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Friday November 2 2012
You’ve got to love Zeman…

As Roma lost another five-goal thriller in midweek, Alex Mott explains why Serie A needs Coach Zdenek Zeman.

If the world of football is a deeply cynical one, then Italy is its arc-protagonist. Over the past 20 years in calcio, we've had allegations of doping, countless betting scandals and a match-fixing case so widespread it almost ended the game on the peninsula.

Off the field, fans have become enormously disillusioned, but on it, supporters across Europe still see Serie A as a boring, ultra-defensive throw-back to a time when players sported moustaches and had proper jobs. The 2003 Champions League Final between Milan and Juventus is the sort of game that people can't forget – permanently seared on their unconscious, awakening you at night to remind you that football can be awful.

A group of Coaches though are fighting back, ignoring the traditions of Catenaccio and throwing off the shackles. Walter Mazzarri's Napoli almost upset the eventual European champions last season with a free-flowing, open game.

Francesco Guidolin has proved that with an experimental scouting network and faith in his convictions, Udinese can challenge with the very best, year-in, year-out.

Lazio, a team moulded around the mercurial brilliance of Hernanes, have become genuine contenders this term, scoring three or more goals in five games.

Andrea Stramaccioni's Inter has shown the sort of tactical bravery his Primavera side showed last season with their NextGen Series win. An attacking triumvirate of Antonio Cassano, Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio have rocketed the Nerazzurri up the table. And I haven't even mentioned Wesley Sneijder.

There's one man, however, more gung-ho, more attacking, more reckless, more steadfast in his beliefs. Roma Coach Zdenek Zeman is the person doing single-handedly more to save Italian football than any other.

When the Luis Enrique Experiment went up the wall for the Giallorossi over the summer, only one man would do to fix the under-whelming mess the Stadio Olimpico side had become. The Czech tactician had just guided Pescara up from Serie B by playing some of the best football Italy's Second Division had ever seen and the American hierarchy in charge in the capital wanted a bit of that action.

He was quickly appointed, and put to work his updated version of Holland's Total Football model. Fluid, fast and ultimately fallible, this team would banish the sterile domination their Spanish Coach had previously instilled and return to the game that fans wanted to see.

“This sport is hugely popular not because of big business,” he once told reporters. “But because in every corner of the world there is a child having fun with a football.”

Fun on the ball is what Zeman's Roma are all about – piling men forward and not caring about the consequences. The club's last three games have seen 16 goals. Two of them were losses, but really, who cares?

No one has scored more than Roma this season – 22, the same as Juventus – and no one has conceded more than Roma this season. For a neutral, that's about the greatest stat you'll see, but for fans of the team, it doesn't make for pretty reading.

And the Prague-born boss has now received the dreaded 'vote of confidence' from sporting director Walter Sabatini. “We know what we have to do and we’ll support the Coach. We’ll look to understand the motives for these black-outs which are affecting us, but I ask the fans to have faith.”

Whatever becomes of Zeman, no one can deny his brilliant stubbornness to bring joy to the tifosi. As he once said: “Whenever we attack, all three forwards have to be in the penalty area while two of the three midfielders come forward as well.

“That way the opponent is pinned back. Then you put the ball in the box, and because you have more men, you have more chances of scoring. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple maths.”

It might fail. In fact, it probably will. But while it lasts, Zdenek Zeman's Roma side need to cherished for what they are – the brilliant losers bringing the fun back to calcio.

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Have your say...
I am truly the biggest Roma fan, and I believe that zeman is doing Italian football a favor. I've never seen a team so beautifull fast flowing football like Roma are right now. Keeping zeman is a must the players just need time. Frorza Roma
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 5:11pm
Zeman is brilliant, but i agree with some that the defenders we have are not of the best quality. the problems Roma have had in many of the games they have lost have nothing to do with the team or even the play on the field. against Udinese the opposition scored 2 offside goals and were granted a penalty that should have been non-existent. one could argue that the Parma game should have been called off because of the weather and the way the pitch reacted to so much water. he needs more time.
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 4:39pm
Zdenek Zeman sacked by xmas saying it all along
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 4:37pm
there's nothing wrong with zeman or his tactics, roma just need to score 3 instead of 2, 4 instead of 3, usw. there are 4 south american kids on the back line right now. 2 are under 20, the others 25 and 23. they are immensely talented and will get better. there are 2 more 20 year olds in front of them in the midfield. relax, 3/4 of the season remains.
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 4:30pm
hello people, you lost the real context, the meaning of this article. “This sport is hugely popular not because of big business,” he once told reporters. “But because in every corner of the world there is a child having fun with a football.” - zeman. win or lose, zeman brings desperately needed excitement back to serie a. haters can say what ever they feel about zeman, but the goals-for and goals-against speak for themselves. action! excitement! the only draw back, just wish roma had more points
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 4:29pm
Roma have not scored 22 goals. They've scored 19. The 3-0 win awarded to them for the Cagliari walkover doesn't count when we're analyzing their performances.
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 4:23pm
I'm a Juve fan, but I am enjoying watching Roma play because there is constant action, be it Roma scoring, or as of late, the opponents scoring more !! Its nice to see a team play with everyone pushing forward, with defensive abandonment, but not too many Roma fans can be happy right now.....the Juve game exposed all the holes in Zeman's attacking philosophy. I dont think he'll make it past December with the Giallorossi.
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 4:13pm
not impressed with Zeman so far. It is still early in the season, but certainly we have lost an easy 6 to 7 points due to his tactics. These tactics will not work in Serie A with a youthful team....
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 4:09pm
It is so much fun watching zeman lose.
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 4:02pm
Its not rocket science Zeman is clueless. We arent Barcelona we cant play in this ridiculous way. If we had a different coach we would be at least 6 points better off and 3rd place maybe a reality. He needs to go as I keep saying. The americans need to show some backbone and deal with things. Palermo and then the derby della capitale. Losing against Palermo is unthinkable but losing the derby, We just cant. We need to fight with everything we ve got. We need at least a europa league spot.
on the 2nd November, 2012 at 3:19pm

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