Soccer Champions League

AS Roma is Europe’s Surprise Team of the Season So Far

AS Roma

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows the cliche “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” but with the way Italian Serie A side AS Roma have been playing this season, Giallorossi (yellow and red) fans can be forgiven for thinking that it was. Sitting in second place with only one loss all season, Roma are undoubtedly the surprise team of Europe and have transformed from serial underachievers to finely tuned machines under the guidance of French coach Rudi Garcia.

With the addition of a few new faces, this is more or less the same Roma team that finished last season in sixth place in Italy’s top flight a full 25 points behind champions Juventus. To be honest, finishing behind a Juventus side that has won back-to-back Serie A titles isn’t anything to be particularly ashamed of, but failing to qualify for the Champions League for the third straight season certainly deserves scrutiny.

But that doesn’t even come close to Roma’s biggest disappointment of last season. When captain Francesco Totti and Co. were given the chance at qualifying for the Europa League — admittedly Europe’s less glamorous, secondary competition — by way of winning the Coppa Italia, they wasted it, losing 1-0 against fellow Romans and sworn rivals Lazio. 

What were then tears of despair for Roma fans and players have turned into tears of joy this season. Perhaps the best example being Italian international Federico Balzaretti‘s reaction to scoring the opening goal against Lazio in week four en route to a 2-0 win and — more importantly — a bit of revenge. That particular result, the first real test for Garcia’s project, proved to be a springboard for Roma who went on to win their next six games straight, setting a new Serie A record of 10 wins in a row.

Despite having their 17-game unbeaten streak snapped by a 3-0 loss to league leaders Juventus, Roma are side that is oozing confidence. Just take a look at Alessandro Florenzi‘s perfectly executed bicycle kick during Roma’s 4-0 dismembering of Genoa just a week ago (trust me it’s worth watching). Numbers say a lot about how a team is doing on any given season, and at the end of the day Roma will be judged just like any other team around Europe, so let’s take a look.

Roma have been absolutely ruthless at home and have scored 24 goals while allowing, wait for it, only one. The Giallorossi faithful are regularly treated to opposition teams being fed to lions like Douglas Maicon, Mehdi Benatia, Danielle De Rossi and Leandro Castan inside Roma’s Coloseum-esque stadium, the Stadio Olimpico. In fact, Roma have only allowed 10 goals all season, putting them on par with German powerhouse Bayern Munich and Garcia’s former side Lille OSC, who have allowed eight goals and 10 goals respectively.

Goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis has kept 13 clean sheets, the most out of any other keeper in Serie A, giving up only 0.52 goals against per game. Going into Saturday’s home match against Livorno, Roma has already broken another personal record by amassing 44 points at the halfway point with a record of 13 wins, five draws and one loss, besting former manager Luciano Spalletti‘s record of 42 set during the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

Roma has scored 42 goals so far, putting them behind Juventus’ 44 and ahead of Napoli’s 41, and they have shown that any player at any time can score with 13 different players celebrating individual goals so far. Interestingly enough, their leading goal scorers are central defender Benatia and midfielder Florenzi, both with five.

If numbers are anything to go by, then Roma are right on track to restoring themselves to the European elite. Barring any major setbacks, Garcia’s men are favorites to finish in the top three and return to Europe’s biggest stage where their presence has been missed.

Giancarlo Santoro is a soccer writer for RantSports.com, “Like” him on Facebook, Follow him on Twitter, or add him to your network on Google.