Monday’s sole Serie A match could foreshadow Ranieri and Roma’s future.
3. How will the players respond to a manager who has won a recent major championship?
For those who are not regular consumers of the English Premier League or perhaps football in general, in 2015-16 Leicester City’s chances of winning the championship were about as good as the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl. For anyone reading this article, that championship will likely go down as one of the top five all-time upsets in sports history, and without a doubt, one of if not the biggest of our lifetimes. Why is this important? Mr. Claudio Ranieri, Roma’s newly appointed caretaker, was the coach to lead that Leicester team to glory.
Ranieri is a true Roman. The new boss loves Rome and has been a fan of the Giallorossi his entire life despite the fact that he’s coached several teams across several countries. Such a figure was the perfect choice to test what this current squad’s mettle is made of. Ranieri has one job, to get Roma back into the top four in order to secure another season in the Champions League. If he can’t get the job done, that leads us to our next point…
2. We get to see if Eusebio Di Francesco was actually the problem.
Di Francesco didn’t come to come with the greatest of pedigrees. The former Sassuolo boss won approximately 41% of his matches during his reign which lasted from 2012-2017. Di Francesco was able to move Sassuolo into Serie A but was not able to accomplish much of significance while there, if that sounds reminiscent of his time with Roma, we might understand why he was sacked. The zenith of Di Francesco’s career came during last season’s campaign against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals. The crafty coach was able to employ a diversionary tactic in the starting XI which leads an unwitting and unprepared Barcelona club to implode upon themselves.
The start of the 2018-19 campaign started rather disastrously after multiple key players were sold off by the now recently departed director, Ramon Rodriguez Verdjo, previously known as “Monchi”, a controversial figure in his own right. Disaster changed to mediocrity, and mediocrity changed to disappointment. Disappointment under Di Francesco’s reign quickly went back to disaster after an early Coppa Italia exit, surrendering seven goals to Fiorentina followed by being shut out by Lazio, and finally receiving a beat down in Porto, Portugal to be bounced from the Champions League.
The point in recapping this history is that one must remember that Di Francesco was able to accomplish great things with the 2017-18 squad which featured the world’ best keeper in Alisson Becker, an attacking midfielder with uncanny infinite stamina in Radja Nainngolan, and an in-form striker in Eden Dzeko who was in the conversation for the Ballon d’Or for a portion of the year. These losses give us reasonable suspicion to believe that despite his failings, Di Francesco might have been a tragic figure instead of a mediocre coach with too many failings for a top club. One thing is for certain, the coach clearly had no say during the summer transfer window of 2018. Now with EDF and Monchi gone, all options regarding the overall vision and future of the team are on the table. This leads us to…
1. The starting XI will show us who may be sold off in the summer transfer market.
Roma finds itself at a critical juncture concerning player personnel management. Despite the placement of a permanent coach and sporting director this summer, it has become increasingly apparent throughout the season that Monchi executed some very poorly thought out transfers. Some players, whose form has either dropped significantly or was never there in the first place, could also find themselves on the chopping block in August.
Against Empoli, and in the weeks ahead, Ranieri might give us an insight into who will be here next year and who will be gone. Questions will be answered, such as whether the team favors Florenzi or Karsdorp on the right side? Is Federico Fazio’s time at Roma finally coming to an end, likewise when does Ante Coric future in Roma actually begin? Do disappointing transfers such as Javier Pastore get another year to turn it around, and is Patrik Shick the striker of the future?
Considering the current state of affairs in Rome I have identified the following players as the “core” of the team, meaning those who should have the team built around them. Taking an objective look at the squad, and considering the age of some of the better players such as Daniele De Rossi, Aleksandr Kolarov, and Eden Dzeko, it was only possible to identify four of these core players: Kostas Manolas, Nicolo Zaniolo, Cengiz Under, and Lorenzo Pellegrini. It will be especially interesting to see how many matches Bryan Cristante, Justin Kluivert, and Rick Karsdorp start the remainder of the season as well as how many and what type of extra duties each are to be trusted with. These are young players who are just outside the core as they are either unproven or underutilized at this point. After recent events, it has become clear that major changes are coming. We will receive a minor insight into what those changes are at kickoff.