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J11: RIP
After a closer than expected finish to Serie A last year and a second straight Coppa Italia in the trophy case, this was supposed to be the year that Roma finally put it together and mounted a serious challenge both in Serie A and the Champions League. The European Final will be played at the Stadio Olympico in Italy's capital this year, and Francesco Totti had talked openly of playing for a Champions League title in his hometown. Yet, seven games into the Serie A season, Roma has only seven points. I giallorossi find themselves nine points behind Inter already and rank 14th in the Serie A table. They have suffered some awful losses so far, including a home loss to Romanian minnows CFR Cluj in the Champions League group stage, a 1-0 loss to Siena, two 3-1 losses to Genoa and Palermo, and an absolute drubbing by Inter at home last Sunday night by a final score of 4-0. So what is wrong with this team? They have allowed an absolutely stunning number of goals considering their schedule and league. They rank second to last in Serie A in goals allowed. Part of this is due to injury; both Juan and Mexes have missed significant time to injury. Some is due to poor goalkeeping. Roma continues to start Doni between the posts, despite serious doubts about whether he can handle the load of being a starting 'keeper at a top tier level. Finally, one must look at the absolutely terrible acquisition of Riise to play fullback. He has been horrendous for Roma so far this year and adds nothing to the squad they do not have already available on the bench. On offense, Roma is barely averaging a goal a game. Given Luciano Spalletti's track record, you have to feel that this will not be problematic for the squad for long. Especially with both Baptista and Totti returning from injury and getting their feet under them, in addition to the continued improvement of Alberto Aquilani, who is living up to his potential, one has to feel the the goals will come. It is worth noting that Spalletti's squads historically have started slowly. At the end of the day, fingers need to be pointed at Roma's transfer strategy. They failed to pick up a quality goalkeeper, they failed to add anyone who could improve their back four, and they let Mancini go and failed to pick up a suitable talent to replace him in Spalletti's famous 4-2-3-1 formation. They put all their chips on picking up Adrian Mutu from Fiorentina, only to be rejected. Riise and Menez, a young talent acquired from Lyon, have been failures so far, while Baptista has failed to impress, but may need more time. Newcomers to Italian soccer have come to think of Roma as part of Italy's Big Four, but their most recent transfer campaign reminds most of the financially troubled squad that barely survived the 90s and couldn't crack the top four in the standings during that period. Roma still has a lot of talent in their squad. Totti can still be a premier player when healthy. Aquilani, Perrotta, and DeRossi give the team an overflow of box-to-box midfielders. They will almost certainly make it out of the Champions League Group Stage, if only due to a weak group, and stand in no real danger of relegation. Roma had higher aspirations this year than mere survival. At the end of the day, though, you won't win any trophies unless you can keep the ball out of the back of the net. And this Roma squad does not seem to have the necessary pieces to do that over a long season.


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