AS Roma's 2-0 win over Parma on Sunday night was their fourth in an unbeaten five match streak. It is probably no coincidence that their current run started only a fortnight after Zdeněk Zeman was sacked, with interim coach Aurelio Andreazzoli staking a strong claim to have the prefix knocked off his job title.
While Zeman can't be blamed for all of the problems at Roma in his time in charge, the upturn in results since his departure could be indicative of a more suitable tactical strategy, as well as the oft-magnified morale boosting effect of the hiring of a new coach.
The giallorossi winger Marquinho has suggested a combination of both. "Andreazzoli has brought happiness, laughs, and we are always happy. Before we only attacked, now we have a better defence and concentration." If the changing room was short of laughter, then sacking the curmudgeonly Bohemian was probably the best thing they could have done.
After all, Zeman's only known to smile when a player collapses after being ordered to lap the training field one too many times; the coach evilly cackling with a stopwatch in one hand and a cigarette in the other. When playing under Zeman at Napoli, midfielder Matuzalém -- who was just coming back from an injury -- complained that he'd never run so much in his life. Perhaps, as described in the Italian media, Zeman's "massacre" is not the best way to boost team sprit.
As for the defence, Marquinho is definitely right. Since Andreazzoli was given the job temporarily, the tactics -- and mainly the defence -- have changed markedly. Results suggest they've changed for the better. Roma have gone from being a gung-ho all-out-attacking outfit to a more cautious unit, happy to sit back and counter when required. Out has gone the 4-3-3 and in has come a three-man defence.
Instead of cramming the team into a rigid shape, Andreazzoli has adapted the tactics to fit the players. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg's nightmares of only seeing a couple of defenders in front of him have subsided, and the Dutch international has reclaimed the number one spot in goal.
Daniele De Rossi -- who had a rather frosty relationship with Zeman -- has started all but one of Roma's matches since Andreazzoli took over. A player of his calibre is just too good to leave on the bench. Miralem Pjanić has impressed creatively alongside the destroyer De Rossi, while Francesco Totti -- a player who has enjoyed playing under Zeman -- has maintained his high level of performance.
It's evident that Andreazzoli knows Roma and their players better than anyone. He has, after all, been at the Olimpico since 2005, first brought in under the now-legendary coach Luciano Spalletti -- with whom he helped develop the 'strikerless' 4-2-3-1.
"He has the spirit of a Romanista and by sitting in the background over all these years he was able to gain experience, forming his own ideas. He can be the right man for the job." It's probably not surprising that Spalletti is backing his former right-hand man for the post, but his comments are correct regardless.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Andreazzoli wants the position. He's not being shy about it either. "If I'm honest, I do think that I deserve to be confirmed in the job," he's stated. Reports suggest he faces competition from incumbent AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City coaches Max Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Mancini respectively.
Bigger names, but not necessarily better options. President James Pallotta still has nine games left of the Serie A season to decide whether or not Andreazzoli should keep the post, though should he maintain this form, keeping him would probably be less of a risk than hiring him.
Don't forget, the last time Roma let an interim tactician go was Vincenzo Montella at the end of the 2010-11 season. With L'Aeroplanino now regarded as one of the most capable coaches in Italy, climbing towards the European places with Fiorentina, the Romanisti won't want to let another one slip.