Despite success in La Liga, Fernando Gago and Bojan Krkic are nowhere near Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. Luis Enrique’s first and only season at AS Roma was not the best of his career as he failed in all three competitions Serie A, Coppa Italia and Europa League but it wasn’t a catastrophe as the media put it. The Italian media wanted him to fail but his success at Barcelona shows that he is no fool and he did learn a thing or two while in Rome.
Luis Enrique is known for his weird unpredictable line-ups, he has his own way of deciding who should play and who should not. He even decides who should play where without having the fear of putting a few key players out of their comfort zone as we saw with both Lionel Messi and Francesco Totti. Luis Enrique was the ideal choice for Roma’s new management back then. The club wanted to go ahead with a unique project that puts the club among Europe’s elite. Unfortunately, things did not go well, despite dominating possession and a few stunning performances, the club’s starting XI was quite fragile, particularly at the back. The club’s transfer window was a complete failure with the exception of Miralem Pjanic as Gabriel Heinze, Simon Kjaer, Pablo Osvaldo, Jose Angel and many others were too old, inexperienced or lacked character.
With every decision to leave Totti out of the first XI will come greater scrutiny of the coach. In Luis Enrique’s first test at Roma, Totti picked up a muscle injury in the days building up to a Europa League play-off clash with Slovan Bratislava. The Asturian coached benched the captain. Slovan won, the end result of the game meant that Roma were out of Europe before even reaching the group stage. Since then, the media waged a war on the manager despite Totti denying a rift with his manager. Similary, on the 4th of January this year, The coach bizarrely left Messi out of his starting line-up against Real Sociedad. The Catalans lost 1-0 to David Moyes’ side.
That result kept Barcelona one point below Real Madrid who were yet to play their 17th match of the season. Hundreds of articles were witten about a crisis at Camp Nou, about an immature coach who lacked responsibility but five months on, he won the treble. Messi had his best season ever and he adapted to a new possession where he became more of a playmaker. The same way Totti dropped back and created plenty of chances every single game. While Luis Enrique’s Roma failed to win, Totti was second only to Iniesta in chance creation, averaging over 3.5 per game.
Messi and Totti are quite different but they have one thing in common: They are undisputed leaders at their respective teams. The Argentine will lead Barcelona until he wants, just as the Roman does in Rome. Luis Enrique understood Totti’s importance the hard way but it taught him how to deal with Messi. Everyone shoul be treated eqauly but some players deserve different treatment due to their status and power at the club.
Barcelona are already on top of La Liga with three wins from three. The difference between them and Roma is huge, they even showed it in pre-season in the Joan Gamper trophy when they beat the Romans 3-0. Roma have just started their third season under Rudi Garcia, a manager who brought stability to the club by finishing twice runner-up to Juventus, he’s expected to win the title this season, anything less than that would be deemed as failure especially with the big signings at his disposal including Edin Dzeko, Mohammed Salah and Lucas Digne. The Frenchman needs to be fully aware of his sides capabilities.
Last season Garcia attempted to play attacking football against Bayern Munich and it backlashed as his side lost 7-1. He learnt his lesson this time around by having a proper approach to the game. Despite the absence of Leandro Castan and Pjanic, Roma bridged out the gap and with a bit of luck their got a well deserved draw against Barcelona. This performance should push the Romans in their Serie A campaign and give them more confidence but they still have a long way to go in both competitions!
Both Luis Enrique and Rudi Garcia can learn plenty from their own experience in previous seasons at Roma. While benching Totti comes at a certain cost, sometimes it could be in favour of the club’s dynamic fluid football while on other occasions, Totti’s experience is key in big matches where Daniele De Rossi’s experience is not enough to lead the club. Roma are enjoying a good moment but so are Bayer Leverkusen and Inter. Of course, we cannot forget Juventus who with the win against Manchester City might return to their best. For now, Roma must remain humble and work hard.