Ranieri’s in-tray: Five things the new Roma boss must resolve

Claudio Ranieri is all set to begin his second spell as Roma coach, with his debut in the dugout coming tomorrow against Empoli.

Ranieri was appointed on Friday to take over from Eusebio Di Francesco, signing a contract until the end of the season.

The bad patch of form which led to Di Francesco’s sacking has seen the chances of the side reaching the top four diminish. However, with Ranieri’s positive outlook, there is hope that the team can turn things around and achieve their target. Here are five things the new coach will have to solve in a short space of time if that is to occur.

Sort out the defence

It’s an unenviable task that’s easier said than done. Roma have already conceded more goals in Serie A this season than they did in the entirety of last season, and there’s still 12 games to go. However, perhaps it isn’t a lost cause. Whilst Federico Fazio has been poor this season, he did stand out for the right reasons in his first two seasons with the club, so maybe with some small tweaks – a deeper line, for example – he could rediscover his form to become a reliable partner for Kostas Manolas again. Likewise, Juan Jesus and Ivan Marcano – who are set to start together against Empoli – have played better in the past with Roma and former clubs, so maybe they can improve. If Ranieri can bring some stability to the defence and just make Roma hard to beat again, then it will be a good platform to build from.

Get Edin Dzeko firing again

Another experienced player who has been slightly off-colour this season has been Edin Dzeko. The striker is still yet to score at home in the league and has netted just seven Serie A goals this term. Somewhat surprisingly, none of those goals have come against fellow members of the ‘big six’ – Juventus, Napoli, Lazio and the two Milan teams. Dzeko has lost his mojo as a big-game player, but is the kind of forward that just needs one thing to fall his way before a scoring run starts. Ranieri has already hinted that he will play Dzeko alongside fellow striker Patrik Schick, which could help him receive more chances – it nearly worked in Di Francesco’s last game, against Porto, as Dzeko got more involved after Schick came on.

Play Zaniolo in a central position

Nicolo Zaniolo has been the breakout star of the season, but his recent performances from the right wing have left a little to be desired. Whilst patience is needed with the youngster, it’s clear that most of his best displays so far have come when he has played more centrally. In the 4-4-2 that Ranieri is expected to use, Zaniolo has enough energy to feature in the central midfield pair, or he could even play as a false nine, with a licence to drop into the attacking midfield role. Either way, playing centrally gives him more freedom to have an impact on games, and should get the very best out of a very good player.

Make a bold decision with the goalkeepers

Robin Olsen has come in for some stick recently, and Ranieri now faces a tough decision. Does he keep Olsen as his number one, or give the starting berth to Antonio Mirante? The latter has done reasonably well in his four appearances this season, keeping two clean sheets. From the initial pictures of Ranieri meeting the players, it seemed like he got on instantly well with Mirante. The coach needs to make a strong decision over which keeper to prioritise. That player could well still be Olsen, but a clear focus is needed from the off.

Restore Alessandro Florenzi’s confidence

Alessandro Florenzi looked completely downtrodden after giving away the penalty that led to Porto’s winning goal on Wednesday. The vice-captain needed to be consoled by teammates Daniele De Rossi and Lorenzo Pellegrini, as well as opposition veteran Iker Casillas. True, Florenzi has been poor for some time now, in comparison to his old standards, but he might be able to rediscover the passion and determination to win that made him a good player in the first place. If anyone can benefit from Ranieri’s insistence on positivity and starting with a clean slate, it could easily be Florenzi. It’s the opportunity he needs to leave previous mistakes behind him, knuckle down and rediscover his best form.

Final thoughts

Ranieri has a short space of time to work with this team, and even if he does well, who knows if his stay will be extended beyond the current season? That doesn’t seem to faze the 67-year-old, who is determined to get Roma back where they belong in the short-term. As a supporter of the club, he will want to see positive changes as much as the fans at the stadium. And with a bit of unity, he might be able to steer Roma back in the right direction.

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