Rudi García: Roma’s Revival

On the 12th of June 2013, AS Roma found themselves under new management, this time by ex Lille coach Rudi García. García, who had been thriving at Lille with a win in the Coupe De France and the prize of the best Ligue 1 coach in 2010-11, took responsibility of a Roma side who, lets face it, seemed the worst in years. Without European football in two years and finishing places of 6th, 7th, and 6th retrospectively was a massive disappointment for the Associazione Sportiva Roma faithful, and dark, discouraging time approached.

As James Pallotta revealed the signing of García, Roma fans took to the news a lot more unusually than expected. They were hesitant, and rightly so. Despite the Frenchman’s excellent CV, he was only young, and maybe unconvincing as he was yet to manage a ‘big’ side in Europe. He inherited a squad that included the likes of youngster Alessandro Florenzi, midfield power-house Danielle De Rossi and club legend Francesco Totti. However, García had plans of his own, and since his arrival we have seen an ever evolving Roma squad, prone to an array of transfer activity. In came the likes of Mehdi Banatia, a centre-half from Udinese who was extremely sought after by the big European clubs. Mattia Destro, a prolific striker arrived from Genoa, and young of age too with bags of potential. Gervinho arrived from Arsenal, looking to kick-start his career again in the Serie A and Kevin Strootman, Adem Ljajić, Radja Nainggolan (loan) and Tony Sanabria all joined forces in the capital of Italy.

Benatia looked to be a massive coup, and certainly was García's signing of the summer.
Benatia looked to be a massive coup, and certainly was García’s signing of the summer.
Erik Lamela, who departed from Roma to join Tottenham Hotspur.
Erik Lamela, who departed from Roma to join Tottenham Hotspur.

García realised his squad needed some balance though, so out went Marquinhos, an unfortunate loss of one of the highest potential centre-backs in perhaps the entire world. Bojan didn’t quite cut it, so off he went to Ajax and Michael Bradley and Pablo Osvaldo joined FC Toronto and Southmapton in pricey deals. Finally, it was farewell to wonderkid Erik Lamela, who would be leaving the Stadio Olimpico to join North-London side Spurs in a deal worth up to £30 million. His squad was re-buffed, full of energy and commitment and his style was set to be put into play to wow the Italian division.

Breaking a record in his first 10 games in the league wasn’t quite perhaps how García expected to start. But 10 wins from 10 put A.S. Roma top of the Serie A, defeating Juventus’ previous record. His tactical prowess was outstanding, and shoving aside the likes of Udinese and Internazionale with comfortable and reassuring victories shocked the world, and sent out a message that García and his men were ready to take on Europe. A series of draws followed, and an unbeaten run until January when Roma met former champions Juventus still left them in a comfortable position. Without the European football, it seemed like an advantage was gained by Roma, as their fitness levels and lack of injuries continued throughout the campaign, as they went on to finish second, 17 points behind Juventus, who lets face it, with a record amount of points looked almost unstoppable. Only five losses in the 2013-14 campaign from García, and fine performances from the likes of Gervinho, Totti co. meant that they just needed to build and build and build. And build they did.

The successful AS Roma squad celebrating.
The successful AS Roma squad celebrating.
Ashley Cole signs for Roma.
Ashley Cole signs for Roma.

I was most impressed by García’s first signing of the summer, and what a signing it looks to be. Ashley Cole. The finely, experienced left back has won the Champions League, FA Cup and the Premier League with two different teams: Chelsea and Arsenal. He is perhaps the best English left-back for the past decade and what a coup he looks to be. Seydou Keita also arrived. The ex-Barcelona defensive midfielder is a strong, powerful anchorman who adds such presence and experience to García’s team. So are we getting the same picture here? García felt Roma needed experience to compete on all fronts and possibly pip Juve to the Serie A championship. Greek pairing Kostas Manolas and Jose Holebas joined from Olympiakos, a pair of young, fresh defenders, the aforementioned an aggressive, leading centre-back and the latter a pacey left-back. As Mehdi Benatia unfortunately departed to Bayern for a mega £24 million, plus £6 million extras, a leader was needed and García’s signings showed a huge gamble in replacing the Moroccan. Yanga-Mbiwa was an interesting one, a loan signing from Newcastle, possibly to add depth at the back? But the two Argentinian youngsters: Juan Iturbe and Parades both joined Roma. Iturbe is possibly one of the highest rated footballing talents in his home land, and the former River Plate and Porto winger, has already set the Serie A on fire. Another fine window for García, and another fine season looks set to approach.

Back in the Champions League and completing on all fronts. 5 wins from their first 6. Destro on fire, Totti looking like he’s rolling back the years, and Gervinho, Cole and Iturbe look like they’ve been in the capital for years, let alone months. Pjanic is pulling the strings too, and with Strootman back in the New Year, alongside De Rossi… it can only get better. The most impressive signing for me, however, is Seydou Keita. The 34 year old Mali international is beating the world with his performances. His physical presence in the heart of the field is partnering his surprising mobility to run from box to box to provide at both ends. We saw against Manchester City the standard that Radja

Banter between City and Roma before their Champions League clash.
Banter between City and Roma before their Champions League clash.

Nainggolan is setting too. His assist to Totti was sensational, and like Keita, his powerful nature is doing a lot of work for García’s side. With attacking flair, pace, power and a well-balanced side covered in most areas of the pitch, Roma look to be almost a complete side. Totti is a sensational player, Iturbe is potentially a world beater, and the form Gervinho is in… well I would not put it past this side to win Serie A this year. Despite their dramatic late failed efforts to beat Juventus on the weekend, watch out for this team. Watch out for their club’s banter with their Twitter page! But more importantly, watch out for the master-class, magician and tactician that is: Rudi García.

Thanks for reading,

Liam Baldock.

Rudi celebrates. And he'll be doing much more in the future.
Rudi celebrates. And he’ll be doing much more in the future.

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