Following the confirmation that Luciano Spalletti has been named the new Roma coach, website columnist Julian De Martinis delivers five reasons why he believes the club have appointed the right man…
1. Beautiful style…
Quick, think back (or watch YouTube highlights) of Roma’s football under the Italian. What do you remember? Backheels, slick passing and a team moving in unison with a sense of purpose. Spalletti’s Roma clicked and it often clicked nearly perfectly.
From an aesthetic viewpoint, the striker-less system he implemented featured a midfield duo of David Pizarro and Daniele De Rossi as the ultimate foils – a smooth ticking yin that never lost the ball and a gritty yang that shielded the defence whenever he did - as well as a quartet up front comprised of technical powerhouses (Francesco Totti, Mirko Vucinic), willing runners (Simone Perrotta) and wide full-backs who offered penetration and solid link-up play (the unforgettable Max Tonetto, Christian Panucci and Marco Cassetti).
Alexander Doni had some of the best reflexes around to save whatever got past Juan and Philippe Mexes but the real beauty of it all was how homogenous Spalletti was able to unite a side and have the team playing, truly, as a whole.
2. …bolstered by substance
Under Spalletti’s tenure, Roma may never have won the Scudetto, but they were contenders every season, finishing second in 2005-06 and 2006-07 and narrowly missing out on first by just 3 points in 2007-08. The silverware did come in other venues, as the side managed to pick up three trophies in his four-year tenure. Two back-to-back Coppa Italias in the 2006-07 and 2007-08 season exemplified Spalletti’s Roma’s ability to rise to the occasions in the big matches.
3. Tactical flexibility
Roma’s style when the Italian was at the helm came about due to the squad at his disposal; shorn of a typical prima punta to lead the frontline, Spalletti converted Francesco Totti into a false 9 and utilized his finishing ability along with his brilliant passing and movement to find, create, and score goals. With Mexes and Juan forming a solid partnership at the back, the rest of the side were able to contribute to the flow that emanated from Totti.
The results of this change in Totti’s position? They certainly speak for themselves: the captain finished the 2006-07 season as Europe’s Golden Boot winner after a fierce battle to the very end of the season with Real Madrid’s Ruud Van Nistlerooy.
4. Completing his resume
When Spalletti left Roma in 2009, he had established himself as a coach who knew how to get the best out of a squad at his disposal and one that could triumph in league cups but one that had not yet conquered a league title. He was appointed by Zenit Saint Petersburg in Russia and soon overcame this particular hurdle, winning back-to-back Russian Premier Leagues as well as a Russian Cup and Super Cup between 2010 and 2012. He returns to Roma now as a more experienced, established, well-travelled, and perhaps most importantly, winning coach.
5. European pedigree
Roma have rarely, if ever, had the financial clout to match the spending power of the top teams in Europe but under Spalletti, European progress was often thrilling. In his debut season he led the club to the round of 16 in the UEFA Cup, being knocked out by Middlesbrough only on away goals and the side grew in Europe from then onwards.
The following season, Roma finished second in Champions’ League group G, and knocked out Lyon in the Round of 16 due to a thrilling away performance in France (involving a Mancini goal that still lingers in the mind of Romanisti), before falling at the quarter-final stage to Manchester United. In 2007-08, the side once again finished second in their group before playing perhaps the team’s most memorable Champions’ League performance of the past decade, completing a 2-1 double over Real Madrid at the Olimpico and Bernabeu to progress to the quarter-finals, where they once again met Manchester United and were ousted.
The following season was less successful in terms of longevity, being painfully knocked out on penalties by Arsenal in the first knockout round, but the side performed fantastically in the group, beating Chelsea 3-1 at home and Bordeaux by the same scoreline in France. Despite some painful losses to exit the competition, in every season that Spalletti was at the helm, the side progressed from the group stages.