There was one half of football on Sunday. It was okay. Then there was another half of football. No one knows what happened during that one.
Chievo 1 - Roma 0
There are a number of things to blame for a loss, but then, that's how football works. Multiple sides of this coin exist: "the other team won" and "your team didn't do enough not to lose" and many variations thereof.
Welcome to Chievo v Roma.
A number of crap things transpired during this match. Some of them involved Roma - Osvaldo and Bradley were particularly bad; some of them involved the pitch, which is arguably Serie A's best "home field advantage" because it's so shit, particularly in certain months; the playing conditions in the second half - if you haven't seen the match, go find a gray-ish sheet of paper and stare at it for 45 minutes - seemed rather awful, but that was at the view from above; Chievo's defending was rather crap too - though only if you're a Roma fan, because it was beyond excellent otherwise; even the officiating was crap, but then that was expected, because we come from the school where we judge a man's inherent abilities by his hair, 1987. One could even say Zeman's lineup selection was, based on the match at hand, rather crap.
There simply wasn't that one thing. It just all came together to equal a Roma loss.
Now, while this little run is nice, there should've existed no illusions: Torino (16th), Pescara (18th), Atalanta (Coppa) and Siena (20th) ain't exactly Murderers Row. Beating them says, "Hey, we're Europa League quality at worst!" So that's all kinds of nice, as was the Fiorentina victory (sans Jovetic and Pizarro - ahem), but it wasn't so much the wins which were of concern but the performances of lesser parts. The starting midfield Zeman has been running with just inspires no confidence whatsoever against better competition, often getting away with things against the recent opposition rather than simply dominating. It was nice to see Florenzi reignite the fire in the first half, but he's hardly "won" a spot as the best of the midfield over the last month (again: possibly for development); Tachtisidis was wonderful in the first half in most respects - second half is a mystery. There are things Bradley does well and others he doesn't - not sure he brings much to the table, but he doesn't take much off, either.
In some ways, it seems that since the DDR suspension, the midfield is being run out because they haven't @#$%ed up their chance so much as winning a spot. That might be enough against the likes of Torino, Pescara, Siena, Atalanta and even a lesser Fiorentina, but it won't be against the live competition upcoming. They need Daniele, and one could argue tossing Pjanic back in the mix would be nice too. He's certainly not a runner, but even he provides more defensively than the others at times - it simply needs be viewed from another angle.
This is one of the problems at hand which have been cloaked by lesser opposition in parts and in others, by the gilded nature of Zemanlandia. A glittering package can easily take one's eyes off the problems which lie deep within. The Chievo match was a bit more of the same, but without that eye-catching distraction.
That's not to say this one match means anything definitive, but the true tests were always going to be the next two weeks. And perhaps a little slap in the face to wake up the senses isn't the worst thing in the world.
- Mauro Goicoechea blended into the pitch by the hour mark or so with that damn green keeper kit, thus it looked like he was just chilling in the stands with JSB and his permist while Chievo's attacker was slotting it home untested. The replays seemed to indicate he was simply felled on a 1v1, which happens to all keepers, but if there is one think Maarten can do, it's sprawl and make himself utterly ginormous in the face of a sole attacker. So yeah, I'm saying there's a chance this might've been a draw had Stekelenburg been in net. (No, I'm saying Maarten stops him, actually. There.)
But starting Mauro after Maarten's solid performance against Atalanta in the Coppa was no small statement: ZZ prefers ‘em with a little swagger in the hips.
One would also imagine Maarten will want out snappishly. This is the same cat who lost his spot at Ajax to Kenneth freakin' Vermeer, and now he's gone down to a no-name long-name from Uruguay who was brought in for the price of a decent pizza. All the guy wants is someone who loves him, man.
- Of course, had Sergio Pellisier been correctly called offside, this who 1v1 thing wouldn't be an issue ...
- In better news: Leandro Castan is suspended for Milan, while Marquinhos left for Rome on crutches. Thus, Burdisso-Romagnoli it's likely to be. (With DDR: DM/CB3 on backup duty.)
Someone learn voodoo and do it to El Shaarawy, he of 13 goals in 16 games.
- There exists this problem with Pablo once again: unless he's scoring goals, he does nothing. Nothing. In fact, he often takes things off the table. The problem is goals hold such incredible value, it's often worth it. This is common for a lot of strikers on a lot of teams; not a lot of teams have Mattia Destro sitting on the bench.
- How the hell Drame got away without being sent off through volume of fouls alone, much less without any card at all, is one of several great mysteries of the day.
- Tachtsidis wavers between "He's going to get his shit together one day and be amazing," and "Hey, remember when Ricardo Faty was the next Patrick Vieira? What's that business about talent again?" almost on a weekly basis nowadays. The good thing is he's 21. The bad thing is he behaves like he's 12.
- Haven't been able to find another replay, but at the time, the Balzaretti non-call looked like the correct call - which was, yes, a rarity with Bergonzi on Sunday.
- What replays I have found indicate the fog was a much lesser factor at pitch level than for those attempting to view the match from above through already-fuzztastic internet streams.
- This is a topic for another day, yet again, but it's becoming evident that this team doesn't really need to do much in January - save for farming out Nico Lopez - but simply find a way to make the parts at hand work together more consistently. I've always maintained the best "new addition" is the palpable progress of in-house talent.
Remind me I said this when Ivan Piris gets torched by Zlatan El Shaarawy for 2.5 hat tricks. (Details.)
Zdenek Zeman was given til late fall to get them clicking, and they clicked against lesser opposition before falling to a strong defensive unit. Now for his first real tests: Milan & Napoli, but likely without the defensive partnership which has solidified the side.
Or: It's Roma - as you were.