Sometimes, they're all at fault.
So little to say, so little they played. Roma was there in body, but not spirit. The whole thing is just a write-off. All of it. And not a single player from the starting XI should be spared, really, though the less said, perhaps the better.
No one, not a soul but perhaps Ivan Piris, put in a moderately decent shift. Miralem Pjanic appeared as though he could get there in the moment - the pass to Osvaldo was sensational - but on the whole, everyone was by and large a fraction of what could have been and the midfield in particularly was diabolical.
The only thing missing from Napoli's transition to attack was Daniele De Rossi rolling out the red carpet for Marek Hamsik and Michael Bradley hand-feeding Edinson Cavani grapes. To say the midfield was nonexistent is to leave open the possibility it existed anywhere, in any universe, during those ninety minutes. The defense was constantly in tatters as a function of the midfield's inability to stop the attack, but two things have become clear: Marquinhos gets a blank check whenever he asks, and the appearance of Castan as some sort of fantastic defender might have had a bit more to do with how woeful the defense was under Luis Enrique than anything. Marquinhos is clearly the No. 1 now and Castan, while very good, is so far from infallible. He, not Nico or an as yet unnamed player, might be the ticket for the No. 3 CB role - his positioning still leaves a good deal to be desired.
The attack was shambolic. Totti's had much finer games, and Lamela needed a milk carton for the milk carton off of which he went missing for ninety minutes. Then there's Destro, who ran hot and cold. Hot in that his movement and skill created plenty of chances; cold in that he didn't finish them. Napoli also figured out to push him into the channels to be more effective, and it worked. But he plays like this stupidly talented 21 year old he is: lacking that finishing touch that often comes with age and experience.
In short: no one was up to snuff. Then Cavani happened.
But there's no shame in losing to Napoli at the San Paolo - in fact, one should almost expect a draw to be a victory there. The only worrisome note is they've now been thrashed twice at the two most difficult places to play in Serie A, doing so without appearing to have fully deplaned at the airport.
So maybe, just maybe, don't fly the entire club across an ocean for an exercise in brand exposure the week before a huge match.
And this is where the danger begins...
- After Juventus, everyone wanted Goicoechea to get a run out. After Napoli, everyone wants Stek back. Roma fan memories are precisely one-week long.
The fact is one can sit the ghost of Lev Yashin on one post and vintage Gigi Buffon on the other, but if a Zeman team's defense is disjointed, the midfield ghostly, and a club like Juventus or a monster like Cavani is on the other side, then that squad is going to bleed goals like it's a Tarantino flick. No single player can make up for bad defending against great attackers.
The fact is neither is a world-beater. If Roma wants a great keeper, they need to spend some cash.
- Again: Cavani is a monster. But going unnoticed is the fact that all three of his goals were assisted upon by Pandev. Sometimes the only way to stop a seemingly unstoppable force is to cut off the source.
It probably can't be understated just how poor the midfield was on Sunday.
- Mazzarri out-coached Zeman, which is more a function of Walter counteracting Zdenek's singular philosophy, but doesn't matter as the end result remains the same.
- Zeman has, of course, done wonders, but there is still no clear first-choice midfield with this bunch, and it's already January. There's no question a player of De Rossi's stature should be in the lineup, but DDR in theory has been a far cry from DDR in practice of late. Tachtisidis has been arguably Roma's best midfielder, which says nothing good considering his immense inconsistency. Florenzi's hardly what he was in October, Bradley's simply lacking in quality, Pjanic can't find consistency in either a role, a position, or his play, and Marquinho is clearly on Zeman's list of the unloved. There's simply not been a clicking combination yet, whereas the defense and attacks have been sorted: when available, it's Piris-Hos-Castan-Balza, Totti-Osvaldo-Lamela. Throw in the occasional rotation for Ozzy based on Destro's talent and that's it.
The midfield is rolling the dice, every single week. Perhaps, then, the rumblings of a Dzagoev or Adryan have more to do with deciding the personnel isn't up to snuff and midfield is of more pressing concern than initially thought.