x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Serie A: Roma have duel conflicts with new coach and big-head players

Aurelio Andreazzoli, the new Roma coach, made new team selections that have already rasied some eye brows and Juventus is up next, writes Andy Mitten.

Aurelio Andreazzoli, the new Roma coach, lost his first game with the club and will make his home debut on the bench on Saturday against Juventus. Luca Zennaro / EPA
Aurelio Andreazzoli, the new Roma coach, lost his first game with the club and will make his home debut on the bench on Saturday against Juventus. Luca Zennaro / EPA

One of the tasks facing any new coach promoted to take over a club is to establish his unique principles, to be his own man. Shedding the label of deputy is not a matter of simply removing a badge.

He needs to quickly stamp his authority over the ambitious, sometimes crafty professionals for whom change tends to be viewed either as opportunity, or threat.

Aurelio Andreazzoli, who has replaced the inimitable Zdenek Zeman at the helm of Roma, has a double challenge.

He has been a No 2 to a pair of charismatic Roma coaches: Luciano Spalletti, for four years up to 2009, and then Zeman.

He also worked with the Spaniard Luis Enrique, who after a season in charge was replaced by Zeman last July. At least Andreazzoli knows this is a post with a high turnover of occupants.

He also recognises Roma have a big squad, and some big-heads in the dressing room.

Zeman's brief reign, which lurched into deep trouble after the winter break was partly defined by what was known as "dualism" for particular positions in the side.

At its best, that meant healthy competition for places; its downside was grumbling at a lack of first-team minutes. And grumbling at Roma is usually amplified.

On Andreazzoli's first team-sheet, away at Sampdoria on Sunday, signals of his unique identity, his difference from Zeman, could be deciphered.

Maarten Stekelenburg, who under Zeman had been losing the duel for the goalkeeper's position to Mauro Goicoechea, started. Because of the suspension of the Zeman favourite Panagiotis Tachtsidis, Daniele De Rossi, the club vice-captain, was in the side, to stake a claim to what he regards as his rightful, regular berth.

Pablo Osvaldo, often benched by Zeman, began up front.

Osvaldo has a chequered history at Roma, of disputes with colleagues. When he won a penalty, with the score 1-0 to Sampdoria, Osvaldo suddenly imposed his own dualism. He grabbed the ball, and took the penalty himself.

Had he been instructed to do so by the new coach? He had not. Roma's specialist penalty taker is and remains Francesco Totti, the captain.

Totti, visibly, was unhappy at Osvaldo's insistence on taking the spot kick. He felt angrier still when Osvaldo fluffed it.

As for Andreazzoli, he watched with concern Osvaldo's pushy challenge to the existing hierarchy in the new coach's very first match in charge.

Roma lost 3-1. It will not get any easier very quickly for Andreazzoli, either. Juventus visit Roma this weekend.

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