Corriere dello Sport (Roberto Maida) “Mr President, I’ve never coached such a strong team.” This admission by Luciano Spalletti to Pallotta last summer wasn’t just him toeing the official party line. It was a statement of fact, based on statistics and a reasonable prediction about the future. Spalletti has never had such a high points-per-game average as he has had at Roma: 2.08 a game across all competitions.
He returned to Trigoria at the end of the first half of last season, in mid-January, and in the 10 months since then he has been in charge of 39 games, accumulating 81 points. His points-per-game average would be even higher if we only considered the league, since in Roma’s four games in the Champions League they have only drawn once and lost the other 3, i.e. 0.25 points per game. However, in the Europa League, his average is almost the same as in the league: 2 wins and 2 draws in 4 games, an average of 2 points per game.
During his first 4-year spell in charge of Roma, which began with a 3-0 victory over Reggina on 28th August, 2005 and finished with a 3-1 loss against Juventus on 30th August, 2009, Spalletti recorded a club record 11 consecutive wins in Serie A and won 3 trophies, which are still the last ones won by Roma. He reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League two years running, losing against Manchester United both times. Even with all this success, his points-per-game average at the end of his 224 games was 1.86.
Essentially, the synergy between squad and coach is much better now than it was then. The two elements are working better together and achieving results with greater efficiency. And Spalletti, who was out of the game for two years after being sacked by Zenit St Petersburg, is performing much better than he ever has before as a coach. In St Petersburg, where he won two Russian league titles and two cups, he achieved a points-per-game average of 1.99 in 185 games. Previous points averages at his other clubs were even lower: 1.58 during his 3-year spell at Udinese, 1.45 in 20 games at Ancona, 1.40 in his few weeks at Sampdoria between February and June 1999, 1.38 in his fruitful spell at ‘his’ Empoli. Spalletti’s points-per-game average across his whole career is 1.74 per game – much lower, therefore, than his current average with Roma.
As a result, the club – Pallotta most of all – have asked him numerous times (including very recently) to renew his contract, which runs out in June. He answer has always been the same: he’s undecided. To understand Spalletti’s view on the situation, we need to go back to his most recent comments on the subject: “The players are the ones holding the pen that will sign my contract renewal. If they do well, there won’t be a problem, if they don’t do well then it means I’ve coached them badly.” That was on 25th October, on the eve of the trip to Sassuolo. Essentially, Spalletti is entrusting the responsibility of building a future with him at the club to the players. A return to the Champions League, for example, could be a sufficient achievement to warrant a renewal. But that’s not the only thing holding things up. In order for him to remain at Roma, a team he has come to love, Spalletti expects to find out the details of the club’s future plans: the January transfer market could provide a major indication towards this in a season which Juventus seem to have finally shown that they are mere mortals again.