It’s easy to forget where the Giallorossi where at the end of the 2016/17 season. Current Inter Coach Luciano Spalletti had just broken a club points record, finishing with 87 points, just four behind eventual winners Juventus.
In fairness, Spalletti’s relationship with James Pallotta, the fans and the dressing room had seemingly become quite fractured so it was most likely time to move on, despite him blatantly being Roma’s best Coach in quite some time.
After his exit, enter Monchi and Eusebio Di Francesco. While opinions on the pair may have changed in the past two seasons, it’s impotant to remember how highly regarded they were at the time. Monchi was regarded as a jaw dropping coup by Roma after his work at Sevilla, and Di Francesco was regarded as an excellent young tactician.
We’re now a season and one third into the pairings tenure and Roma have only gone one way – backwards. They currently reside in 7th place with 19 points from 13 games, four points away from cross-town rivals Lazio in fourth and 18 points behind leaders Juventus. Pallotta appears reluctant to sack Di Francesco, perhaps paying respect to the Champions League run last year, or perhaps it’s related to the financial cost of sacking a Coach.
However, that’s all speculation. What can be analysed and properly discussed is where it’s all gone wrong.
One glaring issue - arguably the main one - that led Roma to this point is transfers. The key core that helped Spalletti to success has been all but gutted. The likes of Wojciech Szczesny, Mohamed Salah, Radja Nainggolan, Emerson as well as a few more weren’t replaced with adequate replacements.
Considering Roma’s debt levels and the impending financial commitment of their new stadium, it does make sense to cash in on their stars and re-invest in young players. However, it can be strongly argued that Monchi and co. took this to the extreme. Whilst recent purchases such as Cengiz Under, Patrik Schick and Justin Kluivert look like great prospects, as youngsters do they go through inconsistent highs and lows.
Alas the youngsters are not the main issue in regards to transfers. Those who could be considered ‘readymade’ players have struggled arguably more than the youngsters and have been downgrades on their predecessors. Goalkeeper Robin Olsen has been shaky through the first four months of the season, while Bryan Cristante, Javier Pastore and Steven Nzonzi have been incredibly inconsistent in conjunction with their weighty price tags.
With such regular changes in the dressing room, it’s difficult to foster a consistent team spirit, not to mention the Francesco Totti shaped hole that still remains in terms of the team’s leadership.
As stated some of the transfers have been iffy but it’s more than arguable that Di Francesco should be doing better with the squad at his disposal. Defeats such as the one against SPAL and draws such as the one against Chievo have been more embarrassing and worrying in not just terms of draws and losses, but the manner in which they ended up with those results.
It’s not impossible for Di Francesco to turn this round, but midseason, a change on the bench is a lot easier and cheaper than trying to reconstruct a new squad. Not to mention, the dressing room and in particular the fans seem to be losing faith in the man in the dugout. There might be no way back.