In the excitement of the new season, supporters are often guilty of creating over-the-top expectations and ending up disappointed when the clubs fail to meet those objectives. Often all we need is a bit of perspective from experts to maintain rational thought; our Q&A mini-series going into the 2014/15 season serves this purpose.
John Solano, Editor of Roma Press, is the expert for this AS Roma Q&A. Follow them on Twitter @ASRomaPress
Rudi Garcia has certainly won over the Roma support, with the fans now firmly on their side since that Coppa Italia final defeat to Lazio. Given Roma’s terrible record with coaches in the 21st century (Capello & Spaletti aside), will Garcia have the board’s faith even if this season doesn’t transpire as expected?
I think undoubtedly Garcia will have the board’s faith regardless of how this season ends. President James Pallotta has referred to Garcia on more than one occasion as “our Sir Alex Ferguson”, which implies he’d like Garcia to stay as long as possible. Roma has had issues with managerial turnover in the past under a previous regime, regardless of what happens this season, it’s best that Garcia’s stays on.
Irrespective of whether Mehdi Benatia stays at the club or not, isn’t there a concern with the central defensive options beyond the Moroccan? [Ed. note: This was written before the news of the agreement between Bayern and Roma for the sale of Benatia]
I think there are some questions about Roma’s depth in defense behind Benatia, but I think that Rudi Garcia’s tactical system helps cover the flaws of some players. We saw Leandro Castan go from potential “bust” under Zdenek Zeman to being on the fringes of the Brazilian national team under Rudi Garcia. Roma also brought in Davide Astori who, while many will debate his quality, proved himself while at Cagliari. Roma lead the league in the least amount of goals conceded so while I am worried about Benatia’s potential departure, I trust that a more than worthy replacement would be found.
De Rossi, Pjanic, Keita, Nainggolan and (eventually) Strootman. Some fantastic options in the centre of midfield but how will they fit into the side without the risk of disgruntled squad members?
I don’t think Roma will have an issue fitting in all of these players. With the Serie A campaign, Champions League, and Coppa Italia (where Roma will try and go for their 10th cup which will grant them the silver star on their kits) there will be plenty of games for everybody, in my opinion. We saw last season, particularly against Juventus, that Roma’s main issue was a lack of depth. Now Roma have more than worthy replacements beyond their initial starting XI which can only mean good things for this season.
There’s talk of a new striker but nothing seems concrete yet. Surely there’s a major concern going into a Champions League campaign with the current attacking options upfront, especially given their injury record (and form)?
I don’t think Roma’s attacking concerns are a question of quality but rather a question of the health of Mattia Destro and Francesco Totti. After returning in December, Destro’s striking and conversion rate were truly incredible, he proved himself to be a lethal striker with tons of potential. The difference between a good and a great season, in my opinion, hinge especially on the health of both Destro and Totti. We saw happened last season after the captain was injured against Napoli and missed several matches…it wasn’t pretty.
We track the progress and performances of youngsters with our Talent Radar feature. Although there are plenty of options at the club in this regard, what roles do you see for the new signings in Iturbe, Ucan, Sanabria, Paredes & Somma?
Iturbe will have a very important role this season. Iturbe is only behind the eternal Batistuta in Roma’s history for highest transfer fee paid. He’ll have a huge role on the right side of Garcia’s 4-3-3. Ucan, on the other hand, is somebody I see playing between (maybe) 15-20 matches this season. Nobody will doubt his quality, but we have to give him time to see how he can adjust to Italian football. Paredes and Sanabria are in two different boats.Roma have an option to buy Paredes from Boca Juniors next summer so getting him as many games as possible is important to see if he can be a long-term piece for the club. He arrived very highly rated from Argentina and he’s done very well this pre-season, so I hope that he, like Ucan, can get 15-20 appearances this season. Sanabria arrived with a lot of promise from Barca’s youth side. I think for him, sending him on loan to play every single week is important. He’s been linked with a move to smaller Italian and Spanish side and I believe that would be his best option. Somma will switch this season between the first team and Primavera, which I believe is right for him. Getting all these young players as much playing time as possible should be the goal.
A long awaited return to the Champions League is finally being realized. What are expectations for the side in the tournament?
The focus seems to be on the Scudetto this season for Roma. Even Rudi Garcia earlier this summer seemed to try and switch the focus from the Champions League to Serie A. Depending on who they draw (Roma are in a very difficult pot), I think that Roma should at least attempt to get out of their group. But I, like most Roma fans, am much more eyeing up the Scudetto.
Juan Iturbe’s acquisition raised plenty of questions, not at the quality of the player, but the financial impact and implications it has. Was this a bit of bewildering business or is the long-term investment well thought out?
Iturbe’s price-tag was very high: there is no doubt. But I’m comfortable with it. For the last few summers, Serie A fans have had to endure the commentary from fans, pundits, journalists, etc. that Serie A clubs aren’t able to keep their star players. Roma making an expensive, long-term investment in Juan Iturbe is good not only for the club, but also the league. It shows the commitment to young, promising, and quality players.
Juventus have been dominating the domestic scene for three seasons, but with the managerial change, there may be a mini-transition period. What do you expect from the defending champions this season?
I still believe that coming into the season, Juventus are still the favorites. The blend of youngsters and veterans that Juventus has is very impressive, but I suspect that the loss of Antonio Conte will play a huge role throughout the Serie A campaign. I expect Juventus, after last year’s embarrassing display, to focus much more on the Champions League, which may see their form in Serie A dip just a bit. While Juventus and Roma are undoubtedly the two best teams in Italy, I think you could make the case for either to win the Scudetto.
Questions answered by John Solano.