Sven-Göran Eriksson is most fondly remembered by many for his time in English football, and at the same time is often criticised for that same time period. What some people fail to realise, though, is that outside of his perfectly acceptable tenure with the England national team he was quite the managerial journeyman.
Over the course of a staggering 40-year career, the Swede has managed to take charge of several top teams from around the globe, honing his craft in a way that few have been able to replicate. Of course, that didn’t always lead to success, but his time in Italy was particularly fruitful with a series of triumphs to his name.
For Lazio, that is.
Fourteen years prior, to what was arguably his most successful managerial job to date, Sven took charge of A.S Roma and the expectations were high in the wake of the job that the now-69-year-old did with Benfica.
A few league titles and a few runners-up medals in European competition led to the belief that he’d turn the often undervalued Roma into a powerhouse within Italian football once more, but with such pressure often comes a big reality check.
Within the first of his three campaigns with I Giallorossi, Sven dragged his side kicking and screaming towards a measly 7th position in the league. His slow but steady style of play that worked so well in Portugal wasn’t translating over to Italy, and the lack of urgency within the starting line-up didn’t exactly help matters.
The players just didn’t seem to want to grind out results as they would in the years to come, which is surprising given the names the had at their disposal. Roberto Pruzzo and Carlo Ancelotti, both legends in their own right, were tasked with leading their squad from the front – and for the first twelve months, they failed.
It took them until the 9th game of the season to register a league victory, and much like Brian Clough’s ill-fated tenure with Leeds United, it seemed as if a quick exit was on the cards for everyone’s favourite Swedish coach.
But persistence and ‘sticking it out’ actually meant something in football back then, and Eriksson was given the benefit of the doubt. That decision, in essence, is why this reign won’t go down in the annals of Italian football history as one of the worst in recent memory.
There was no second season syndrome for Sven to worry about at the Stadio Olimpico, and a big reason behind that was the low expectations that fans had heading into this latest venture. They needn’t have worried, though, as the gaffer was finally able to get through to the players when it came to showing them how successful his methods could be.
One of the key components in their ‘comeback’ of sorts was the efficiency of their midfield, which went on to become one of the most iconic in the history of the club. Ancelotti, Conti, Cerezo, Boniek and Giannini were all instrumental in combining to push Roma towards a huge surge of momentum.
Roma were scoring for fun off the back of Pruzzo’s phenomenal exploits in front of goal, and there was a real sense of togetherness that hadn’t been seen at the club since they famously lifted the league title back in 1983.
With just a few games remaining they carved title rivals Juventus to pieces with an impressive 3-0 victory, and many expected them to go on and top the table once the season came to a close.
Sven remained as calm and composed as he did throughout the course of all his positions in football, and to some that can be considered a detriment. After all, this side was one of the most exciting we’d ever seen from the city of Rome, and you have to question whether he had more of a Chris Hughton stance than an Alex Ferguson-esque fire.
Alas, Sven did what Sven did best when he was unable to see the challenge through until the end – losing the crucial penultimate game of the campaign 3-2 against lowly Lecce.
The fans were quick to voice their displeasure, but they soon got behind the main man once again when Roma went on to lift the Coppa Italia just a few weeks later.
What started out as a disaster in August became a true underdog tale once May rolled around, with that 2-0 win over Sampdoria in the second-leg of the final reassuring everyone in attendance that there was only one man to lead Roma forward into a brighter future.
But consistency can’t be bought or manufactured, and you have to be a special kind of boss to take maintain such a high standard, and Sven couldn’t live up to the billing.
After a poor start to the following season, the Swede was sent on his way, with the memories of a cup triumph and a closely ran title challenge fresh in the minds of the Roma faithful.
The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure. ~ Sven Goran Eriksson #SuccessTRAIN
— Rock Christopher (@RockChristopher) September 11, 2017
When we look back and analyse the stint as a whole, one has to wonder whether or not Eriksson deserves to be remembered as a great in the Italian capital. In the same vein as someone like Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool, he came in, struggled initially, then rode a wave of momentum all the way to the top: but fell off the face of the earth when it mattered the most.
Sven was great for steadying the ship, but he seems to be a pro at holding on just a bit too long. The argument as to whether or not he was a world-class manager is an interesting one, but it certainly falls short in this instance.