Looking at things in Serie A during the winter break, it is no surprise that Juventus are currently leading and have once again proven to be the best team in the league. Part of their success has to do with the play of two forwards that they brought in during the summer in Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente.
When looking the second-place team, it is surprisingly AS Roma who find themselves five points back.
After a couple of years of disappointments as the new Roma project was put in place, the success on the field was not matching the success that was being generated off of it. While many including myself expected to see Roma fighting for a Europa League spot if all things went well for them this season, no one expected to see them fighting for a spot in next season’s edition of the Champions League , especially as they sold off young stars Marquinhos and Erik Lamela.
While the club has made some astute player purchases by bringing in midfielder Kevin Strootman and defender Mehdi Benatia, the best and most prudent signing made by Roma made last summer was bringing in as coach a man who may not have been well known outside of his native France: Rudi Garcia.
The job that Garcia has done has been nothing short of impressive. He has found a way to bring attacking and defending balance to Roma, something it struggled with over the past two seasons.
Roma have only conceded seven goals so far in the first 17 league games. The play of the Roma defense is helped out by a strong central defending partnership of Benatia and Leandro Castan, and has benefited from Garcia coming in and making sure that defending well was a priority.
He has also done a good job of bringing out the best from Maicon, a player many thought had seen his best days while a young prospect like Dodo was beginning to come into his own.
The magical work of Garcia can also be seen in the play of the Roma midfield with the play of newcomer Kevin Strootman. Daniele De Rossi looks reinvigorated once again as he is patrolling the midfield like one of the best defensive/holding midfielders in the game. Meanwhile Miralem Pjanic, who showed equal parts of brilliance and non-existence in the last two years, has played much more consistently at a high level.
Then there is Gervinho, whom Garcia brought in feeling that he could bring the best out of a player he once coached at LOSC Lille, but who clearly lost his ways when he was at Arsenal. So far, he has proven to be a key contributor as he has scored four goals in 12 games.
In addition, another “lost cause” forward is beginning to rediscover his ways as Mattia Destro is slowly getting back to form after a long term injury absence. We often only think about players as being the most important acquisitions a team can make, but the case of Garcia has proven that a coach can be just that.