Oh hi, ninety-fourth minute draw-at-home-which-feels-like-a-loss-to-future-Serie-B-stalwart. It's been awhile. I missed you. No I didn't. You're dirty and a whore. And I never really loved you anyway. And that stuff you did with the scuba mask, coconut oil, and well-trained circus monkey? You're disgusting. You're sick. Seek help. You have deep-seated psychological issues. I was so much better without you in my life. Go away. Stay out of my life forever.
Quick translation: Roma happened.
Twice now Rudi Garcia has mussed with the peninsula's premier midfield. Twice now - and only twice - Roma's dropped points with a midfield devoid of Miralem Pjanic, Michael Bradley in his stead. It might be a function of the injuries currently crippling Roma's attack - Roma's a Nutella acccident away from playing Marquinho, Flo, and Caprari on the run - or perhaps there's more to it. What it certainly has done, merely a confirmation since the Torino match, is confirm Roma's lack of depth in certain areas. Most areas, really. And when without that bombastic first eleven, or at least something close to it, Rudi's Roma is merely Roma and that's when Roma happens.
Obviously, this team cannot withstand injuries to Totti, Gervinho, Borriello, and Destro, and look all sorts of wonderful in the final third. (Yes, Mattia still exists.) Adem Ljajic had a wonderful match until the final movements, winning at least one penalty which wasn't called, but flanking him with Florenzi and Pjanic is not the system one wants heading into the box.
Maybe Gianluca Caprari was nervous in his first match for Roma since Air Potter roamed the sidelines, or maybe we got a glimpse as to just why Rudi has preferred Marquinho, Pjanic, Dodo, Junior Tallo, and Luca Toni's old fluffer on the wing ahead of a player who is actually meant to line up in that position. Something says the latter. This still doesn't explain why he isn't on loan at Padova or something.
If there is one thing Rudi should take from this match, it's not to mess with DDR, Strootman, and Pjanic. Fill in around it. Put bodies anywhere you damn please. I'll even live with Marquinho false nine being flanked by Michael Bradley and Nico Burdisso. Just don't mess with the midfield. For most clubs it would be a bread and better; for Roma, it's caviar and cracker. Without the midfield, Roma's filet o'fish, and nobody wants that.
The specific problem, of course, is missing Miralem. There is no one on this club capable of slotting into the initial three of a 4-3-3 and playing the role of conductor outside Totti because he's Totti and he can do anything. Maybe Ljajic, but he's more of a direct runner with technique than ice cold architect. Disrupting the flow of the midfield with the inclusion of Michael Bradley, arguably Roma's least technical player beyond central defense and keepers - though Mehdi could probably make him look the fool - is not a good thing. Michael's a vice-DDR, maybe a vice-Strootman if Rudi can't drop Florenzi into midfield or Marquinho is Marquinho. He is not a vice-Miralem - not in the world, not in any. Sure, Adem created numerous chances all by his lonesome, but this is a club which thrived on a collective creative construct, spreading the love. They need to look to the system, not to a player, to pull them from the depths when times are tough.
However, this is once again a trickle-down problem from the injury issues at the top. If Rudi could go ahead with three of Totti, Gervinho, Destro, Ljajic and Borriello, it wouldn't be such an issue to drop Florenzi into midfield or bring Miralem back home. I suppose despite the names of the clubs they're playing, they're weathering a certain sort of storm right now, and only just. Though I know better - read: I lived through 2008-09 (barely) - these things do get better. But t
They're still top. They're still undefeated. They're still 10-2-0. But goddamnit, stop dropping points to the minnows. The superhuman skin is off, but be a little less human.
And it's time to clock in, Walter. Build a squad. Prove to us it was Franco all along.
- Maicon needs some bench. In part because he's not only a shadow of his 2010 self but also a shadow of September Maicon, yes, but very much due to Torosidis' performances while he was out. (In general, there are fullback issues with this club.)
- Morgan more than earned his paycheck.
Those words coming after a match against Sassuolo at the Olimpico is utterly frightening. Shape up, defense.
- Nico Burdisso wasn't so much a problem as much as giving us a glimpse as to just how good the partnership of Benatia and Castan really is. Far be it for me to claim them as Serie A's best, but there's no two I'd rather have. Another function of Roma's first eleven being several leagues beyond the eleven which reside behind. (Outside of the attack when healthy, of course.)
- The amount of ankle problems in this squad is remarkable, and one wonders if sort of chipping away at the technical Roma side - not new, mind - is a certain tactic employed by other clubs. Roma hasn't been the unstoppable goal-scoring juggernaut, surprisingly their strength is on the other end, but the forwards are all being hacked on Totti-like levels these days - especially Miralem.
- At no point is anyone allowed to use "No Totti, no party."