What has happened to Roma?

After seven Serie A games we had expected two time defending champions Juventus to be sitting top of the pile and if not then probably one of Napoli, Fiorentina and AC Milan – nobody would have predicted it would be Roma who would be topping the pile at this stage.

Further to that, to see them occupying top spot still with a 100% record is even more of an absurd site. Roma last season finished in sixth spot, outside of any European qualification and 25 points behind champions Juve – so their fans can be forgiven for rubbing their eyes at the site of the current league table. Further to that they saw both of last season’s top scorers move to England, Dani Osvaldo leaving for Southampton and Erik Lamela departing in a mega money move to Tottenham. They also lost key defender Marquinhos to big spenders PSG – hardly encouraging for a backline that conceded the second highest number of goals of the top 14 sides in the division last season.

So what exactly has suddenly clicked? Surely selling off your best players is not the answer to ending your plight? Perhaps the most notable change has been the appointment of Rudi Garcia – the man who inspired Lille’s recent successful spell in France prior to the arrival of the expansive wallets of PSG and Monaco.

Garcia was particularly busy in the summer window, with the funds gained from the sales mentioned earlier going on a host signings, some of the most notable being; Gervinho, Mehdi Benatia, Kevin Strootman – all who have had significant impact. Quite what has happened to Gervinho since his move to Rome is perhaps one of the most stunning and puzzling transformations of the European season – with the Ivorian going from generally liability and figure of frustration at Arsenal to already being a cult hero with his new club.

Undoubtedly playing under the man where he built his name has been a huge benefit to the unpredictable striker and it has not taken Garcia long to generate his best form – with the player quoting the love shown by the manager as the main reason for his success.

Benatia’s arrival has helped transform last season’s leaky defence to the current tightest in Italy – with just one goal conceded to date. The Moroccan alone though can’t take all the credit for that of course but his arrival looks to have certainly helped. The new found stability can’t exactly be put down to a change in approach either, given that Garcia in France forged a reputation as one of the most attacking coaches around – which is backed up by Roma currently top of the scoring charts. It could well be a case of Roma’s attacking play being so good that it is hard to get at them – particularly with Strootman and Daniel De Rossi providing such a stout shield to the backline.

Whether Roma can maintain such a push remains to be seen, with how they react when this run does come to an end perhaps the most significant question that they are yet to answer. Further to that there is also a feeling that they have been able to enjoy a relatively easy start, although overcoming their first significant test in ruthless manner at fellow pace setters Inters certainly laid down a marker.

With Roma’s expectations are always at a sky high level, the club possessing some of the most passionate supporters in the country – for now though it seems that Garcia is crucially managing to keep his squad mentally calm amidst the constant wave of expectation. His calm demeanour and strong man management skills have already been praised, with the Frenchman always taking the time to deal with each player on a one to level.

Previously Roma had been judged as psychologically weak, but Garcia it seems is starting to add a greater degree of mental toughness to what is a talented squad – only Fiorentina scored more than them last season. Critically Garcia has not drifted from this attacking philosophy, but what he has done is improve them both defensively and mentally. Only time will tell whether he has improved them significantly enough to maintain this their early pace.