x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Lazio and Roma let down by their unpredictable natures

Both the Rome sides have been hamstrung this season by their inability to get a string of consistent results together.

Both Lazio and Roma have been let down by inconsistency this season in their respective Serie A campaigns.
Both Lazio and Roma have been let down by inconsistency this season in their respective Serie A campaigns.

Confusion seeps down from the very top ahead of the Rome derby on Sunday.

Take Edy Reja, the Lazio coach. First, he tendered his resignation after a 5-1 thrashing at Palermo, then reluctantly agreed to stay on for the club's trip in the Europa League to Atletico Madrid, and then, last weekend, announced he is committed to the club for the long term.

Reja, at 66, is as experienced a head coach you will find in Serie A. His topsy-turvy mood cannot be put down to the impetuosity of youth.

If there is one thing as inconsistent as Reja's recent mindset, it is probably Roma's form, so strange that if you list their successive 2012 league results according to won, drawn or lost, it looks like some odd chemical equation: WWDLWDLWL.

They lurch between the majestic (a 5-1 triumph over Cesena, a 4-0 sweeping aside of Inter Milan) and the masochistic (last weekend's 4-1 defeat by Atalanta, or the four goals Cagliari put past them at the beginning of February).

Roma's brittle irregularity can perhaps be put down to youth. Luis Enrique, in terms of senior managerial experience, is the greenhorn of Italy's top-flight coaches.

The Spaniard's declared mission was always a bold new start and style for Roma. The trouble is, one day they are like a toddling infant; the next, they strut like a fearless adolescent.

Luis Enrique's target for his first season is to reach the Champions League.

But Roma sit seven points short of third place, which gains Italy's last available ticket to Europe's top club competition come the end of the season, and the mood is hardly optimistic.

Luis Enrique has now come in for veiled criticism from above, with Walter Sabatini, the director of football - "we are just so inconsistent" - and from Gabriel Heinze, the experienced defender, who talked on Tuesday of how the desire for attacking football leaves Roma vulnerable when opponents break.

There are tensions. Daniele De Rossi, the vice-captain, was dropped by the coach for arriving late for the team's rendezvous ahead of the Atalanta game.

As things stand, Lazio are the likelier of the capital's club to be playing Champions League football next season.

They sit fourth in the table only because Udinese, just above them, have a superior goal difference, and Sunday's win over Fiorentina saw them close to within six points of table-topping AC Milan.

But in between Reja's prevarications, and Roma's Jekyll and Hyde character, you cannot be sure of either being there.