New Roma coach Spalletti to work on mentality

Luciano Spalletti (Supplied)
Luciano Spalletti (Supplied)

Milan - Roma may have finished runners-up the past two seasons but are heading into the unknown after replacing sacked coach Rudi Garcia with former handler Luciano Spalletti.

Spalletti will take over at Roma in time for this weekend's visit of Verona, following Garcia's sacking on Wednesday due to a poor run of results which left them in fifth place at seven points behind leaders Napoli.

But a series of underlying problems could leave the former Zenit St. Petersburg coach requiring a psychological, as much as a physical approach to remedying Roma's malaise.

"The first problem we need to sort out is the mentality of the players," Spalletti told Rome-based newspaper Il Tempo.

With only one win in their last seven league outings, Roma's confidence has hit an all-time low.

But the workload at Roma's Trigoria training complex could be about to increase dramatically amid rumours Garcia's fitness coaches were at the mercy of key players at the club.

Reports claim players under Garcia refused to wear a GPS system designed to measure their intensity during training sessions.

If confirmed, that refusal might explain why Roma have consistently underwhelmed fans.

Currently, Roma sit 19th among the league's 20 teams for the average number of kilometres (98.176 km) covered by the team in league games - a statistic that suggests training sessions are not being optimised.

Marco Cassetti, who played under Spalletti during the coach's previous spell at the club, believes the Italian will ditch Garcia's preferred 4-3-3 formation for his preferred 4-2-3-1.

He warned Roma's players to expect a heavier workload, but says it could pay dividends.

"Spalletti is the right man for the job," Cassetti told Il Messaggero, another Rome-based daily.

"I think he'll bring back the 4-2-3-1, a system that demands a lot from the players in terms of energy spent on the pitch so I think they'll have to work hard in training.

"To my ex-teammates at Roma there's only one thing I can say: keep the faith with Spalletti because it's worth it."

Overall, Spalletti's return has been welcomed. The club's shares rose nearly six percentage points on Wednesday and former Roma striker Luca Toni, now at Verona, echoed Cassetti when he said: "He knows the club well... you'll see, he won't mess up."

Whether five months is enough for a successful Spalletti revolution remains to be seen.

Spalletti has already succeeded where Garcia failed - winning silverware with Roma - but despite signing an 18-month contract, a report in La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday claimed club president James Pallotta included a clause whereby Spalletti would depart in May if he fails to reach Roma's objectives.

Spalletti, whose playing career peaked with Empoli when they played in Italy's third tier Serie C, steered Roma to successive Italian Cup victories in 2007 and 2008.

He left the club in 2009 to begin a five-year spell at Zenit, where he won two Russian Premier League titles (2010, 2012) and the 2011 Russian Super Cup.

A similar run of success would likely see fans return to their deserted Stadio Olimpico in their droves.

Garcia's third and final season was plagued by a mass exodus of fans amid an ongoing dispute between fans and Pallotta after the club split the two 'Curve' (Ends) so cherished by the hardline ultras by building a security barrier down the middle.

The fans protested by staying away in their thousands, while thousands more left the Olimpico deserted following a string of poor performances.

Former club president, Rosella Sensi, said: "I'm delighted with his return. I hope now the fans will find their enthusiasm again."

A trip to champions Juventus next week - in a fixture that has gained special significance the last two seasons - should give Roma an idea if that prospect can become reality.

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