Roma and the beautiful loser

by Mark Beegan

Roma’s 3-1 victory over Inter Milan  was an early yet none the less significant indication of new boss Zdenek Zeman’s early work at the club.  Zeman has given Roma a sense of direction and purpose that the giallorossi have been missing for the last few seasons.

Indeed , it is highly probable that , Roma, faced with the setback of losing a goal just before half time, would have gone on to the lose the game last season. Zeman, however, has added steel to giallorossi and they dominated the second half winning 3-1.

Zeman has been around a long time, the Czech manager has been knocking around the Italian game for years bringing his forceful personality and relentless style of football to both Rome clubs, Foggia, Pescara, and many more.

Zdenek Zeman is strong believer in 4-3-3, defined by him as “geometry”, and also for a football philosophy clearly based on the attacking side of the game, the offside, and zone marking.

To Zeman football is logical and minimalist. He abhors those who slow the game down and overcomplicate the beautiful game. Zeman’s whole football philosophy is based on pressure, intensity and vertical lines. While his style is more direct than that of his predecessor, it is not long ball or kick and rush.

Zeman’s system hinges on clever movement, pushing high up the pitch and pinning your opponent back in to their own half. Zeman explained his system eloquently in an interview with Gabrielle Marcotti explaining “Whenever we attack, all three forwards have to be in the penalty area while two of the three midfielders come forward as well. That way the opponent is pinned back.”

Sadly, Zeman’s insistence on quick transitions and a high line often means that his teams suffer defensively which has held him back from winning more trophies and games to date.

Zeman has built two of the most beautiful football sides to watch in the last eight years. He spent only one season with Lecce but created an extremely young team that played outrageously attractive football. Indeed, his Lecce team captured the hearts of many neutrals with their cavalier approach to the game and their unwillingness to change their style even when up against the biggest sides in the league.

Last season at Pescara, Zeman once again built a young attacking side that wowed fans.  Zeman’s swashbuckling team won the Serie B title and promotion back to the Promised Land of Serie A. Zeman is revered by many in Italian football but he was for years disparaged as a beautiful loser?

This is why last season’s success with a wonderful entertaining Pescara team was so sweet for Zeman. He had delivered his trademark swashbuckling football but also threw in Serie B for good measure. He had announced that he was back and done so by ramming the beautiful loser tag down the throats of his critics.

This success at Pescara led to Roma turning to the Czech manager to take over at the Olimpico. Considering the huge difference between how Zeman is asking Roma to play this year and how they played last year, it will be understandable if there are a few mistakes. It is crucial that Zeman is given the time to implement his style of play on the group.

There is very much a sense that Roma this year are a work in progress but the fans believe that the journey Zeman is leading them on will end in glory.

This glory however may come sooner than then many fans and pundits think. Juventus are without a doubt the strongest team in the league but even they have frailties. Both Milan clubs are in periods of great change and are in truth probably further away from the scudetto then they were last year. This leaves Roma, who in truth may turn out to be the greatest threat to Juventus’ title and the fact that they do not have the distraction of European football means that the beautiful loser has a good chance of adding a Serie A title to his managerial triumphs.

Author Info

Mark Beegan

Mark Beegan

Mark is a graduate of UCD. Mark is a freelance journalist with a love of attacking football and tiki taka. Weekly contributor to Back Page Football. Writes mostly on European, South American and Irish Football.

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