Eusebio Di Francesco proving his worth at Roma

Chloe Beresford by Chloe Beresford / 31 October 2017, 13:36

It only takes a look at Roma’s results from last season to see how wildly unpredictable they were under former boss Luciano Spalletti. In blinding form in February, they breezed past Fiorentina 4-0 before recording a 2-0 win against Crotone, a stunning 4-0 victory away from home against Villarreal and a 4-1 win over Torino.

They looked unstoppable at this point, but the bipolar side then suffered crushing losses to derby rivals Lazio, top-of-the-table adversaries Napoli and a 4-2 defeat to Lyon in the next Europa League round in March. This has been a constant problem for the Giallorossi as they have done battle with Juventus for the title in recent years, only to be crushed by the consistency of the Old Lady, a trait that has been so badly lacking in Rome.

Spalletti departed for Inter this summer after moving away from the harsh spotlight of criticism that is always found in the capital, and in came one of their former players in Eusebio Di Francesco. The 48-year-old had steered lowly Sassuolo from Serie B to their top flight-debut, earning a place in the Europa League with a sixth-place finish in 2016/16.

His achievements in Reggio Emilia were nothing short of incredible, but his lack of Champions League experience in particular could have meant that any credit earned with the Roma supporters during his playing days could have quickly evaporated. But into the lion’s den he went and – so far at least – he is keeping the majority of critics away with a very impressive start indeed.

At Sassuolo he became wedded to the 4-3-3 system, deploying dynamic forwards such as Simone Zaza, Gregoire Defrel, Domenico Berardi and Nicola Sansone in that front trident. The fact that he favoured that attacking lineup was no surprise, seeing as he had played under Zdenek Zeman back when he played for the Giallorossi.

“Zeman's 4-3-3 cannot be bettered, as in terms of attacking football he is beyond reach,” said Di Francesco upon his appointment at Lecce back in 2011. “I learned so much from Zeman, such as sporting fairness and the culture of using action rather than words.”

Whilst the Czech boss has somewhat of a cult following, there are some flaws to his methods. His approach has been found to be unnecessarily cavalier, a reason why Di Francesco has not wholeheartedly adopted it as his own. Even at Sassuolo, that formation easily converted to a 4-5-1 when his side was defending and this more pragmatic style has certainly benefited his new Roma side.

Their last three league matches have ended in 1-0 victories, seemingly bringing an end to the crash-and-burn show that fans saw under Spalletti, and a hard-fought 3-3 draw with Chelsea showed they are less prone to collapse than they were before.

After all, the tactician not only worked under Zeman at Roma, but also learned from the pragmatic Fabio Capello. It was under the former England boss that the Giallorossi last won the Scudetto, and the early signs are promising that Di Francesco is ready to learn from the mistakes of the recent past and learn from the careful yet effective play brought to the capital by his former boss.

“I was fortunate enough to work with the likes of Fabio Capello, Gigi Cagni and Luciano Spalletti too,” the young boss continued in that same interview. “I ‘stole’ secrets from those Coaches and now put my own twist on things.”

Now six years on, Eusebio Di Francesco is still putting his own twist on things, only this time it looks like it could be just what Roma need.

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Last man down

Phil Parkinson
Phil Parkinson
(Bolton Wanderers)
21st August