The 2013/14 edition of Serie A begins on August 25th and there’s plenty of excitement heading into the new season.
This summer has sparked tons of discussion amongst calcio fans worldwide. Juventus found bargains in Carlos Tevez, Fernando Llorente and Angelo Ogbonna, while Napoli used approximately €120 million to their advantage by purchasing the likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Raul Albiol, and Jose Callejon.
They’re not the only two sides that were busy during the transfer window, though. Fiorentina strengthened in midfield and attack, Lazio built a strong squad under the radar, AC Milan are actively pursuing players to add to their team, while crosstown rivals Inter are in a rebuilding phase.
Another club that’s starting fresh is Roma, and much like every season, they’re dissected and heavily scrutinized on every move they make. The Giallorossi’s most recent acquisition is Arsenal forward Gervais “Gervinho” Kouassi, who arrived for a reported €9.3 million
It’s no secret that the Ivorian struggled at Arsenal upon moving from Lille in 2011. He was once touted as a talented youngster, and was set to fulfill his potential when earning a transfer to England at 24 years old, but it never formulated into anything. Gervinho struggled to adapt to the Premier League, and despite his dribbling ability and speed, he couldn’t deliver what mattered; goals and assists. That could come down to his lack of strength, among other issues.
As Gervinho’s stint in North London continued, he earned fewer appearances by the week. He finished his Arsenal career with nine league goals in 45 matches, and it led to the Gunners taking a €2.5 million loss on the winger. Now, he’s playing under a familiar face in Rudi Garcia, Lille’s former coach.
The domestic double winning season in 2010/11, considered as Garcia’s best year as a manager, was also Gervinho’s most impressive as a player. He had 15 goals in 35 league games, and now that the Ivorian international is back together with Garcia, Romanisti are hoping that the forward can rekindle his form when he was at Lille.
It should help in getting Gervinho’s career back on track, plus, at 26, the Ligue Un winner is entering his prime, so if Garcia can find the correct formula, Kouassi could be one of the steals of the summer.
As for Roma’s season, there’s a lot to be optimistic about when glancing at their preseason matches. They confidently defeated the MLS All-Stars 3-1 before dismantling Toronto FC 4-1, which were two of their most impressive results this summer.
One of the key talking points is how Garcia will line up his team in midfield. Newcomer Kevin Strootman had a fantastic showing against the All-Stars in Kansas City, but homegrown talent Alessandro Florenzi was even better, earning the All-Star game MVP with a goal and an assist. Daniele De Rossi will undoubtedly be an integral component in the side, leaving Michael Bradley and Miralem Pjanic on the outside looking in.
Pjanic, however, has been one of the best players for Garcia since he took over. He’s been solid on the wing of a 4-3-3 and in a deeper midfield position, even though the Bosnian plays at his best when deployed behind a forward. He could find himself starting a lot more often than last year, and if he can produce in multiple areas of the pitch, it’ll benefit Pjanic even more.
Florenzi must be in the starting XI every week given his energy and intelligence on and off the ball. Even though he played his first full season as a starter last year, the 22-year-old has improved significantly and should be named on the team sheet every week.
Strootman has showed why so many teams were linked with him while at PSV. He’s the prototypical box-to-box midfielder. His ball distribution is sublime, his work rate is admirable, and is equally responsible on both sides of the pitch. Both he and De Rossi could act as a double pivot while Florenzi operates as an attack minded midfielder, formulating one of the best trios in Serie A.
Up front brings a lot of questions. Francesco Totti will start every match as always, but the centre forward has brought a lot of controversy. Pablo Osvaldo has been linked with a move out of the capital and was supposed to have left by now, but he’s still on Roma’s books, making it even more difficult to move the Argentine-Italian.
His goal scoring ability (27 league goals in 55 matches with the Giallorossi) is as consistent as Totti’s record, but tends to be forgotten about due to his temperament. Mattia Destro, on the other hand, hasn’t been able to rediscover his form while at Siena. Eleven goals in 26 games isn’t poor, especially when the player is 22 years old, but it’s very patchy. However, if Destro starts more consistently and stops wasting so many shots, he could be the star centre-forward everyone expects him to be.
Morgan De Sanctis, despite his errors, will be a crucial leader at the back, something Roma desperately needs. He also comes up with some miraculous saves, so he could be a valuable short term option in the goalkeeper position.
The defence has also improved significantly. Tin Jedvaj, a 17-year-old Croatian signed from Dinamo Zagreb, has already got Romanisti forgetting about Marquinhos. He isn’t as mature as the Brazilian, but he could reach that level within a year or two. Maicon is the other significant signing at the back and even though he’s aging, the former Inter fullback has already settled in, and, like De Sanctis, will be a solid short-term acquisition.
Parts of Roma’s plan are focusing on the short term, but leaders are needed at this club. Mental mistakes have been their biggest downfall. Whether it’s crucial errors at the back or wasteful shooting up front, the added veterans in the side should help solve those issues. Once the team has matured, then slightly younger replacements can be brought in. Until then, Roma should be able to challenge for a Champions League spot and begin the next objective under their American ownership.