Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Totti, Gervinho and African gazelles

What a start to the season Roma are having!! It might be a bit early to start mentioning the possibility of a scudetto, but as Gabriele Marcotti pointed out in his column for the 'Wall Street Journal': 'Nobody wants to get too excited, but of the seven teams that have won their first seven matches to start a Serie A season, just one, Inter in 1966-1967, failed to win the title' and this is exactly what Roma have done so far. 7 wins from 7, a +19 goal difference having scored 20 and only let in 1. This gives them the joint best defence alongside Olympiakos in the whole of Europe so far this season. It is also worth pointing out that Premier League side Southampton are joint second with Atletico Madrid having only let in 2! 

If there is one man who has been an integral part of Roma so far this season, as he has been for the last decade or so and more, then it is that man Francesco Totti. Totti, bearing in mind that he is 37 years of age, is still starting games up top for his beloved Giallorossi and is still putting in the performances that made him into such a successful footballer all those years ago.
 At the weekend Roma travelled to Inter, no easy game despite Inter's poor finish of 9th last season. Yet they made light work of it and walked away from the San Siro with a 3-0 win and Totti bagged himself 2 goals in the process. After the match Totti had this to say: "Winning seven straight matches isn't easy. I don't think anyone expected this start to the season."

Still Roma's go to man?

This sensational form shown from Totti has seen him create 27 goal scoring opportunities for his fellow teammates, more than any other player in Serie A this season. The performances he has been putting in have even led to calls for him to be selected for the national team and possibly even a place on the plane to Brazil next summer. I don't see how that could be a bad thing for Italy at this stage, especially if Totti keeps on putting in performances like this for the remainder of the season. Italy boss Prandelli also seems to agree saying that 'If the tournament was in 2 months time then Totti would be on the plane.' 

But it would be unfair on a few others if all the credit was directed at Totti for Roma's astonishing start to the season. Praise must be given to new manager Rudi Garcia, formerly of Lille, and who many thought was somewhat of a daring acquisition this summer. Certainly because he has not achieved all that much in France after winning the title there with Lille 3 years ago. But he has definitely made an impact upon this Roma side so far this season and his arrival is no coincidence in the correlation with the results on the pitch.

Nor may I add is it a coincidence with the arrival of former Arsenal player Gervinho. The African footballer had a torrid time in North London for 2 years but has been outstanding since his move to the Italian capital and he has relished joining up with Garcia, his former coach when he played at Lille. In fact, his performance after Saturday's game in Milan led an Italian journalist to write in Sunday's Gazzetta dello Sport that: 'Every day in Africa there is a gazelle that wakes up and wishes that he could run as fast as Gervinho so that he can blow raspberries at lions.' It is such a hilarious and brilliant description and is also typical of the different style of writing that is found in the sports papers of this country compared to those in England. This is also coupled with the comment I found on Totti's man of the match performance: 'The years pass for everyone, but not for Totti... If he was poetry, Totti would be ‘L’infinito’ by Giacomo Leopardi.’ Another wonderful example of the romantic style that is ever present in Italian journalism.

The African gazelle in action

One other surprise package of Serie A this season has been Hellas Verona. A team that I have always looked out for having read Tim Parks’ wonderful book ‘A Season with Verona’. They are currently 5th in the table after they thumped a meagre Bologna side 4-1 at the weekend.

In other news, I went to a bar on Sunday night to watch what I thought would be a very good game in Lazio – Fiorentina. Sadly it finished 0-0 and both sides never really looked like inning it from the word go. The result could be explained by the fact that both teams featured away from home in Europe on Thursday night and were just too tired come Sunday. The game certainly lacked energy and any sort of spark that could have resulted in victory for one side.

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