AS Roma have suffered inconsistencies in their quest to remain at the peak of Serie A this season, which could be eradicated by the return of injured veteran Francesco Totti.
Totti is back in training after missing two months due to a thigh problem, the Roman hero featuring on just three occasions in the league so far.
Two of those outings ended in victories, while the revered captain also notched his first goal of the campaign in a 2-2 draw against Sassuolo – a club-record 300th of his career.
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The Giallorossi have won five of seven Serie A matches played in his absence, but it’s the recent loss at Inter Milan and subsequent 2-2 draw against Bologna that have frustrated the capital club in their attempts to claim top spot.
Those negative results highlighted the need for a leader who can be called upon to utilise his vast experience in order to steer Roma through stormy waters - an attribute which has been sorely lacking in the forward areas during Totti’s spell on the sidelines.
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Roma boast an abundance of pace and power in the attacking department of their glittering squad, provided by Mohamed Salah, Gervinho, Iago Falque and Edin Dzeko.
They also have the delightfully skilful Miralem Pjanic – the creative heartbeat of their side – in midfield.
Rudi Garcia’s men are nicely poised in fourth position, just three points behind latest league leaders Inter. They’ve also scored 29 goals after 13 outings, 21 of which have arrived from the five aforementioned players combined.
Additionally, that impressive quintet laid on ten of Roma’s 29 strikes for others, with 25-year-old playmaker Pjanic responsible for five assists.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the potent attacking threat currently offered by the Giallorossi; what they miss at times – without Totti – is someone with cool head, who savours possession and can help see out a tight contest successfully.
Coach Garcia could certainly have done with that steadying influence at Bologna when his team took a late 2-1 lead, only to concede an equaliser three minutes from the end through Roma-owned striker Mattia Destro.
At 39-years-old, Totti is unable to perform at the same level he once did. He usually can’t complete 90 minutes repeatedly over the course of successive games, while he often runs out of steam these days when he does start.
However, the impact he can have from the bench when Roma are under severe pressure could prove to be the difference between three points and one, or even none at all in some cases.
Fellow forwards Gervinho and Salah are both renowned for their running abilities with the ball, but their direct approach can often lead to the loss of ball control in the final third.
Should the Lupi find themselves in need of an outlet who can hold it up, lay it off simply and keep the team ticking over, then there’s no-one better qualified than Totti.
The veteran schemer also has an eye for a killer pass which can unlock opposition defences - whether he is selected in the starting line-up or appears later on. That fact could also procure extra points that Roma would potentially forego without Totti’s composure and overall contribution.
Above all, the significant presence of the awe-inspiring Francesco Totti inside the dressing room, and on the training field, is priceless for the morale and confidence of the entire squad.
With the capital native among them, and ready to battle alongside them, his team-mates can feel entitled to believe they’re able to achieve anything once they step out on to the pitch.
He’s a born winner, leader and icon. A man nearing the conclusion of an outstanding career, he could yet bestow one last honour upon his beloved city of Rome before retirement.