Roma is a club that needs to sell two players to buy one, unlike Chelsea which is bankrolled by Russian mafia.
on the 6th December, 2017 at 1:49pm
I think they r in front of what was expected n I think it's down 2 Di Francecso. He knows Rome n has done well espec considering the injuries n loss of Totti,Salah etc! They deserved 2 win both games vs Chelsea. Won the derby,were unlucky against Inter n Napoli. The only real disappointment was away to Atletico but they topped the group anyway. If SES n Perotti keep going n if they can get Schick fit n firing then I don't see their 1st 11 being that much weaker n they've a stronger squad now too
on the 6th December, 2017 at 1:26pm
Roma have a soft centre. As soon as they stop getting so many refereeing decisions (Rigore Paa Riomma...) then the wheels will fall off. Even against Spal they had some ridiculous help thanks to the VAR (Vittoria A Riomma).

As long as they have that national embarrassment still loitering around their club (Totti) then they will continue to win as much as they have done in recent
on the 6th December, 2017 at 12:54pm
Well done to Roma. Deservedly won the group.
on the 6th December, 2017 at 12:51pm
This Roma is new. There's reason to be excited and negativity is at best speculation at this rate. Topping their group might not be too favourable, as both Real and Bayern finished 2nd. Say what you will about their form, they beat all Italian teams in mentality alone, making them worse than both City & PSG.

Not to say it's that easier for us, since both those teams have proven players and coaches.
In any case, topped a group with Chelsea and Atletico, knocking the latter out. They deserve it.
on the 6th December, 2017 at 12:48pm
Considering the players that chelsea and madrid could call upon even qualifying was a tall order but finishing top of the group that is impressive. Using it as some sort of indicator of long term success is absurd equally you could have use their defeat to porto in the playoffs last season as a indicator of failure. It would be nice to see roma have a good run in the champions league this season especially considering the hurdle they have overcome.
on the 6th December, 2017 at 11:45am
Amazing achievement for us, very proud of my team. Di Francesco doing a great job. Looking forward to round of 16, hopefully get a good draw. The league is wide open this season, I pray this is finally our year. Make it happen roma its our time. Dare to dream, Dare to dream. We are on the up, new stadium in a few years which will be massive for us going forward. This is only the start of a beautiful journey for us. FORZA ROMA.
on the 6th December, 2017 at 11:26am

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