The wolf can change its skin, can change its coach, but can almost never get out of its bad habits. The 4th winning position conceded in the last 10 months led Luciano Spalletti to denounce a deep-rooted problem in his squad: “This team is lacking in personality.” De Rossi was stripped of the captain’s armband, which was handed to Florenzi instead, and the lack of flexibility in changing the team’s tactics during the game are just a couple of the key elements in yet another blundering match from the Giallorossi. Yet another “squandered opportunity.”
“We don’t have the character of fighters, we only need to get into a couple of difficult situations and we start to panic,” Spalletti denounced. It’s nothing new for this group of players, as it happens often to them and has done for a long time. A two goal lead wasn’t enough to get a win against Cagliari. It’s something that has been seen over and again at Trigoria: in just the last 10 months, it’s the 4th time that a similar situation has occurred – all occurring away from home.
The first came that evening in Leverkusen: Garcia was the coach, Roma first went 2-0 down but then came back to lead 4-2. It seemed to be over. Only seemed though, as only 5 minutes were needed to concede 2 goals and draw 4-4. The scene was almost exactly reproduced on the nation’s TV screens in January when they drew 3-3 with Chievo having been 3-1 up. That was also under Garcia, but Spalletti also has past form: the same score – 3-3 – against Atalanta. In that game, after being 2-0 up in Bergamo, they nearly lost it 3-2 but were saved in the 85th minute by Totti. The common denominator between that game and last night – Borriello.
If the lack of character says a lot, it doesn’t explain things completely. Roma lacked a certain tactical balance against Cagliari. Otherwise why would it have been necessary to recalibrate the team 25 minutes from the end, putting on the crude defender Fazio for a lacklustre Perotti. The team needed to be able to defend, and after that change they weren’t able to defend well enough. Oddly, it took a few minutes and several shouts of instruction to the team to effect the change from a 4-man defence to a 3-man (or 5-man) back line: in fact, for a couple of minutes Vermaelen was pushed out to full back and Bruno Peres pushed forward into midfield, before Spalletti made his voice heard to make sure his instructions issued when the substitution was made were carried out.
Were the team distracted? Maybe: “When you’re misplacing 5-yard passes, it’s only natural that you start getting into problems.” It’s also possible that some players weren’t in the best of moods after the coach stripped De Rossi of the captain’s armband to give it to Florenzi to conform with the club’s rules that punish anyone who puts the team into trouble by getting themselves sent off (as Daniele did against Porto).
But it is clear that for Spalletti it is also an issue of individual responsibility, and this needs to be resolved. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if we see again the image of a coach on his knees, beating the ground in despair at a team who continue to make mistakes.
This article is a translation – the original was written by Matteo Pinci and Matteo Monti for La Repubblica.