Will John Arne Riise Stay in Rome Long Enough to Tan?
In the aftermath of John Arne Riise's departure from Liverpool, some speculated the Italian weather might be cause for some concern for the Norwegian redhead. Unfortunately, sunburn may well be preferable to the problems Roma are currently enduring.
During his seven years in England, Riise attained cult status and popularity among many Liverpool supporters. Nevertheless, his final season proved indifferent and culminated in him scoring an own goal that contributed to Liverpool's elimination in the Champions League semifinal.
Having been supplanted by Fabio Aurellio and reportedly offered to Aston Villa in part exchange for Gareth Barry, Riise left the Reds in June 2008 for the Giallorossi.
Riise became the first Norwegian to sign for a Serie A club since John Carew (Roma) and Tore Andre Flo (Siena) moved to the league in the 2003-04 season. Remarkably, while numerous Danes and Swedes have established themselves in the league, Norway's most successful exports to the country remain Per Bredesen and Ragnar Larsen of the 1950s.
The season so far has been tumultuous for the Giallorossi. Fans have become vocally restless amidst a situation that has already been described as a crisis. Roma's respected manager, Luciano Spalletti, who was reputedly in contention to succeed Avram Grant as Chelsea's manager, is under considerable pressure to remedy the club's troubles.
Before Tuesday's Champions League game against Chelsea, Roma had won three, drawn one, and lost eight. In Europe, Roma managed to mitigate a shock defeat to comparative minnows CFR Cluj with an unconvincing 3-1 away win over Bordeaux, only to then lose to Chelsea.
After just nine matches in Serie A, Roma's league campaign is equally unpalatable; a meagre seven points leaves Roma in 17th and 14 points behind leaders AC Milan.
Typically thunderous strikes aside, Riise has admitted to poor form, which he has attributed to an ongoing readjustment to Italian football. While understandable, Roma's woes may not allow for patience or sympathy. Indeed, the media in Italy and Norway have begun to debate his performances and ability, both positive and negative.
For Tuesday's potentially pivotal 3-1 defeat of Chelsea, Spalletti relegated Riise to the bench in favour of switching Christian Panucci to left back.
With the return from injury of fellow left back Max Tonetto, Riise faces increased competition in an unexpected quest to end a seemingly enduring national trend for Norwegians in Italy.
But for a player who so often displayed spirit and passion in a different type of red shirt, it shouldn't be a surprise if Riise does overcome current adversity.
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