Milan 2 - Roma 1
Blame the kicks. And Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Mostly the latter.
Ah, perspective. There she comes over the horizon. The expected, the accepted, the immediately tucked away - a loss. There was little chance of leaving the San Siro, this Roma team as constituted, with anything but. The diabolical ones are, simply put, better. They're better across the board: technically, mentally and tactically. The first half was promising, if not exciting, but the scoreline deceives: Maarten dramatically out-penned the heroics of even the epics and they still lost.
Each postgame feels a retread:
- The defense, particularly the Dane, is inconsistent at best.
- When they maintain possession and a high line, they're easily and often beaten at the back.
- They're adept at creating the structure of the system in the middle and back thirds, but putrid in divining their own chances in the final. The one thing no one can take from Osvaldo is his too-good-for-coincidence positioning which enables the seeming pot-of-gold nature of his goals, but it took Gianluca Zambrotta's career demise before our very eyes and a misplaced shot for Roma to luck into the chance for him to score his tap-in.
- The team is lacking system-appropriate and defensive depth, thus substitutions are often suboptimal, one might say, but opposing teams improve against Roma over the course of a game. Stats actually back this up: Roma is the best team in Serie A at halftime. Click on the halftime tab in the link and then read that again. The best.
Is that on the players?
Is that rhetorical?
Miralem Pjanic is an excellent point of reference, an excellent midfielder, an excellent talent, and an excellent, even mandatory, cog for the system to function as designed, yet his presence seems to have a negative impact on results. He's simply too skilled at, too intellectually capable of, finding the angles through which to open space and maintain possession as they set camp higher up the pitch. He deserves a Zidane-esque film stalking his every ghostly movement throughout the game. He's incredible to watch, really, and he's only 21. The problem isn't him, and yet it is: he's too good at his requested role. They're catastrophically imbalanced when he's in the side. The first half possession stats were closer to 50/50. What did the quality - not quantity - of Meelan's chances look like as soon as he entered, the midfield's binky?
It could be argued that while DDR is now Roma; Pjanic is now the system around which its ideologies seek to revolve.
The problem is an extension of their inability to construct opportunities and chances in the final third, this partially related to their slow-play build. Playing an attacking system predicated upon possession requires outscoring the other team; if not, learn to lose as they lollipop the midfield on the counter, or split the middle with pace, or etc. etc. etc. Teams are simply too good at defending in this league, particularly when given time to form an integral structure. Can't fight the double helix.
A question of the whole, and only time can tell if this will change. Time in Rome, as we all know, is a mighty painful concept.
- Luckily this isn't a loss, as there was nothing to lose. They fell to a superior team away, closing the intangible gap between the two from the last performance in the meantime, and it provided, what you'd think to be, anyway, an important lesson for those on the bench.
(Oh, and everyone knew to buy Kjaer before this game, not wait until it was over to renew the interal crisis, right?)