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[av_heading tag=’h1′ padding=’10’ heading=’ROMA FROM GARCIA TO SPALLETTI
A STRONG CHARACTER EVEN IN DIFFICULT SITUATIONS’ color=’custom-color-heading’ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ custom_font=’#ffffff’ size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ custom_class=”][/av_heading]

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Author: Daniele Lo Monaco

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Back in Udine, Roma is again celebrating a victory, but the intervening thirteen months feel like a century.

The three points scored on 6th January 2015 helped Garcia narrow the gap with Juventus (defeated by Inter) to one point, and gaining second place felt like the start of Roma’s revival, which, however, never took place.

Quite the opposite, 2015 turned out to be an unsuccessful year: the points scored in the solar year condemned Roma to fifth place (66 points), behind Juventus (81), Fiorentina (75), Napoli (71), and Inter (70), only one point above Pioli’s Lazio.

However, in January 2016, the club turned a new leaf: the team’s destiny was entrusted to Spalletti, marking the beginning of Roma’s recovery; today, after another victory in Udine, the eighth consecutive, Roma’s fans have renewed hope to finally make it through and achieve second place.

But what happened precisely since the coach changeover?

Team composition has undoubtedly improved with the addition of Zukanovic, El Shaarawi and Perotti, but, above all, Roma seems to have a very different pace, with a playing style that reminds us of its best days; Spalletti’s work can clearly be already recognised, but the period is still too short to attempt a tactically and statistically reliable comparison with the “previous” Roma.

Therefore, our objective frame of reference comes from comparing the numbers provided by the Wyscout Report for four games, similar in terms of effort, difficulty and importance, i.e. the four games of the Champions League against Spain’s major teams, which saw Roma’s opponents prevail both in game control and overall score: the two games with Barcelona tackled by Roma under Garcia’s lead and the two games with Real Madrid, which, after initial hopes, condemned Roma, now under Spalletti, to elimination from the Champions League.

Four games, three defeats, one draw, zero victories and, overall, the certainty that Roma’s team is not yet sufficiently equipped against certain “battleship” teams.

However, at close inspection some differences can be noted.

Firstly, the attitude has changed: even if it drew on the first leg against Barça, Roma left the game completely in the opponent’s hands both in terms of numbers of the players’ arrangement on the pitch.

The number of passes, for example, spells it out clearly: 230 versus 707 on the first leg, 280 versus 755 on the second leg. Spalletti’s Roma did much better: 413 versus 660 at the Olimpico, 403 versus 610 at Bernabeu.

Ball possession against Barcelona was a chimera: 21 minutes versus 44 in the first game, 26 versus 44 in the second. With Real Madrid there was much more balance, especially on the second leg, when a draw of 34 minutes’ ball possession per team was reached (the result in Rome was instead 29 versus 42).

Not that this number resulted in attack opportunities: in Madrid, Roma suffered a full 37 shots towards its goal, more than Barcelona managed in two games (14+19). But Barcelona’s 19 shots yielded the six goals with which the Roma was annihilated, while Madrid’s 37 shots yielded only two goals, leaving many regrets over the nine lost scoring occasions, wasted mostly by Dzeko and Salah.

Overall, Roma kept a higher profile with Real Madrid than with Barcelona (one need only look at the number of balls played in the three field sectors) and Roma’s players touched the ball more: with Real Madrid, the Roma player that touched the ball most was Florenzi (62 on the first leg and 58 on the second leg); with Barcelona, on the first leg it was De Rossi (42 times) and on the second leg Keita and Maicon (only 33 times).

In summary, there is still a long way to go for Roma to be able to compete with the best and strongest teams, but with Spalletti, Roma might be taking the first steps in the right direction.

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Daniele Lo Monaco
Journalist and UEFA B Coach

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