So, here we are.
Early December, and Roma have qualified for the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League after topping a group which included two heavyweights of European football in Chelsea and Atlético Madrid.
They were written off as also-rans the second the draw was made, but the Giallorossi defied the odds and can now look forward to playing in the continent’s premier club competition after Christmas.
Their form in Serie A has been equally impressive so far, as they currently sit in fourth position with a game in hand on the three teams above them; Napoli, Inter and Juventus.
Should they win a rearranged encounter with Sampdoria, they would find themselves just two points behind the leaders.
Considering the scepticism that coach Eusebio Di Francesco’s arrival was greeted with during the summer, one would never have thought the Stadio Olimpico outfit would be in such a strong position come this stage of the season.
Earlier this week, club captain Daniele De Rossi spoke very candidly about the transition from Luciano Spalletti’s departure to Inter and Di Francesco’s arrival from Sassuolo: “Spalletti made a mess last season. As you know, there was a particular atmosphere with Francesco [Totti] and we all suffered a bit. Still, I also want to point out the goodness of his work.
“I was right to say that replacing Spalletti would be difficult, but I didn’t say it was impossible. This has been shown by our journey under Di Francesco, while our results are there for all to see. It seems to me that Di Francesco’s first six months have been our best ever. Even Spalletti didn’t do so well on his return.”
While DDR’s words are obviously conditioned by the way in which the Tuscan tactician chose to manage Totti’s final season, he does in fact make a good point.
Di Francesco has taken charge of a very good Roma side – let’s not forget they set a record points total in Serie A last season despite finishing second – and arguably made them even better.
With the exception of one or two minor hiccups, they look a very solid unit defensively. They attack with purpose and have an enviable array of talent at the top end of the pitch.
Roma fans are a very demanding bunch and so the fact Di Francesco didn’t arrive with what you might call an ‘international profile’ did him no favours to begin with.
The decision to hire him has already been vindicated, with the team setting a blistering pace both at home and abroad. The man they call EDF is repaying the club’s faith more and more with each passing week.
He and his players have worked with very little fanfare, but they could well be on the brink of achieving something really special together.
Written by Jordan Russell
Follow Jordan on Twitter @JordRuss96
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