Rudi Garcia has finally gone then. It wasn’t the news I was intending to bring asroma.co.uk back online to, but I felt the need to add my tuppence-worth to the many words already written on his departure.
Now, I should preface this by saying that I’d been a very strong backer of Garcia until fairly recently, but recent results and performances (or lack thereof) meant things had to change. The team are performing some level below that which they’re capable of, and the rigidity of Garcia’s 4-3-3 formation in addition to his reluctance to change personnel resulted in the same mistakes being made time and again. Regrettably, there were no signs of improvement, no signs that a change in fortune was just around the corner. The exciting, attacking football that had characterised Garcia’s first season had long ago been replaced by a stale, predictable tedium. He seemed to have nothing left to give and run out of ideas.
Roma only won 1 of Garcia’s last 10 games in charge, but that in itself wasn’t the problem. In fact, Roma had a similarly bad run last season with 1 win in 9 from February-March. After the ninth game, a 0-3 home defeat to Fiorentina, the Curva Sud sang “We want 11 Garcias”. Since then though, in addition to the lack of progression (and even regression) on the pitch, there has been a severe breakdown in the relationship between the supporters and the club – most notably seen in the Curva Sud’s absence from the Olimpico. In a way, Garcia has been the fall guy. He has also been the victim of his own success. Roma finished 6th, 7th then 6th in the seasons prior to his arrival, and after two seasons of finishing 2nd, expectations going into this year were high. For me, the real issue isn’t so much that Roma aren’t competing for the title, as some fans seem to demand, but that under Garcia Roma were heading back towards finishing 6th or 7th again despite having a squad that is capable of so much more. I do support the decision to sack him, but there are a couple of things that need to be said.
Firstly, the manner in which he has been removed has been at best amateurish and at worst disrespectful. For a man who (nearly) always toed the party line in press conferences, the treatment he received in return from the Roma management in the way he was dismissed was appalling. James Pallotta has often said that he’d like to spend more time in Rome, and had a duty to be involved in the thick of the managerial succession to Garcia. Instead he stayed in the USA while Walter Sabatini initially met Luciano Spalletti. Spalletti was made to fly all the way out to Miami to meet Pallotta and Mauro Baldissoni to sign the contract and fly back to Rome to take charge. In the meantime, Garcia was left to take charge of training a team that both he and they knew would not be his for much longer.
The lack of professionalism in keeping Garcia on while the club searched for his successor is obvious. Equally so is the importance of Spalletti being put in charge as early as possible (and really the decision to appoint a new coach should have been made weeks ago, not days) – Roma are rapidly falling away from the Champions League places and need Spalletti’s input at Trigoria sooner rather than later. The next game may ‘only’ be a home game against Serie B-bound Hellas Verona, but the team in their current state of form and state of mind aren’t able to just turn up and see off inferior opposition as the recent run of games has shown. Games are coming at least once a week until the end of March, including the double header with Real Madrid and an away game at Juventus in 10 days. Every day at Trigoria counts for Spalletti now, especially when many will be recovery or preparation sessions, as he tries to turn Roma around.
Secondly, and equally importantly in the context of modern day short-termism in football fans’ memories, what shouldn’t be forgotten is what Garcia came into, what he did to pick the team up and just how successful he was in doing so immediately after May 26th. The 10 game winning streak at the start of the 2013/14 season, a record that no other team had achieved in Serie A history, was beyond anything Roma fans had hoped for. Equally, Garcia brought his excellent derby record to Rome as he maintained an unbeaten record against Lazio, declaring “you don’t play a derby, you win a derby” and “we have put the church back in the centre of the village”, and witnessing Federico Balzaretti’s famous goal and celebration in his first derby. Roma were spectacular in 2013/14, and made me and all other Romanisti dream of what might be once again. Had Juventus not been ruthlessly good as they were, it may have been more than a dream. While the decision to remove him was right, I will always be grateful to Garcia for what he did for Roma.