Reports have surfaced that Italian club AS Roma has taken the rare step of confining its players to the training ground for the next few days after a run of poor results has left the side seventh in the Serie A table.
On Saturday, Roma held a 2-0 lead over 13th-placed Cagliari and coughed up that lead, conceding a 95th minute equalizer despite seeing the opponents reduced to just nine men two minutes prior.
According to both Sky Italia and Gianluca di Marzio, and later confirmed by Roma Radio, the club has decided to keep all players locked in the training ground for a “training retreat” through Wednesday’s Champions League fixture against Victoria Plzen. The reports state the measure is less of a concentration on the midweek fixture and more of a strictly punitive measure, as the Champions League match is meaningless, having already confirmed a spot in the knockout stage.
The reports also discuss the job security of manager Eusebio Di Francesco, with the 49-year-old reportedly safe for now, although he apparently does appear to be drawing the ire of president Jim Palotta, while currently maintaining the backing of highly regarded sporting director Monchi.
Di Francesco was furious with his team after the match on Saturday, throwing the players under the bus for mistakes on the field, and suggesting they ignored his instructions. “My team tried to kill the game off for 70 minutes and I get angry when I see some of the mistakes we make,” he told the official Roma website after the match, “when players make the wrong choice and go for goal instead of passing to a team-mate. That leads to situations like this. It’s absurd. I don’t even want to talk about tactics. We had some highly experienced players out there today who should never concede a goal like that.”
The boss then suggested he may have to get harsh on the players, possibly foreshadowing the decision to hold the retreat. “We’ve used the carrot and the stick already this season,” Di Francesco said. “I didn’t have many options today. I had lots of kids on the bench plus [Javier] Pastore and [Diego] Perotti, who aren’t at their best. When Cagliari equalized we had five experienced defenders on the pitch. Sometimes there’s little for the coach to explain. I do have to take responsibility, though. I’m absolutely gutted about this result. It was in our hands. It was an absurd game: you can’t concede an equalizer in the last 30 seconds playing 11 v nine.”
Roma has won just once in its last seven Serie A matches, with losses to bottom-half sides SPAL and Udinese in that span as well. That, coupled with a similar four-match winless run earlier in the season, has left the club in a precarious position for Champions League qualification next season, sitting four points back of fourth-placed AC Milan and eight behind third-placed Inter.