We have officially reached the point where it's time put the nonsense of Wednesday night in Spain against Atlético Madrid behind us all. The executive decision being thrown down is that Juventus vs. Roma now takes the forefront. And, to be honest, that's the way it should be. It's the top two teams in Italy, both unbeaten, meeting for the first time this season.
Luckily for us, we're able to kickoff our Juve-Roma coverage a day earlier than normal. Bren, one of the men behind SB Nation's Roma blog, Chiesa di Totti, is a cool guy. That's not just because he says random things to me on Twitter (or tries to suck up by talking about my favorite baseball player growing up). He actually knows what he's talking about. So I decided to ask him a couple of questions about his favorite team and he was nice enough to answer.
So away we go. And thanks to Bren for putting up with the whacky questions!
BWRAO: How do you think Roma's new signings are assimilating to life in the capital?
CDT: So far, so good. Their biggest expenditure, Juan Iturbe (sorry, guys!), fortunately had a year of Italian football under his belt, so his transition should/will be minimal. If anything, he should have it easier with a more talented supporting cast. Seydou Keita and Ashley Cole, meanwhile, have more than enough experience to transition to Serie A, though with Cole, there was a language barrier to worry about, but he seems to be fitting in just fine.
But, if I had to name one that caused us the most consternation, it'd be Kostas Manolas. Grabbing a central defender, one with zero Serie A experience, so late in the summer and asking him to fill Mehdi Benatia's shoes was/is an awful lot to ask. The early returns have been promising, but we have to keep in mind how young he is; the injuries to Leandro Castan and Davide Astori have made his assimilation all the more important, too.
BWRAO: What is the most surprising thing Rudi Garcia has been able to accomplish since taking over as Roma manager?
CDT: Easy. The simple fact that he's still here. Garcia being on the sidelines in week one marked the first time a Roma manager had survived the summer since Claudio Ranieri in 2011. Then, of course, running off ten straight wins and making things interesting for y'all for a few months was amazing. But, in terms of specifics, I mean, come on, look at what he's done with Gervinho. Garcia's football can be very infectious, so we're cautiously optimistic he'll be in town for a while.
BWRAO: Try and convince me why Roma can win the Scudetto this season.
CDT: Oof, I don't want to divulge any secrets, but Roma's blend of age, experience and athleticism is pretty potent. As we're seeing, Totti is still Totti, and when you throw Iturbe and Gervinho into the mix, Roma may be the most dangerous countering team in the league; their speed and agility is the perfect compliment to Totti's playmaking. Beyond that, the momentum is still rolling and the team has bought into Garcia's tactics hook, line and sinker.
Quite simply, Roma is an incredibly diverse team — they've got speed, size, strength and experience--and its finally been given time to gel, and outside of a few guys (Gigi and Pirlo), I think we match up quite well.
BWRAO: In the world of beards, does DDR's give Pirlo's a run for its money?
CDT: See, that's like comparing a Land Rover to a BMW; they're both expensive vehicles but serve different purposes. If you want to live the jet set life--dining in Paris, sitting at the high stakes tables in Monaco, eating caviar that costs more than a teacher's salary--you grow the Pirlo. If you want to lead a reclusive life in the mountains, writing diatribes against the WTO and society in general, you opt for the De Rossi.
Pirlo's beard is fit for a sophisticated vintner, De Rossi's for Ron Swanson. Both great, they just serve different purposes and convey different messages. Plus DDR's pairs well with his teletubby tattoos.
BWRAO: Do you think Roma will be able to continue their great defensive numbers without Mehdi Benatia leading the line?
CDT: This sort of follows from the first question, but I think we resigned ourselves to the fact that no matter who Roma brought in as a replacement, they wouldn't perform at his level. Our rationalizations is as follows: Benatia wasn't that good before he came to Roma, so who knows, perhaps last season was an aberration and we might be the ones laughing in the end. But, we've still got Castan, who remains criminally underrated, while Davide Astori is a massive upgrade over last year's third centerback, Rafael Toloim. And Cole is, even at his age, a steadier option than Dodo.
They probably won't be quite as stout as last season, but Castan and Maicon are still there, Manolas is an intriguing prospect and De Rossi, Keita and Radja Nainggolan offer more than enough defensive cover in midfield.
BWRAO: Do you want to thank us now or later for signing Mirko Vucinic a few years ago?
CDT: I'll tell you what, Mirko was a fan favorite, so to see him leave was tough, particularly to one of your bitter rivals, but he always seemed like a product of Luciano Spalletti's system more than a reliable offensive threat in his own right. Besides, nothing stung as bad as Pablo Osvaldo's goal last year and the fact that he "won" a Scudetto.
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