Wednesday's match against Parma, Roma's 10th overall, means we're approximately 26% of the way through the 2012-2013 season and it's still too early to make any definitive conclusions about Zeman's first year back with the club. There is no ambiguity, however, when it comes to the drama that has surrounded this club from the jump.
Victories were treated with delusions of grandeur, while defeats created masses of beleaguered Roma fans, yearning for the nearest Emir to come and spend our problems away. So while 10 games does not make a season, it does afford us an opportunity to take an objective look at the club so far, which one would expect rests somewhere between the "you might as well hand over the Scudetto" high of the Inter and Genoa victories and the "At least we'll dominate Serie B" depressions that followed the Juventus, Bologna and Udinese defeats.
The stark difference between Roma's victories and its defeats tends to distort one's perceptions of reality, so let's leave the emotions aside and take a look at the numbers.
After ten matches, Roma sits in seventh place with four victories, four defeats, and two draws, good for 14 points, one shy of Europa League qualification. They've risen to such great heights thanks to a dynamic offense and sieve like defense. Roma are tied for the league lead in goals with 22, though 3 of those came from the Ghost of Cagliari past. Conversely, Roma leads (and I'm using that term loosely) the league in goals allowed with 19.
Roma are third in the league in possession (54 or 56%, depending on who you ask), which they have used purposely, managing 17 shots per game (second to Juve), led by Pablo Osvaldo's 4.5 per game. So, at the very least, Roma cannot be accused of pointless possession. More shots doesn't necessarily equate to more goals, however, so the chances that Roma has created have been, by and large, genuine scoring opportunities-53% of their shots come within the 18 yard box.
Those statistics pretty much tell us what we already suspected; Roma can score early and often; 26.3% of Roman goals have been struck between the 15th and 30th minutes, while the average time of the first goal conceded is the 36th.
A consistent and potent attack is the hallmark of the Zeman philosophy, where Roma has run into problems, however, has been when the attack, and some might say, general effort, wanes in the latter stages of matches, witness the 10 goals allowed in the second half.
Some other statistics of note: Roma have been booked 25 times, including two red cards, Roma have won 58% of aerial duels and completed 82.7% of passes.
Looking at the statistics of every single player is a little bit beyond the pale of this post, but using the ratings provided by who scored, which assess every single event in the course of a match, analyzing their effect on the eventual outcome, we can get an objective ranking of the squad through the first 10 matches (minimum 6 appearances, rated 1-10, 10 being the highest).
Roma's Top Ten Through Ten:
1. Erik Lamela (7.9)
2. Francesco Totti (7.73)
3. Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (7.4)
4. Ivan Piris (7.18)
5. Leandro Castan (7.03)
6. Alessandro Florenzi (6.9)
7. Daniele De Rossi (6.81)
8. Panagiotis Tachtsidis (6.67)
9. Federico Balzaretti (6.62)
10. Maarten Stekelenburg (6.6)
For reference, the top five league wide:
1. Hernanes-Lazio (8.11)
2. Andrea Pirlo-Juventus (8.07)
3. Andrea Ranocchia-Inter (8.06)
4. Erik Lamela-Roma (7.9)
5. Giorgio Chiellini (7.9)
Progressive soccer/football statistics haven't taken on the level of complexity or elegance of baseball or basketball, but having an objective measuring stick of any sort is preferable to judging solely on hunches. But as Homer Simpson once said, "people can come up with statistics to prove anything, 14% of all people know that." So take these with a grain of salt. With that in mind, let's take a closer look at what the numbers say about some of our key and/or controversial players.
He is perhaps the most divisive figure in yellow and red this year, his role more so than his mere existence, but the numbers show that our massive regista has actually been pretty solid. Copy and Paste has averaged 57 passes per game, good for third on the team, while completing 79% of his passes. Granted, passing statistics alone can be misleading, but, if nothing else, it shows that he's doing his job-being the primary maestro for the offense. He's also contributing on the otherside of the ball, averaging 1.9 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game, both placing him in Roma's top 10.
Daniele De Rossi
For such a versatile player, his proper role with the team has been the subject of heated debate, with Zeman recently chiming in on the controversy as well, quelling the notion that DDR has been a regista all along.
DDR, as we've witnessed and the statistics support, is not living up to his usual high standards, barely cracking the team's top 10 in passing percentage, tackles per game and interceptions per game, while committing one turnover per game. Again, these statistics represent a very small sample size, but something seems amiss with DDR and with the contract issues settled, one is left to speculate about possible injuries or if there is any truth to the reported rift between him and Zeman.
With only five appearances under his belt, he just missed the cutoff for the top ten ratings, but his first handful of Serie A matches have been impressive, garnering 7.2 rating, which would make him our highest rated defender. Check out The Plural's per game averages: 3.3 interceptions (team high), 6.8 clearances (team high), 0.8 blocks (2nd) and 1 tackle (5th), he's also completing nearly 87% of his passes.
It's near sacrilege to question the effectiveness of Totti, but here goes...He's good. Totti, based on these metrics, ranks as Roma's second most effective player through the first 10 matches, scoring 3 goals, tallying 3 assists (2nd in the league) and averaging 3.2 shots per game, 61.4 passes per game (team high, 10th in the league) and 3 key passes (those which lead to a shot on goal) per game. At age 36, Totti is making good on his promise to play until he's 40-he's been absolutely incredible.
We'll end the individual wrap ups with Roma's best player at the quarter pole. Lamela's 7.9 rating not only leads Roma but places him 4th in the league and 10th in all of Europe. The young Argentine is tied for second in Serie A goals (6) behind only Stephan El Shaarawy, accounting for 32% of the Roman offense, which seems paltry compared to El Shaarawy's 58%. Lamela's 2.7 key passes and 2.7 dribbles are both good for sixth in all of Italy.
To put that last statistic in perspective, Franck Ribery averages 5 dribbles per game, defined as dribbling past an opponent while maintain possession, which is best in Europe-Lamela clocks in at 24th. But Lamela has always been dangerous with the ball at his feet, what has put (or is putting) him over the top is his new found eye for the back of the net.
Ladies and Gentleman, we have our next superstar. Lamela is steadily climbing the ranks of Italy's, and eventually Europe's, finest players. He narrowly edges out Totti as the clubs best player through the first quarter of the season and will arguably be the clubs most important and valuable player going forward, both in the long and short term.
Using the same metrics, this time applied to the entire team, Roma registers as the 24th best team in Europe and their 17.7 shots per game is 8th on the continent. As even the most casual of Roma fans can attest to, the Roman offense can be a sight to behold. The problem has been holding a lead and delivering a consistent effort for a full 90 minutes, two factors which are not at all mutually exclusive.
As I mentioned at the outset of this post, 10 games does not a season make and calls for Zeman's head are premature and short sighted, never mind the fact that his dismissal would mean the club has burned through three managers in three seasons-hardly the stable and successful image the club is trying to project.
The numbers show what many of us had assumed all along, Roma is, in many ways, a feast or famine club. The offense is on par with the best squads in the league, while the defense is, to put it nicely, cringe worthy, resulting in a team that is (fittingly) rated sixth in the league-so the objective analysis isn't that far off from reality.
Turning one last time to the statistics, Roma fans can find some reason to believe. The outstanding performance of Marquinhos and the ever-improving form of Ivan Piris offers some defensive hope, while Roma's astronomical offensive numbers have been achieved with little to no help as of yet from Mattia Destro or Miralem Pjanic.
The numbers through the first 10 games show a team capable of outscoring anyone. Continued improvement from the clubs younger players, the return to form of a few key veterans, and a more intuitive feel for the system should provide a level of consistency commensurate with the clubs offensive prowess.
It seems every year Roma makes a push up the standings after New Year's Day and this team certainly has the firepower to do so. Let's just hope, for the sake of the beleaguered, they don't wait that long.