One season removed from a UEFA Champions League semi-final and a third overall finish in Serie A, the players, the board, and the fans look to do some difficult soul searching.
With Roma out of the Champions League, the Coppa Italia, and currently treading water outside the top four in Serie A, the state of the team must be examined. A tremendous 2017-18 campaign set lofty and perhaps unreasonable expectations for 2018-19. Despite massive player turnover from last season, those objectives set out by the board at the beginning of the season have all ended in failure. The saving grace for the current campaign will be to knock Inter or AC Milan out of the top four to assure this team gets another crack at the Champions League. Who will be the man to do it?
You can read about the outcome of Wednesday’s match here, but what has been apparent to Roma fans all season long must finally be dealt with by the board and owner now. Roma’s porous defense, lackluster playmaking ability in the middle of the field, and inability to compete with top peers seems to lie with embattled coach Eusebio Di Francesco. Losses to Serie A bottom feeders, being embarrassed by Florence in the Coppa, and now making an early exit from the UCL against a very beatable Porto team are sure to spell the boss’s doom. After Wednesday’s game, there is no way to defend Di Francesco any longer. A five back set featuring Marcano and Juan Jesus was counted on to hold a one-goal aggregate lead, meaning the game plan was to shut out Porto at home.
Di Francesco also started two defensive midfielders to include Steven Nzonzi next to DDR, stifling any creativity that could have possibly come from the center of the field to serve the forwards. Nzonzi, one of the recent Monchi purchases has been largely invisible this year. Lastly, the biggest impact the forwards made all night was seldom-used Diego Perotti earning a penalty inside the box which set up a DDR penalty, it would be Roma’s only offense all night. Eden Dzeko was especially terrible missing several opportunities, including what looked to be a surefire goal, had it not been kicked with the power of a light gust of wind. Adjustments could have and should have been made all match, but were not. Recent whipping boy Alessandro Florenzi, one of EDF’s substitutions, committed a poor penalty inside the box that ultimately ended up being the coup de grace.
The old saying goes that it is easy to fire your head coach, but it is almost impossible to replace him with someone just as good or better. While there will always be an endless supply of men who seek head coaching gigs, the board must ask themselves if the right candidate is out there to replace Di Francesco? The speculation on Roma’s next boss starts right now.
Antonio Conte’s name has been thrown out there and he is certainly the highest profile coach available. Would Roma be willing to pay his salary and would Conte be willing to take on a team with considerably less talent than his old Chelsea and Juventus squads? Conte is still being paid by his former employers which might make him a bit cheaper than usual and attracting an Italian to Italy’s capital is a plus.
If Conte was willing to make a move to Rome he would require the board be willing to spend and bring in players that fit his system, something Roma may not be able or willing to do. Conte’s lack of input and control over transfers at Chelsea was well documented, and it eventually leads to his downfall there. To attract a top manager the board would have to make assurances to not sell off top players like Under and Zaniolo in order to finance the new stadium. It is up for debate as to whether one believes Roma can be a top club that scouts, develops, retains, and purchases top talent or whether the club will remain in an endless cycle of selling off top players, content with top-four finishes instead of Scudettos.