Tuesday March 20 2012
Montella shadow haunts Enrique

One of the many subplots to this season will be where Vincenzo Montella’s Catania finish the campaign in relation to Roma, as Antonio Labbate writes.

Roma are convinced that they hired the right man in the summer. They made that quite clear when, after the 3-0 loss at Fiorentina in December, they offered Luis Enrique a new contract despite the worrying statistic that his Giallorossi side had collected just 17 points from a possible 39.

It was the kind of form that would force Italian clubs to consider their options, a slump in results which led Vincenzo Montella, the tactician who Enrique replaced in the summer, to quip: “If I was in the Spaniard’s shoes at Roma, the club would have sent me back to commenting on games for television by now.”

Montella, who according to Catania director Pietro Lo Monaco has the DNA of an important Coach, is sadly right. He wouldn’t have been given the cloak of untouchability which Enrique has been provided with, nor the wristwatch which provides the former Spanish international the kind of patience that few of his colleagues in the Italian top flight are afforded.

The former Roma striker was considered as too inexperienced for the job, too much of friend to some of the Giallorossi squad to be an impartial tactician. To his credit, he left for Catania in silence even in the knowledge that fellow 4-3-3 practitioner Enrique – who arrived in the capital with the alluring whiff of Eau de Barcelona – was just as unproven.

Eight months on, however, and it is arguably Montella who has been the more convincing as links with Inter, Napoli and even Lazio testify. Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Biancocelesti saw the Sicilian minnows join Roma on 41 points in the table – albeit before the Giallorossi’s game against Genoa on Monday night.

Roma undoubtedly keep the ball better under Enrique than they did with Montella calling the play, but there has sometimes been a lack of effectiveness to the capital club’s brand of football this season – even after the switch from 4-3-3 to 4-3-1-2 – which has compromised results. Their defending at times has also been poor, leading to doubts about the true tactical aptitude of Enrique in a League which demands touchline intellect.

Montella too has had to abandon his preferred 4-3-3 on occasions, opting instead for a 3-5-2 which has seen playmaker Francesco Lodi win fans in central midfield, the return to form of Sergio Almiron and the courage to prefer Gonzalo Bergessio in attack over Maxi Lopez – even before the latter’s January move to Milan.

While there is the obvious argument that Enrique has had to settle into a new country and an unfamiliar style of football, Montella has had to adapt to a squad with a strong South American influence and a club who are always open to selling their best players.

Despite the constraints at the Stadio Massimino, The Little Aeroplane has got Catania flying and in some style. Not only have results been surprisingly good, especially in 2012, but the Elefanti have also been easy on the eye – an objective which was high on the agenda at Trigoria when the decision to appoint a new tactician was taken by Franco Baldini.

It should also be pointed out that Montella, during his 13 Serie A games in charge of Roma following the resignation of Claudio Ranieri, managed 1.85 points per game. Enrique, despite the summer spending spree, is only averaging 1.57 in Serie A. Statistically speaking, Montella’s Roma would be third right now.

Of course things have evidently changed at the Stadio Olimpico and the new project is in its infancy, but it is only natural to ponder whether Montella would have done better than Luis Enrique this season. With just three points separating them in the League table with 10 games to go and considering what raw materials they have to work with, there are some with the benefit of hindsight who are arguing that this Roma would have been more of a force under their former striker.

Roma, rightly or wrongly, have opted for the long-term view and their unyielding belief in Enrique is commendable in a world so contaminated with false promises. But there may be a time when instead of backing Enrique after another defeat, they start to question whether in searching for the next big thing in coaching, they actually sacrificed him.

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Have your say...
enrique the best choice ever,roma the future of serie a. but montella also a good coach
on the 14th April, 2012 at 10:24am
"He wouldn’t have been given the cloak of untouchability." Love it!
on the 21st March, 2012 at 3:03pm
great piece. This is wht I love this site. I like reading about the small teams and Montella is a bit of a legend in our house anyway. I just wish they were on ESPN a bit more often.
on the 21st March, 2012 at 3:00pm
Good to see an ex-doriano do well. Perhaps he can come back to Sampdoria once they return to Serie A, hopefully in the next season or two. Catania haven't done this well since the Zenga days. Having said that, nothing matches the flashy calcio of the Marino days and the Mascara, Spinesi and Corona trident attack.

Catania have some good players in Lodi, Gomez and Bergessio and Legro seems to be doing fine in the twilight of his career.
on the 21st March, 2012 at 11:13am
Enrique gets a lot of stick from the Roma fans these days,but it's hard to come to a conclusion on his defensive tactics.Losing Mexes to Milan,Burdisso for the entire season (their best defender last season),Juan's injury problems now that he's getting older and Kjaer showing that he is more interested in straightening his hair rather than defending has made for a difficult time of it in the Roma back line. Getting consistent performances from their small squad of players is their main problem
on the 21st March, 2012 at 6:55am
I agree with Gio and Anonymous. Montella should of stayed and given more time. So if he was to much of a friend to some of the old guard that would of built a good team spirit and understanding. We should look at find are own indentity and not follow another team 'model'.
on the 20th March, 2012 at 3:27pm
Looks like Enrique has done a fine job with this Roma squad. He has them 4 points off of third place and 3 points behind Udinese and Napoli. With the talent and experience of the Roma roster, I would say that is exactly where they should be. Let's hope that his style flourishes in Europe once Roma are given the shot to perform on the continental stage. I wish Montella the best of luck and hope that he becomes a Roma manager one day... but not now.
on the 20th March, 2012 at 3:16pm
The trend of hiring apprentices/associates of Guardiola and/or Mourinho is disappointing. The secret to Barcelona was and still is their youth system and youth developmental policy to introduce players from the youth squad into the first team. Mourinho is 'the special one', one of the best of all time, and cannot be duplicated. I think Roma should have kept Montella, and developed their own indentity as Anonymous stated below.
on the 20th March, 2012 at 1:17pm
Barcelona got Guardiola from their own youth system, not someone else's. I don't see why Roma couldn't do the same and form their own identity.
on the 20th March, 2012 at 10:31am

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