"No sadness, we're chasing Juve." Those were Daniele De Rossi's words following his club's disappointing Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Napoli. The midfielder was speaking at a book launch in Rome and keen to remind everyone listening that his team still had their eyes on some important prizes.
La Gazzetta dello Sport shared more of the 30-year-old's thoughts:
We can't be sad now. Certainly, we missed out on the first goal of the season but the road is still long and we are there, second only to Juventus.
[Against Napoli] if we had scored right away, maybe we could have changed the game, but the same was true when we played them in the league. During the first half they had had more chances, if they had gone ahead we would not have achieved one of the victories that have led us to the record. This is football, you have to give everything and you have to work to do better.
You can not do anything but go forward. The season is still long. We will bounce back, we did it already against Juve and we got some important results. This year we are a real team and we'll win.
That last remark hits to the core of this season's Roma. After years of underachieving, of boom-and-bust seasons and constant change on the pitch and on the bench, the Giallorossi now look like a proper team.
There's a unity among the players that hasn't been seen for a long time at the Olimpico and a genuine sense that everyone is pulling in the same direction and dreaming of the same goals.
So they're out of the Coppa Italia and some way behind a rampant Juventus in the league. However, all is not lost for Roma.
In fact, as almost any Romanista will tell you, this is probably the most positive season the Giallorossi have had since Fabio Capello was on the bench and a young Francesco Totti had Gabriel Batistuta and Vincenzo Montella up front for company.
A lot's been said about Gervinho's excellent form—Sports Illustrated revealed that he has blamed his Premier League struggles on Arsene Wenger—and the dynamic midfield performances of Kevin Strootman, De Rossi, Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan, but the truth is that Roma's success this term has come from the overall effort.
Rudi Garcia has built a team that is more than the sum of their parts, one that he can rely on to perform well as a group even if a key player is struggling.
The players seem to be fully behind the coach, who is known to inspire confidence and camaraderie. As a city, there are few places more difficult for a manager or a player to succeed. The intense, 24/7 dissection of every minute detail creates the kind of pressure that few can handle.
Roma are handling it perfectly at the moment. They've done more than simply soak up the pressure—they've fed from it, silencing their critics with confident displays and the kind of dominant victories that have at times bordered on the belligerent.
They are still by no means the finished article, but with a supportive board behind him, available resources, one of the best transfer operators in the business in the form of Walter Sabatini and time, there's no limit to what the Frenchman can achieve with the Lupi.
The rest of this season is about continuing that project, and then seeing what comes. Juventus look to have a comfortable lead, but Roma have a game in hand and don't look like dropping many points.
Before playing Sampdoria, they had nine clean sheets in their previous 11 home games. They still have to welcome Inter, Milan and Juventus to the Olimpico, but with such a stingy defence, it's hard to see any of the three Northern clubs heading home with much to show for themselves.
The Bianconeri, meanwhile, travel to the San Siro, Naples' San Paolo and host Fiorentina at home before heading south for their encounter with Roma. A lot can happen in games like those.
Even if Antonio Conte guides Juve to a historic third title in a row, however, the season will have been an unquestionable success for Garcia and Roma. The managerial merry-go-round has finally stopped, they've found a system that works while bedding in a lot of new players at the same time and they've sent a clear message to clubs at home and abroad.
This year, Roma have honed their skills and stalked their prey closely. Next year, expect them to go straight for the jugular.
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