After a sensational debut season in charge of Roma, Rudi Garcia is now considered to be one of Europe's most highly rated coaches.
The next month has his team playing crucial games in Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the Europa League, but as part of "Inside Roma week' Garcia agreed to take time out of that busy schedule to speak exclusively to Bleacher Report.
Bleacher Report: Roma's incredible start to last year made plenty of headlines, but at this stage of the season, Juventus were eight points clear in the title race. What has made the biggest difference this time?
Rudi Garcia: The thing that’s changed the most is that we now have more experience of challenging at the top of the table. When we analyse last season, we mustn’t forget that we achieved a record number of points for Roma (85 points), whilst Juventus got the highest points tally in Serie A history (102).
BR: How hard has it been to adapt to the pressures of European football, especially given Roma's injury problems?
RG: European football is not a source of pressure but of pleasure. The only thing is that it does eat into the physical and mental energy we need for the league. In regard to our injuries, we’ve done well to create a deep squad full of quality players, so consequently we’ve not felt the absences too much.
BR: Leandro Castan has been a very important player for you. How did you and the squad react to hearing that he would need neurosurgery?
RG: Our only concern was for Leo’s health. His decision to undergo neurosurgery is testament to his determination to get back to playing football. He’s a warrior and we can’t wait to have him back.
BR: Juan Iturbe was excellent last season for Verona, but so far with Roma he's been used sparingly. Can he make a big impact in the second half of the season?
RG: Iturbe is a fantastic player. Unfortunately, he was stalled by injury just as he was getting into his stride. He obviously needed a grace period to adapt to the way the team plays and everything else that comes with moving clubs. He’s doing very well now. He gives his all on the field and it’s that attitude that will make him successful.
BR: Is the Europa League a trophy that the club considers important?
RG: All trophies are important. We’ll be putting 100 percent into the competition.
BR: What was the biggest change you encountered moving from Ligue 1 to Serie A?
RG: Serie A is a more tactical league. For example, teams often play with a five-man defense here. 40 percent of our matches last season were against teams who lined up with that formation. In contrast, about two percent of teams use that system in the Champions League.
BR: Do you feel there are any similarities between Lille and Roma?
RG: They’re two very well-organised clubs. I brought my playing philosophy here and in that respect the two clubs are quite similar.
BR: If there was one player from your Lille team who you could bring to Roma, who would it be and why?
RG: I’m really happy with my roster, though Lille has a lot of great players too. Having said that, there aren’t many left from my time.
BR: Why do you think you were so successful immediately upon your arrival? Was it different coaching methods that you brought, or a change in how you treated players?
RG: I worked on two main principals: involving my players in the project of developing a playing style and working on the psychological side of things, particularly trust.
BR: For anyone who might not have seen many Roma games, can you outline your philosophy and how you want your team to play?
RG: I want my team to impose its style of play. It’s always important to have possession in order to attack and score goals, without upsetting the balance on the field. Mental strength is the cornerstone of my Roma side. We fight every second for every inch here.
BR: How do you feel about derby games with Lazio?
RG: It’s always a special match, but we shouldn’t give too much importance to these games. We need to have a more ambitious vision and be fighting to qualify for the Champions League and to win trophies.
BR: You have three Romans in your first team. Do they become more nervous or excited before the derby?
RG: They’re definitely more excited. They feel a greater connection than the others and I’m proud to have three Romans in the first team. It shows that Roma is also doing well in the area of youth development.
BR: We saw earlier in the season against Juventus that you're clearly a very passionate coach. Do games like this make it more difficult to stay calm?
RG: It’s possible to air strong opinions whilst remaining calm. Passion is a great driving force, but it shouldn’t take away from reflection and respect.
BR: In A recent interview with the Corriere dello Sport (via ESPNFC), you said that managers need to be actors. What did you mean by that?
RG: It depends on who you’re speaking to—and what you want to obtain through communicating with them. That’s what I meant by being an “actor”.
BR: How would you describe your relationship with James Pallotta?
RG: It’s a genuine, human relationship. James is a very sensitive person. He takes an interest in both human and professional well-being. He’s a great president and an ambitious one to boot, who’s doing everything he can to ensure the development of the club and its employees.