Roma are pleased with their form in Serie A, even if they've tied two straight games after starting the season with a ten-match win streak. Their attractive playing style which includes a potent, creative attack and a resolute defense has them atop the standings and looking like a shoo-in for a spot in next year's Champions League.
"If someone had said at the beginning of the season that we'd be 10-0-2 at this point, I would have been be pretty happy," said Roma President James Pallotta, who is also a shareholder with the Boston Celtics.
"I felt strongly in July that we'd be a very good team, much better than anyone thought," he added.
Twelve different players have tallied goals to help give Roma Italy's second-best offensive record. Meanwhile, the defense has allowed just three goals (three!). The next best defensive record is ten goals allowed, owned by Juventus.
Roma's current form is making them question whether they want to add players in the January transfer window. On the one hand, they have been linked to the likes of Yohan Cabaye, Lewis Holtby, and Filip Djordjevic. But Roma's braintrust might be hesitant to sign these players, or others, since team administrators fear that adding someone new to the group could disrupt the already fine team chemistry.
Known as the "gioco di squadra" in Italy, the playing style that revolves around teamwork and intrasquad chemistry has been instrumental in Roma's early success. New coach Rudi Garcia has helped the team put egos aside and created a unit that plays a uniform, progressive style of soccer.
Garcia has had major success with the 4-3-3 formation, as it's a tactic that encourages open space for creative, attack-minded soccer and also a steady back line to contend with opposing strikers.
"Rudi was going to be part of the glue that held the team together," said Pallotta. "I had very high expectations for him and he's exceeded them...It's a real team. The players like each other and like playing for each other."
Teamwork aside, some individuals have shown up for Roma, too. One is Miralem Pjanic, the Bosnian-Herzegovinian energizer bunny, who has tallied three goals and four assists. Though Pjanic has been linked to a move to the English Premier League, Pallotta said that the club is close to sewing up a long term contract to keep him in Rome.
The rest of the squad is doing its part. Freshly signed veteran goalkeeper Morgan DeSanctis leads the league in shutouts (9). Captain Francesco Totti, despite currently being out injured because of a pulled hamstring, leads Serie A in assists with six. Alessandro Florenzi has found his form as a striker, leading his team in scoring with four goals. Federico Balzaretti and Maicon patrol the flanks. Daniele De Rossi, Pjanic, and Kevin Strootman manage the midfield. Michael Bradley, Rodrigo Taddei, and Marco Boriello have all come in off the bench to add a spark.
These players are part of the team's core. And according to Pallotta, keeping that core together will be a major component in determining whether or not Roma will be an annual participant in Champions League.
"It's really important that we're focused on having the team together," Pallotta said. "That will make this a very strong team for the next three years."
Off the field, the club is achieving stability. The fiscal crisis that Pallotta inherited when he helped take over Roma in 2011 is under control. The club has developed key partnerships with Disney and Nike. And, Roma plans to continue marketing the team to its American supporters by playing more friendlies in the U.S. during the summer months.
The last piece of the puzzle could be building a newstadium, a project which Pallotta says is moving right along. The circa-60 thousand-seat stadium in Tor di Valle, a part of Rome about 10 miles from the city center, is expected to open for the 2016/2017 season, according to Pallotta.
"There are no delays on the stadium," said Pallotta. "By the end of the year we should have a good announcement. It's on our schedule of when we want to have it open."
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