A lot can change for teams in the time between the first meeting of the season and the second. When Juventus played Roma back at the end of August, they were on their way to a second straight Serie A loss to open the season, while Roma were flying high and full of confidence after just beating the four-time defending champions.
Ah, but now we're in January. And things are a little different.
Thanks to its 10-game winning streak, Juventus has shot up the Serie A standings like Max Allegri suddenly decided to strap rocket boosters onto the team. Roma, on the other hand, have continued their somewhat-questionable fetish of playing out draws galore as they've tumbled down into fifth place and enter the weekend nine points behind league leaders Napoli (who have their own problems right now, I might add). It cost Rudi Garcia his job, with his only chances to play his violin now in clubs in either Italy or France. Replacing him is a name from the past, Luciano Spalletti, who is back in Italy looking a little more grizzled after a half-decade in Russia.
Got all of that? Good, good, good.
Just like we have done in the past, I have turned to our SB Nation brethren for some help. Because the fella who runs Chiesa Di Totti, Bren, is such a nice guy, he's decided to answer a few questions I had for him even though his favorite team probably frustrates the living hell out of him these days.
I won't mess around much at all. I had questions, Bren had answers, and now we're going to share them with all of you because we're just a couple of wonderful guys who write about Serie A teams.
BWRAO: Hi, Bren! Thanks for joining us. I wanted to ask you some new and interesting questions because I'm sure you're sick of writing the same kind of match recap after every game this season. So now I'm giving you something else to talk about. It's hard not to begin with the manager who is no longer with the club, Rudi Garcia. Do you think the timing of the move was on point? Or, if Roma were going to sack Garcia once the squad struggled, should it have come earlier before it was too late?
CDT: I think the timing was deplorable and speaks to a giant rift between the top executives (James Pallotta) and the suits on the ground, as it were--something seems a miss between Pallotta and Roma DS Walter Sabatini, the latter of whom was Garcia's biggest champion. I tried to practice patience with Garcia, but, at the very least, they needed to make this move prior to the winter holiday; they really set Spalletti up for failure this week.
BWRAO: About the guy who replaced Garcia. Is Round 2 with Spalletti the thing that you think Roma needs right now?
CDT: Spalletti, for a number of reasons, has captured the heart of the club and the city, so his return was always going to bring a tide of nostalgia with it, but this reunion is about so much more. As much as we'd all love Carlo Ancelotti to return to his home, that's probably never going to happen, and all the other names floated about (Eusebio Di Francesco, for instance) were simply too inexperienced. Spalletti's tactics are ideally suited to this squad, though a few changes will be made, but he has the right temperament and he knows how to handle life in Rome. So he is the ideal candidate at this point in time--he can handle the pressure and get the most out of his players, and unlike last time around, there is no fear of the club going belly up.
BWRAO: With Spalletti coming back to Roma, who do you think is the one player who might benefit the most from it?
CDT: We actually talked about that quite a bit this past week, my knee jerk reaction was Alessandro Florenzi, who we like to think of as a new Simone Perrotta. Moving him back to a more natural attacking position, where his off the ball runs can be maximized, will be a boon to his career. Many of us also said Edin Dzeko, but, well, the less said about that the better.
BWRAO: Spalletti's first game looked a lot like many of those managed by Garcia. Is it safe to say an adjustment period is in order?
CDT: Haha, you had to go there, didn't you? On the surface it was the same, but the tactical shape and movement was drastically different, they even had several scripted set pieces, which we almost never saw under Garcia. The passing was more purposeful and they pressed Verona all over the pitch, which became very anti-Garcia tactics towards the end of his spell here. There will be an adjustment period, of course, but we're all pretty heartened by what he accomplished in only three days.
BWRAO: Yeah, I did have to go there.
BWRAO: Regardless of who the manager is, what's Roma's biggest problem right now?
CDT: Hmm, if I had an answer for that, I might be running the club. There's just a crisis of confidence, every successive draw piles more doubt onto their shoulders--the poster child for this psychosis is Dzeko himself--which is why a positive result would have been great over the weekend. I think now that Spalletti will give each player a more defined role, the confusion and disconnection should disappear. They also need to figure out a way to use Totti, which is a statement unto itself.