Ever since the departure of Luciano Spalletti in 2009, AS Roma have struggled for an identity. They've flown through coaches, never really seeming committed to a long-term plan, despite those they've hired suggesting they were prepared to be patient. It's now 12 years since they last won a league title.
Claudio Ranieri took over from Spalletti, but, as ever, never really seemed to be anything more than a short-term fix. After Ranieri's firing, Vincenzo Montella took over on a temporary basis, though he left for Catania at the end of the season, eventually replaced by Luis Enrique as American Thomas DiBenedetto took charge of the club. A great new era was heralded.
Enrique's only prior coaching experience had been three years at the Barcelona B team, but he arrived with promise of reinventing Roma in the Barca style. Sadly, patience wore thin, and it became apparent before the end of the season that the relationship wouldn't last. Enrique stayed until the campaign finished, but the giallorossi finished seventh and he left the Olimpico clasping the remains of his shredded project.
If Enrique was a bold appointment, his replacement for this season, Zdeněk Zeman, was probably even more so. Possibly the most offensively-minded coach Serie A has ever seen, Zeman arrived at Roma for a second spell fresh from an incredible season with Pescara in Serie B, where his all-out-attack approach saw the delfini storm into the top tier.
Sadly, Zeman's defensive deficiencies meant he fell out of favour too, and after a 4-2 defeat at home to Cagliari left Roma eighth, he was dismissed in February. Assistant coach Aurelio Andreazzoli took over as a stop-gap measure, and after a Coppa Italia final defeat, he looks set to be given the boot too, despite initial signs suggesting he could get the job full time.The depressing Roma cycle went round again, and the giallorossi are back at square one.
This time, though, the change could be more than just evident in the dugout and on the training field. General manager Franco Baldini, -- whose arrival coincided with that of Luis Enrique -- has been linked with a directorial position at Tottenham, and latest reports suggest he's ready to make the jump.
With the giallorossi's lack of success in the last couple of years, perhaps that wouldn't be such a bad thing. The perpetual season-ending deflation could suggest that it is time for a top-down change at the Olimpico, with over 72% of those who answered a recent Corriere dello Sport poll in favour of a departure of both Baldini, and sporting director Walter Sabatini.
Of the utmost importance, however, is who will replace Andreazzoli as coach. With the team's first choice Massimiliano Allegri having agreed a new deal at Milan, they've gone back to the drawing board and come back with some interesting names. Despite Roma's recent 'projects' not exactly going to plan, suggestions are that they're going to make yet another experimental appointment.
Former French national coach Laurent Blanc could make his first foray into domestic football outside of France, while the same is true of Rudi Garcia, who has recently left Lille after five years -- winning the league and cup double in 2011. Their lack of foreign experience would render either of these coaches a risk, though most terrifying of all is the prospect of Marcelo Bielsa, whose attacking approach makes him no less of a bold appointment than Zeman was.
The question is, whether Roma are willing to take such a high-risk again. After their last few seasons, the appeal of a 'safer' option like Bologna's Stefano Pioli or Parma's Roberto Donadoni is obvious, yet seemingly unambitious for a side that should be challenging nearer the top of the table.
But, maybe the fear of being unambitious is part of Roma's problem. Since being taken over by DiBenedetto, Roma seem to have become obsessed with the idea of making bold moves to try and stamp an identity on a side which continues to grasp for one. The continual hirings and firings as the owners and directors chop and change have only further served to muddy the waters.
What they seem to really need is stability, and a versatile, pragmatic coach capable of delivering results. Maybe they just need to play it safe.