2014-15 SERIE A REVIEW

ROMA

2014-15 review

Serie A Pts P W D L F A
2nd 70 38 19 13 6 54 31

Coppa Italia: Quarter-finals / Team rating: 7 / Top scorer: Totti, Ljajic (8)

Europe: Champions League group stage, Europa League Round of 16

An early Scudetto challenge faltered badly in the second half of the season, with Roma ultimately squeaking over the line to finish second, surmises Aman Sehdev.

Stumbling into second

Progress was made in finishing second last campaign and as a result, the excitement around Roma heading into 2014-15 was palpable. Coach Rudi Garcia, into his second term at the Olimpico, made bold proclamations that his club could end Juventus' stranglehold on Serie A and win just the fourth Scudetto in the Lupi's history. Sentiments echoed by President James Pallotta.

This campaign was always going to test the club’s mental strength and squad depth, with Champions League football secured for the first time since 2010. The club knew they needed a bigger squad and brought in a host of players to prepare for multiple competitions.

One such signing was heralded Verona 21-year-old Juan Iturbe, snatched from under Juventus' nose for €22m. The Argentinian endured a largely frustrating debut season, but showed flashes to suggest the Giallorossi might have a diamond in the rough on their hands.

Question marks surrounded how the club would get by without Medhi Benatia and Kevin Strootman. Strootman, recovering from a serious injury from last term, would have to wait until November to rejoin the team, but suffered a relapse in January which ruled him out for the remainder of the season.

Benatia meanwhile suffered an ugly parting of the ways. The Moroccan, a revelation last term, wasn't afforded a pay rise. Fearing a tense atmosphere at Trigoria, the club would settle on selling their best defender for €26m to Bayern Munich. The Giallorossi would also be without Benatia's centre-back partner Leandro Castan for almost the entirety of the season after a scan revealed a tumour in the brain which had to be removed.

On the field, Roma's blistering start brought five straight league wins and plenty of exciting football. The Olimpico was rocking for the club's long awaited return to the Champions League and the Lupi didn't let the fans down. A majestic 5-1 thrashing of CSKA Moscow showcased everything good about the Giallorossi - high pressing, quick passing and fast counter-attacking play.

The early Scudetto showdown in Turin with Juventus had both teams on maximum points. A controversial 3-2 Juve triumph followed, after two debatable spot-kicks. Buoyed by a tremendous showing, though, Garcia insisted to his team that they, not their rivals from Turin, would win the title.

This undue pressure preceded a difficult next couple of months which saw defeats to Napoli and Bayern Munich start to derail the Lupi's title challenge and dreams of negotiating the group of death in Europe.

The manner of the 7-1 humbling defeat in Rome to the perilous Bayern was not lost on Rudi Garcia. The Frenchman admitted he got the gameplan badly wrong and was fully aware his side were perhaps a touch arrogant that they could stand toe to toe against the 2013 Champions League winners.

Despite finding themselves just a point behind Juventus heading into the New Year, Roma would endure an unimaginable barren run, drawing 10 of the club's 13 total draws in 2015 alone. The Giallorossi earned the unenviable tag of ‘draw specialists’ and suffered eight stalemates in nine League fixtures during a three-month period.

Europe provided momentary respite in the form of the Europa League during early 2015. However, having fallen out of the Champions League, the Giallorossi only made it past the Last 32 in the Europa League, succumbing to Fiorentina in the Round of 16.

Inevitably teams figured out Garcia's tactics and deployed their own systems to frustrate and nullify Roma. That the Frenchman was unprepared to alter his set-up and conjure new formations gave way to an arrogance that was systemic of Roma's 2014-15 campaign.

The high octane, forward-thinking Roma of last season and half of the current campaign gave way to a Giallorossi style seldom seen during Garcia's tenure - slow, plodding build-up play devoid of movement off the ball, intensity and invention.

His forward line was beginning to show cracks, with continued over-reliance on 38-year-old icon Francesco Totti. Age was catching up to the captain and unfortunately Gervinho, Adem Ljajic and Juan Iturbe failed to produce goals for a team struggling to find the net consistently.

It didn't help that the club loaned out its highest scoring forward, Mattia Destro to Milan in January. Sporting director Walter Sabatini attempted to deliver more firepower to Garcia's team, but the acquisitions of Seydou Doumbia and Victor Ibarbo largely failed to live up to the billing.

The backline also suffered, conceding 19 of the club's 31 goals in the second half of the season. Without a Benatia and Castan figure at the heart of the defence the Lupi had to shuffle the back four constantly and as a result a lack of unity and cohesion ensued.

Other key pieces of last year's success Miralem Pjanic and Daniele De Rossi endured difficult campaigns with multiple fitness issues. Pjanic did have his moments, however - his substitute role in the derby victory against Lazio energised Roma and helped secure second place.

The emergence of Radja Nainggolan and Alessandro Florenzi give Roma reason for optimism heading into next season. The versatile Florenzi plugged into holes at right-back, midfield and attack, becoming an indispensable part of the team. 

Despite finishing second and qualifying for the Champions League again, 2014-15 will be looked back on as a season of regret that more wasn’t achieved. It can be argued Roma weren't properly equipped to stand the rigours of midweek European football alongside a tilt at the title. Injuries also robbed the team of core players in Maicon, Castan and Strootman - getting the latter two fit and raring to go for next season could prove pivotal to the Giallorossi's aims.

Roma will need to invest in the summer on quality if they want to get closer to the title. The project to elevate the club into the upper echelon of Italian and indeed European football is a long and arduous one. The Giallorossi will be hoping lessons from this campaign are learned and the club can push on with its lofty ambitions.

The Coach - Rudi Garcia

First year brilliance meant renewed expectations in his second season. The Frenchman was accused of tactical inflexibility and stubbornness once opponents figured out his team’s style. Described only last term as Roma’s Sir Alex Ferguson, his position at the Olimpico isn’t as secure as previously thought.

Player of the Year - Radja Nainggolan

The Belgian brought dynamism, energy and grit to a Roma midfield badly missing Kevin Strootman. The club will need to buy out Cagliari’s 50 per cent stake in the 27-year-old this summer to keep an important member of the team in Rome for the foreseeable future.

Did you know?

- Roma failed to score more than two goals in a game for 19 successive rounds.

- Roma had the second best defensive record in home and away games, conceding 14 and 17 goals respectively.

- This season marks the first time Roma have qualified for the Champions League in successive seasons since the 2005-08 period, where the club secured three Champions League berths in a row.

Squad

No Pos Player Apps Gls Assists
26 GK Morgan De Sanctis 35 - -
28 GK Lukasz Skorupski 3 - -
44 D Kostas Manolas 30 0 0
2 D Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa 22 (6) 1 0
23 D Davide Astori 22 (2) 1 0
25 D Jose Holebas 23 (1) 1 1
35 D Vasilis Torosidis 17 (3) 2 0
13 D Douglas Maicon 11 (3) 1 1
3 D Ashley Cole 11 (3) 0 0
5 D Leandro Castan 1 0 0
33 D Nicolas Spolli 1 0 0
42 D Federico Balzaretti 1 0 0
50 D Michele Somma 0 (1) 0 0
82 D Urby Emanuelson 0 (2) 0 0
24 M Alessandro Florenzi 24 (11) 5 4
4 M Radja Nainggolan 30 (5) 5 2
15 M Miralem Pjanic 28 (6) 5 10
20 M Seydou Keita 18 (8) 2 1
16 M Daniele De Rossi 25 (1) 2 0
6 M Kevin Strootman 4 (2) 0 2
48 M Salih Ucan 2 (2) 0 1
32 M Leandro Paredes 4 (6) 1 0
52 M Lorenzo Pellegrini 0 (1) 0 0
8 A Adem Ljajic 23 (9) 8 2
10 A Francesco Totti 24 (3) 8 6
7 A Juan Iturbe 17 (10) 2 1
27 A Gervinho 21 (3) 2 4
22 A Mattia Destro 8 (8) 5 0
88 A Seydou Doumbia 6 (7) 2 0
19 A Victor Ibarbo 6 (4) 0 0
53 A Daniele Verde 1 (6) 0 2
96 A Antonio Sanabria 0 (2) 0 0