Farewell to Zeman

Zdenek Zeman: enjoying a cigarette, probably not his team's defending

Zdenek Zeman: enjoying a cigarette, probably not his team’s defending

After Roma sack manager Zdenek Zeman following a turbulent and brief return to the club, our writer asks, ‘Failure? What failure?’

It’s been pointed out many times what you get with Zeman. But here’s a reminder if you’ve a short memory or aren’t familiar with the individual style of football he’s lived and died by for over 25 years.

You get a stubborn adherence to 4-3-3, played at a high tempo with relentless pressing and a suicidal high line/off-side trap. Possession is considered pointless. The sole focus for his team is to score more goals than the opposition, while on the bench, Zeman surveys the action puffing one cigarette after another.

The results, while not always successful, are usually spectacular.

So, last summer, when the Roma crowd grew tired and frustrated with Luis Enrique‘s attempts to turn La Magica into the crazy ‘keep-possession-at-all-times-Barca-boring-style’ I suppose it made sense to give the job to a guy who would play an attractive game.

Step in Mister Zeman Unfortunately, all the excitement at the fantasy football we were going to see blinded us to his all too familiar failings.

Sure, there were certainly plenty of goals. Problem was they just weren’t all in the right net.

I recall a game away to Genoa, where we went 2:0 down after 15 minutes, before coming back to win 4:2. More painfully, I remember leading Bologna 2:0 and losing 2:3. Even a 4:0 thrashing of Milan, and what should have been a comfortable victory, turned into a nervous wait for the final whistle when two late goals left us hanging on for the win.

Unfortunately, after being drunk on the excitement some fans began to sober up. They remembered that Zeman hardly ever wins any trophies. That his success is mainly with smaller provincial teams such as Foggia, Lecce or recently Pescara, and apart from a second place finish with Lazio he’s had no success with the big guns of Italian football. And when they looked at the table and saw Roma in eighth place, without a chance of even reaching a Europa League spot.. well, it just looked embarrassingly predictable.

Win or lose though, it’s not been dull. Francesco Totti has been playing some of his best football ever, aged 36. Zeman has also continued his track record of bringing through unknown youngsters (Lamela scored in 7 games in a row, and another Florenzi has been capped by Italy already after breaking through this year). Plus you always had the never ending speculation of falls outs between Zeman and Danielle De Rossi or Maarten Stekelenburg.

Am I happy Zeman has gone? Well eighth place is no better than Enrique, but the way we got there was so much more exciting. While Roma were in possession it was beautiful to watch, it’s just that when we weren’t in possession it wasn’t usually long before Roma were lining up for another kick-off.

So when asked to give my opinion about Zeman’s failure, I say what failure? He did exactly what he is known for – scoring lots of goals and conceding plenty. And I loved every bit of it. Long live Zeman. In Piacenza, Atalanta, Albinoleffe….

Written by Vil Palac


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