AS Roma head coach Rudi Garcia desperately needs a victory over Empoli this weekend in an attempt to ward off the circling prophets of doom.
Frenchman Garcia has found himself under increasing pressure already this season, largely due to the impressive starts made by Fiorentina, Inter Milan and local rivals Lazio.
Also stirring the melting pot of speculation is the unexpected downturn in fortunes at reigning Serie A champions Juventus, who Roma lagged behind by 17 points last term.
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It was widely acknowledged that Garcia’s men were the most likely beneficiaries if the Bianconeri were to slip up at any point, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
A home win over 16th-placed Empoli has therefore become absolutely imperative if former Lille boss is to see through the project that he embarked upon at Roma just over two years ago.
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The fact that 51-year-old Garcia is looking over his shoulder at this early stage seems a little strange to say the least.
His side have lost only once in picking up 14 points from seven league games so far, while they began their Champions League campaign with a commendable 1-1 draw against Group E heavyweights Barcelona.
However, it’s a 2-2 home tie with Sassuolo in September, followed by a 2-1 defeat away to Sampdoria, from which the burgeoning negativity stems.
Allied to that, Roma rounded out last month by crashing disastrously at the hands of Belarusian outfit BATE Borisov in European competition, thus handing critics even more ammunition with which to aim at the beleaguered coach.
As far as much of the Italian media is concerned, the minimum requirement now involves Roma winning the Scudetto on the back of previously dominant Juventus’ stuttering start.
Garcia, meanwhile, will simply hope that his Giallorossi paymasters at least give him sufficient time to eventually assume a posting at the pinnacle of Serie A, rather than dispensing with his services out of misplaced haste.
A persistent problem for the capital club is their apparent inability to keep clean sheets on a consistent basis, with only one achieved in all competitions so far.
Opposition teams incessantly fire efforts at Roma’s goal to the tune of 12.1 per game, while a further 2.1 are blocked. Sooner or later, top-quality sides will surely locate the back of the net if they’re afforded enough opportunities – it’s inevitable.
Scoring at the other end hasn’t been of such concern, as they’ve notched an average 2.4 goals each game in league action, arising from 19 shots per match.
But, it’s the defensive area of the squad – both in midfield and at the back – where the Romans need to sharpen up in order to claim a regular run of shutouts.
Getting rid of Garcia at this juncture, who has led the Lupi to the Serie A runner-up spot in each of his two years at the helm, would appear decidedly premature.
There’s no doubting the club’s desire to lift a league title for the first time in 15 years come May, but with a little tweak here and there, current coach Garcia is the man best-placed to make that happen.
Having come so close to glory twice to date, this will prove a defining campaign one way or another for the 2011 Ligue 1 winner.