Can AS Roma give Juventus a fight for the Scudetto?
Two years of unsuccessfully challenging Juventus for the title and AS Roma finally look like a side that might be successful in their mission. The 2013/14 season saw the club finish with 85 points, a tally that more often than not would have been enough to land them the coveted Scudetto. But their Turin counterparts were always a step ahead. This season, at least on paper, the capital club looks like they are genuinely equipped to finish at the top. It also helps that Juventus have lost quality players in Pirlo and Vidal, and could falter as a result of it.
They of course have to make sure things don’t fall apart midway. Last season, Roma did well in the beginning but the loss to Juventus in October slowly started derailing their campaign and in the end, Allegri’s side easily went on to win the title. Soon after that loss to Juventus, Roma lost 7-1 to Bayern Munich at home. 7-1. As talented as Bayern might be, that scoreline is embarrassing for any team.
Besides the confident denting blow to Juventus, Roma had other problems. The midfield looked jaded with Kevin Strootman being in and out with injury and Seydou Keita leaving for the AFCON in January. This meant Pjanic – who also didn’t look his best last season – and Radja Nainggolan “were running on vapour”.
They also had problems up-front. The very exciting Juan Manuel Iturbe didn’t live up to the hype and his €22m price-tag. Gervinho lost form and Totti, despite being Totti, couldn’t be Roma’s savior.
The upside to last season was that Garcia ensured there was some sustainability and Roma backed a great season with another one of moderate success as they did attain automatic Champions League qualification by the end of the campaign
Garcia has now dismissed talks of a title, which is a safe thing to do – downplay expectations, avoid disappointment – but the Rome club has to do one better this time to ensure they’ve not reached a stagnation point.
They’ve definitely done better in terms of signings. Milan bought Andrea Bertolacci from Roma for €20 million and Alessio Romagnoli for €25 million, and Garcia and co. have used the money wisely. They’ve bought Nainggolan’s remaining stake from Cagliari and the talented midfielder now solely and completely belongs to them. They also signed winger Iago Falque from Genoa, who would prove to be a valuable addition to the club’s forward line. Falque, who has the distinction of playing at Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus in his youth days, scored 13 goals for Genoa last season and finally looked to be fulfilling his much talked about potential. He could prove to be an astute signing for the Giallorossi. Mohamed Salah did incredibly well on loan at Fiorentina last season and after much ado, the player finally signed on loan at Roma from Premier League giants, Chelsea. Salah scored 6 goals and grabbed 3 assists in 10 starts for the Florence outfit last season and would represent an upgrade on Gervinho.
Unarguably, if Roma want to win trophies next season, they required an improvement on the goalkeeper, Morgan De Sanctis who is 38 years old. Szczesny will need time to get going but the Poland international definitely has it in him to be an important player for Roma in the coming season. He might only be a temporary fix as he has also signed on an “initial” one year loan deal from Arsenal, but he is a good short term solution.
Perhaps their most eye-catching and best signing is that of Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian arrives from Manchester City with a strong reputation and an undeniable talent in front of goal. He will lead the line for the Italian side and we could see Totti take a marginalized, yet important, role this season. Dzeko has already started strongly as he netted twice in his pre-season debut for the club against Sevilla and has given the Roma faithful a reason for excitement and enthusiasm.
The Serie A is going to be more open than the last few seasons as Roma, Inter and Milan have all done impressive business in the transfer market and could end The Old Lady’s run of dominance. There are still some areas to strengthen for Roma, but the work has been positive from the Italian team so far and we might see the iconic Totti lift the Serie A title in possibly his last season with his boyhood club.
Featured image: All rights reserved by Mike Wright
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