Zdeněk Zeman’s approach at Roma? Outscore the opposition

Dylan Fahy
Zdenek Zeman 300x225 Zdeněk Zemans approach at Roma? Outscore the opposition

Head coach of AS Roma Zdenek Zeman

Zdeněk Zeman only watched on from the bench with a wry smile and a sinister stare as his new AS Roma players were put through their paces, with countless laps of the training track under torrential rain. The Czech manager’s return to the pinnacle of Italian football has been long overdue, and at the ripe old at age of 65, he knows that this may be his last hurrah.

The journeyman manager began his career on the sidelines in the late 1970s, and has already had spells at both of the Eternal City’s major clubs. He remains one of a handful of people to be adored by both respective sets of fans, as his eccentric style of management never made for a dull moment. All out attack, coupled with leaky defences made for captivating viewing, no matter what the final result was.  Having fallen off the radar for the past several years, Zeman resurfaced at the seaside town of Pescara last year.

The Delfini went into liquidation in 2009, but hastily returned under a new name and earned promotion from Serie C1 in the same season. After consolidating their position in Serie B, with an unexpected mid-table finish, Zeman took over the reins from former Roma midfielder Eusebio Di Francesco. A crowning mix of youth and experience, coupled with the Czech’s striking tactics, soared to a remarkable first place last term in highly entertaining fashion. Commanding youngsters Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne and Ciro Immobile featured predominantly in a campaign in which the club scored a phenomenal 90 goals and conceded an even more surprising 55.

Zeman “could not turn down” a move back to the Giallorossi, and was announced as their manager virtually days after the promotion. The move has brought Roma’s revolution to full circle, a movement that began this time last year with Luis Enrique at the helm. Zeman and the former Barcelona and Real Madrid man could not be more different as tacticians. While Enrique tried and failed to employ Spain’s tiki-taka system on the Italian outfit, Roma’s new chain-smoking manager will be almost excessively direct at times, as his favoured 4-3-3 formation is based almost solely around outscoring the opposition.

Questions have been bandied about as to whether the current crop of players can fit into such an aggressive system. There has been an apparent clear-out of last season’s deadwood, with Fábio Simplício and Juan only two of those included. Enrique’s notoriously atrocious defence has been improved with Leandro Castan and Dodô being brought in from Brazil’s Corinthians. Supporters hope to have seen the back of disastrous defensive pairing Gabriel Heinze and Simon Kjaer, the former Manchester United man has been kept as back-up, however.

American international Michael Bradley has been signed from Chievo Verona to act as the workhorse in midfield. Panagiotis Tachtsidis has impressed while dictating the play in the middle of the park throughout pre-season after arriving from Genoa. The pair should fit in nicely alongside creative Bosnian Miralem Pjanić to form one on the most diverse midfields in Roma’s history.

The departure of promising striker Fabio Borini to Liverpool has been seen as a negative move, as the former Chelsea youngster was the shining light in a dire campaign in 2011-12. Mattia Destro has been brought in as his replacement, after a breakout season at Siena that included 12 goals, but the extravagant transfer fee could prove hard to live up to. Mercurial strikers Pablo Osvaldo and Marco Borriello’s futures as the club remain uncertain, as the latter continues to earn a colossal £4.2m a year despite not being part of Zeman’s immediate plans.

Roma icon Francesco Totti does not have a clear position in the new formation either, and could be used in the forward three just behind the striker or as a deep lying playmaker. The Totti dilemma could derail any progress made, as it was blatantly obvious he kicked up a fuss after not consistently starting under Enrique. Although Zeman will not be as soft a touch as his predecessor, and the 35-year-old bandiera will have to take a backseat sooner or later.

The early signs for the Zeman regime are promising, with supporters fully behind the club after several protests against the previous management setup last season. Season tickets for the upcoming campaign are almost sold-out, with close to 30,000 fans pledging their allegiance, and around 20,000 turning up to routine training sessions. While the moral among the playing staff also remains at an all time high, with several stars even going as far to say Roma can challenge for the Scudetto. Despite what looks to be military style pre-season training camp that has seen them being pictured constantly running, the Lupi will be hoping they are still in the race for a position in the Champions League come next May.

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