AS Roma’s sacking of head coach Rudi Garcia came as no surprise after insipid form of late left the club seven points off the pace set at the top of Serie A.
The former Ligue 1 winner with Lille arrived at Roma in the summer of 2013 and was immediately tasked with delivering a long-awaited Scudetto for the first time since 2001.
However, second-placed finishes in Serie A were achieved during his opening two campaigns at the helm, as Garcia struggled to topple dominant champions Juventus from their lofty perch.
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He also stuttered in European competition, with demotion to and eventual failure at the last-16 stage of the Europa League in 2014-15.
All of which placed a huge amount of pressure upon his shoulders this term to finally win the Italian league title at the third time of asking.
Matters looked rosy when a reinforced Roma squad overcame Juventus at home in September, with new boy Edin Dzeko on the scoresheet.
In fact, four other summer signings featured within the starting line-up alongside Dzeko in the shape of Iago Falque, Mohamed Salah, Lucas Digne and Wojciech Szczesny.
The 2-1 victory was seen as a significant statement of intent towards their attempts to usurp Juve at the Serie A pinnacle.
While the Old Lady stumbled from one crisis to another during the early days of the campaign, Roma kept on winning with great regularity.
Garcia’s men triumphed in seven of their opening ten outings, and when they did suffer losses to Sampdoria and Inter, they slipped straight back into form afterwards.
A 6-1 Champions League drubbing away to mighty Barcelona seemed to unsettle the Scudetto hopefuls in late November, though, and serious questions about Garcia’s ability to negotiate that final step towards the attainment of major honours began to burgeon.
Roma emerged victorious just once within the Frenchman’s last ten matches in charge across all competitions, including the embarrassment of losing on penalties to Serie B outfit Spezia in the Coppa Italia.
They also struggled through to the next round of the Champions League via a six-point haul in Group E that equalled the lowest total needed to qualify in the tournament’s history.
After a solid opening 20 minutes in their final contest under Garcia, in which they grabbed an early lead against AC Milan, their collective performance level dropped alarmingly.
The result of the match was an eventual 1-1 draw, but also-rans Milan had enough chances to bury the Giallorossi had they been more clinical.
It was a display that could be viewed as a reflection of a coach who knew his time was up at the Stadio Olimpico, with his players failing to showcase the requisite fighting qualities to suggest that they believed otherwise.
With Juventus very much back in the mix for the Serie A title thanks to a remarkable nine-match winning streak, it’s glaringly obvious that fifth-placed Roma have missed a golden opportunity to overhaul their illustrious foes.
They lack discipline, shape and creativity in key areas, as evidenced by just two goals in the space of six games from the beginning of the clash with Barcelona onwards.
Meanwhile, the renowned ultras have been at odds with the club’s board over plans to divide the Curva Nord and Sud sections due to poor recent results throughout the course of a campaign which has flattered to deceive.
If the Giallorossi had lived up to expectations following what appeared to be a strong summer in the transfer window, they would surely be well clear of the Bianconeri by now.
It’s plain to see that Roma’s players have underperformed over the last couple of months and, as always, the coach carries the can. Whether he is in fact to blame is open to interpretation.
Those problems encountered by Garcia will remain – at least in the short-term – for the new man to solve ahead of a daunting programme that includes Real Madrid and Juve once again.
Roma require a quick injection of confidence from somewhere if nothing else, but it remains to be seen whether firing the 51-year-old will have the desired effect.
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