Pescara 0 - Roma 1
If you're one of those cats who had to wake up at bed time just to watch this match, it wasn't worth it, in part because it was a dominating performance of disillusion, but also because it triggered Luis Enrique-centric flashbacks. The cold sweats. The panic. The paranoia. Constantly looking over my shoulder. The rampantly incessant intrusive thoughts.
"When's he gonna pass it back to Marquinhos. Who's going to put a ball for Castan to run onto...in the direction of Mauro G. When is Gabby Heinze going to run onto the pitch. Why is Michael Bradley playing libero. Is everybody conversing in Spanish. Somebody help me. Help."
It was a commanding yet ugly victory, one in which the darkest pathways on the compass read East-West, rather than Zeman walking into the room, driving a stake through the N and commanding, "Everybody runs there." In some respects, one wonders whether or not Zeman did play a part in this, considering his deep affinity for Pescara - he even said in the postgame he was happy it only ended 1-0 - but tis a ludicrous suggestion. The team was merely constructed in a way which was less Zemanlandia than usual:
- No Lamela, No Fiesta. Obviously his subtraction is crucial independent of his replacement, and his omission from the side, if only for his now burgeoning aura, was glaring. This is both good and bad: the latter because he's not here, but the former in that he's becoming the game-changing force which everyone had hoped and/or expected.
- His replacement, Mattia Destro, is not a lateral forward, or a winger, or anything but a central striker - right now, anyway. He and Osvaldo were constantly playing leapfrog, Mattia spending much of the afternoon invading Pablo's personal space. It's one thing when Zemanlandia deposits forty-two bodies in a small space. It's another when two players are playing the same position simultaneously.
- ZZ said in the postgame Michael Bradley was brought in to lock down on Joel Quintero, which is an incredible amount of respect for the young'um, altering Bradley's responsibilities substantially, and thus the tactical construct of the side. A more pure defensive mid Bradley can be, but he ain't a Zeman regista, and he slows play down substantially from that position - which isn't aided with Pjanic in the same midfield. Taxi isn't perfect, but he is a lot closer to what Zeman demands of his man sitting in front of the defense - quick passing, with longer balls to advance play to the box - and the performances against Pescara and Torini are indicators of the glaring difference between the two. Much slower ball movement, but a more solid defense.
(Also worth noting Pescara & Torino (tied) are bottom two in goals scored in Serie A as well. No clue how this would play out against live opposition.)
- I love Pjanic as a player and would like to offer this as fact, not opinion: Roma would be utter imbeciles to sell him on - the interest of Real, Barca, Milan, City, etc., is indication enough - but he isn't and never will be Zeman's ideal player, if I think he could be manipulated to fulfill that left-wing playmaker role. (Too bad there's that other dude there. What's his name again?)
The team is arguably better, but less dynamic, with Miralem on the pitch.
One of which Luis would be proud.
- Federico Balzaretti runs onto the pitch like he's performed a triathlon with Luis Enrique on his back, exhausted, slow, indifferent. Looking to find a reason for his constant fatigue, I recalled that he's married to an attractive prima ballerina.
Not insinuatin' nothin'.
- Outside of the defensive back, no one was particularly above average. It was a rather mediocre performance all around, much like 2011-12.
- Not content with sitting Bradley as an anchor, Mr. Kamikaze Attack also brought Simone Perrotta on to play right wing.
I don't even know what's real anymore.
- This may be something to watch: how Piris looks with anyone but Lamela in that RW spot. They've clearly built something of a rapport, and Ivan's ability to play off him may mask his more flawed improvisational skills.
- Nicolas Burdisso's time in Rome may be coming to a close; the ruthless suits up high won't stand for his contract sitting on the pine and it's quite evident Marquinhos and Castan will be the defensive pairing for an awfully long time unless someone else even better is brought in. Both are automatics on the teamsheet at this point, with Marquinhos arguably the 1a. Just because I said so.
- Destro really needs flag prop celebration lessons from Antonio Cassano.
- Nearly one year later, I still have not a damn clue as to what Marquinho actually does.