Roma’s resurgence under Luciano Spalletti continues as the Giallorossi made it eight consecutive victories in Serie A at the weekend, with a 2-1 away win against Udinese to take firm control of the final Champions League place.
The old saying is “you should never go back” but Luciano Spalletti is proving that wrong currently as Roma have won eight out of the ten matches in the league since his return to Rome in January. Roma sat fifth and were five points off third but their upturn in results have seen them move into third place, five points ahead of Fiorentina and Internazionale, and with it aims of Champions League football returning to the Olimpico next season.
Spalletti has tweaked the side Rudi Garcia built during his tenure. Garcia’s side fell into a slow, mundane tempo with a lack of options and creativity. Spalletti moved to change that right away by employing pacey wingers; Stephan El Shaarawy joined on loan from AC Milan during the winter to partner Mohamed Salah on either wing, while January recruit from Genoa, Diego Perotti, has come in as a false nine/number ten – as Spalletti has come to love to do. This injected pace and directness to Roma which was sorely lacking beforehand. The Italian has proven to be flexible when he has deemed necessary too, deploying Edin Džeko as a standard number nine to lead the line and the aforementioned players playing behind in a 4231.
The players have benefited from the new-look tactics. El Shaarawy is delivering on the potential he has always possessed with five goals since joining. Salah has six goals, including two braces, since the start of February and Perotti has notched two goals and four assists providing some much-needed creativity. Džeko’s form has improved as well, which has seen the Bosnia and Herzegovina striker bag four goals in his last five Serie A matches. He had only scored three league goals all season prior, two being penalties.
Confidence has improved with each passing match and the squad looks comfortable with the new tactics. Teams have struggled to deal with the direct, fast attacking breaks from a free-flowing attacking line – they are the league’s top goalscorers. Most notably was Fiorentina, who were thrashed 4-1 by a clinical Roma side at the start of the month, after being 3-0 up within 38 minutes.
Controlling the game has also been key to Roma’s improved performances, keeping possession well and playing it out from defence. They dictate the game’s tempo whether it is to attack quickly or calm things down to quell the opposition. A further plus is the return of long-term absentee Kevin Strootman, who has made several cameo appearances in recent weeks.
Roma’s only concern of late is they still concede too often, registering only two clean sheets in the league so far this calendar year. That, and the news surrounding Francesco Totti. It was reported there was a breakdown in communications between him and Spalletti, despite their impressive time together previously in the capital. Over the last few weeks the relationship seems to be on healthier grounds, with the coach giving Totti a run out at the Bernabéu in the Champions League where he received a standing ovation from the Real Madrid crowd. An end of an era is approaching, but for the King of Rome, you just hope it’s dealt with correctly after his immense loyalty to the club.
On the pitch, though, supporters will hope their form continues and they can hold onto their Champions League berth, which are the aspirations of the club. The next two games could be crucial to the final outcome as they host Internazionale before the Derby della Capitale against Lazio. Come through them with positive results and they will be on course to save a disappointing season.