Rudi Garcia has not changed (much)

Classé dans : AWoF in English

The new Roma coach applies the same philosophy in the Italian capital as he did in Lille, his former club, despite a few inflections.

Roma’s starting eleven against Lazio.

– Read this article in French

The first pass

Between the 4-3-3, with which he won the double Ligue 1 – Coupe de France in 2011 with Lille, and the 4-2-3-1 he regularly used during his last season in the North of France, Rudi Garcia has chosen the later at Roma. His general philosophy has remained the same : ensuring possession, mastering the rhythm of the game, playing short passes, attacking on the wings.

But one of Lille’s main weaknesses last season can also be found in this year’s Roma. With two midfielders and two central defenders, all four in front of the opponent’s defensive block, the initial steps of the offensive plays often mobilises too many players.

It secures possession and reduces the risk of losing the ball quickly at the back. But against Lazio, with Kevin Strootman and Daniele De Rossi sometimes playing very deep both at the same time, Roma was deprived of solutions for forward passes. Hence a first half with little offensive action (four shots from Roma at the half).

However, Rudi Garcia adapted a few aspects of his usual organisation to suit Roma’s players. With De Rossi and Strootman, the Frenchman has better players at playing long balls than he had in Lille with Rio Mavuba and Florent Balmont. Roma’s style of play can then be more direct (seven long balls from De Rossi against Lazio, for instance).

The other distorsion is the position of Federico Balzaretti when Strootman plays higher up the pitch, still at the beginning of the offensive plays. The left full-back drops deep to maintain the same number of players (four) and offer a lateral solution.

The full-backs

The full-backs precisely remain key in Garcia’s system. But here again, the French manager adapted to the slightly different type of players he has in Roma. Like Mathieu Debuchy in Lille, the right full-back Maicon is the most offensive of the two and is often very high up the pitch.

Maicon is high up the pitch on his right flank in the initial phase of the play. Balzaretti is deeper to compensate. De Rossi and Strootman remains in front of the opposing defensive block, hence a lack of solutions for forward passes in the centre.

As a consequence, Balzaretti compensates on the left side, to maintain more or less a line of three at the back (which disappears on the later stages of the plays). Despite his goal, the Italian was the most careful of the two full-backs against Lazio. His runs forward on his flank came from deeper positions.

It was quite the same organisation in Lille, with Debuchy and Franck Béria, but the distinction between the two flanks seems to be higher in Roma, maybe because of a distrust in Maicon’s defensive abilities.

And like Lille under Garcia’s reign, Roma was also vulnerable on the defensive transitions, mainly on Balzaretti’s flank, which seems paradoxical. The necessary compensations from Strootman and De Rossi opened space in the centre, but Lazio did not take advantage of it. The centre-back pair of Mehdi Benatia and Leandro Castan, both very good on Sunday, ensured that.

The offensive animation

Rudi Garcia applies in Roma the same key principles of offensive animation as in Lille. Priority is given to percussion on the flanks. But the main difference lies in the unique player Roma has in Francesco Totti. On paper, « il Capitano » plays as a center-forward. The reality is very different.

More than Miralem Pjanic, Totti is the real playmaker of Garcia’s team. He consistently drops in midfield to organise and frequently orientates the plays to the wings. Lazio’s defenders, and Lorik Cana most of all, tried to reduce his influence. They failed. Totti suffered five fouls that could have altered the rhythm of his game. It did not : 83 touches – more than any player in this derby –, 8 key passes, 3 dribbles, 81 % of pass completion. Another worldclass display.

But Totti dropping deep creates two main issues. First, it leads to a concentration of Roma players in the centre – except if Pjanic moves to wider areas – that harms its fluidity. It also means a lack of offensive presence, isolating the wingers. Rudi Garcia already encountered such difficulties with Lille, especially against compact defensive organisations.

With Totti’s relatively free role, the wingers are paramount in the efficiency of Roma’s attack, maybe even more than they were for Garcia in Lille, where he played with a « real » centre-forward. These offensive players on the flanks must cut in to the centre to compensate, as well as offer runs behind the defence. But on Sunday, Lazio played with a low defensive line in the first half, which deprived of space the active but clumsy Gervinho and the light Alessandro Florenzi.

The later’s replacement by Adem Ljajic, incisive and relentless in taking on his opponents, proved decisive. After Balzaretti’s opening goal, Roma finally found space in midfield, moved the ball faster and played quite effectively on the counter. Ljajic was rewarded with a late penalty to confirm Roma’s supremacy in the derby, the giallorossi‘s fourth win in four games this season.

Roma’s passes in the final third, with a high concentration on the wings. | via StatsZone


Like he did in Lille, Rudi Garcia relies on a system of multiple compensations, to preserve the balance of his team : Balzaretti/Maicon, Totti and the wingers, the trio in midfield. Overall, it is very fluid, even if Roma struggles against deep and compact defensive organisations.

The French manager also took good in-game decisions since the beginning of the season. Roma has scored ten goals so far, all of them after half-time and often after decisive changes by Garcia. This is also a familiar treat : in Lille, Ludovic Obraniak often was a super-sub when they won the double. It is up to Rudi Garcia to adapt this success story into an Italian best-seller.