Of Men, Not Machines

Valerio Pennicino

No Nutella. Sad.

At the end of the bell on the transfer window, presuming there is an actual bell, likely rung by a scantily clad model while old Italian men look on, there was the sense that Roma has depth issues. Then, during the first few matches of the record run, this elephant tucked nicely in the back of the room, occasionally poking its head out to say, "Don't forget about me!" In the latter stages of the record run, delirium took over and invincibility became some inevitable realization and Rudi H. Christ could find a way with a slew of cripples from the local orphanage. But for the realists there was always that one question: depth. When would it rear its head? When would Roma finally struggle to overcome adversity?

Hi.

Before going further, read this: "Going into the match, between Totti, Gervinho, Destro, Borriello, and Ljajic, they had  maybe 120 minutes combined." Lap it up. Soak it in. In the front triumvirate, they also had 90 minutes of work from Alessandro Florenzi, but he's been a far better player than he has been a winger, if that makes sense.

After the match Rudi noted that neither Marco nor Adem had ninety minutes in their legs. Ljajic has been suffering quietly from that sciatica for awhile and while I know little of back injuries - other than those I suffer when wrenching back to find Lazio in the table - they're rarely a quick and easy fix-up from what I know. Remove the previous three names and you're left with Florenzi, Marquinho, Caprari, or shake up the system.

With Rudi having few options he took arguably the most surprising: he tinkered. He picked up the blueprint which had worked to perfection, disrupted what is at the moment the single best midfield in Serie A, and he erased a third of the page, thrusting it onto that desk over there for another piece of the puzzle. Before the match there was a universal gasp from those to whom I will defer on things Roma; a sort of hesitant critique. "Rudi [mumble mumble] but ten straight so who am I [mumble mumble]." It wasn't wrong. There was something a little too theoretical about the whole thing. A little too try-hard.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

But they were broken, are broken, so he had to do something. He chanced it. And in the wake we're left with one overwhelming question from all of this: Why isn't Gianluca Caprari on loan? I'm the last to advocate youth but he is a modern winger (which is to say a wide forward), the type whose skill set would fit fluidly into the system and replace the dribbling directness lost by Gervinho and Ljajic (so effective when Adem finally came on), yet if he's not going to play in Rome when he's the most logical option, why isn't he playing elsewhere? A front three of Borriello, Florenzi, and Caprari with the same structure behind it would which has served Roma so well would seem a far better option. After of course this has little to do with Caprari, as you may have figured out, but rather insight into Rudi: Instead of chancing one, he chanced eleven.

Perhaps in the long run this is for the best. Rudi tinkered with what had worked beyond our wildest dreams and he got caught. Roma's lack of depth was exposed. Walter got an early Christmas list. They were exposed as precisely what they are: men, not machines.

A dollop of reality might just be a good thing, especially when it's merely a draw away. Even when life is bad, life is good these days.

Notes

  • Player X is out for two months. Player X, who is not a starter, starts in his second match back after playing 15 minutes. Player X then plays 90 minutes and disrupts the structure of the side which had previously been so brilliant.

    Disregard the identity, performance, and skill set of Player X - I don't get it.
  • In the first minute, Alessandro Florenzi took a huge hit to his right ankle. For several minutes thereafter he looked badly hurt, limping noticeable, jogging at best. In the second half he attempted to use his right on an unchallenged cross and looked like Worst Balza. There's no doubt in my mind he was at far less than 100% for the match. This could've had a bearing on Player X's ninety minutes on the pitch.
  • On that note, Michael Bradley is the worst tactical midfielder Roma has had in a very, very long time - even Marquinho is infinitely better in that respect. He had another vintage Bradley match, meaning lots of mindless running which looks nice for the casual fans but lots of extra work for everyone around him. 

    He's a great professional and all, but just move him already. Sunderland, Southampton, Hellas Verona, Sassuolo - whatever. He's not material for a side which now has legitimate aims for the title. He's just not. This club needs better depth than Michael.
  • Two weeks ago I questioned whether I wanted Toro or Maicon to start at RB.

    I'm ready for Torosidis to be Roma's rightback now. (Big change considering how I felt about him under AA.) Maicon is clearly the better individual player and a more dangerous threat in the opposition's final third, no one can argue that, but Torosidis seems to be a better fit for the side, and more conservative at that, which is a remarkable shift from the pastures of space he offered behind him last season. It's about eleven, not one.
  • That was a clear penalty on Miralem in the latter stages; 100%, not a solitary doubt. (Maicon was clipped outside the box - twas a foul, not a penalty.) One is also free to question whether or not there was actually a foul on Mehdi Benatia in the buildup to the Torino goal.

    That said, this is Serie A. It's far from perfect. These things will hopefully even out, but it was indeed a poor refereeing performance on the big decisions. (There was also a Balza handball worth mentioning, but I approach discussions on handballs in the box as I do those centering upon religion and politics: nothing good can come of it so it's best just left alone. I tend to be very lenient as it's so often ball to hand, as is the case here, but that's me.)
  • Departing the sport on the pitch for a second, there was a situation where the referee stopped play because Miralem Pjanic was down with a head injury. He's been thundered in the head on a free kick and the whistle was immediately blown upon seeing he was down, with Torino holding possession in Roma's half. Consequently, Giampiero Ventura was absolutely irate - hitting things, yelling, etc. It was, for me, one of the most disappointing things I've seen from those on the pitch or sidelines in a very, very long time. 

    I'm sorry if a human being's ability to speak coherent sentences or consume food without drooling for the remainder of his life is less important to you than your team's possession. Head injuries. You always, always stop for head injuries. Is that so hard to understand?

    This is the primary reason I will always struggle with sport: the perspective so often absent in it.
  • Marco Borriello needs new shoes. Or something. This ground magnetism is out of control.
  • Adem Ljajic's dynamism and directness was so desperately needed. The addition of truly top drawer skills - Francesco's passing and vision, Gervinho's pace, Adem's technique - seems so easy to describe on paper but its application is often far greater than words can offer, and we witnessed it last evening. If Adem could've played ninety, I'm inclined to guarantee they would've won.
  • Federico Balzaretti is on the same level of love as Borriello, Taddei, Simplicio, and Perrotta - which is to say he's just below the Romans - but it gets awfully hard to defend his play sometimes. This club needs a better setup than the one it currently has - and no, Dodo is not the answer. Either a better backup or a platoon mate. Something. 

    Ironically, Roma did in fact buy Abner from Cortiba (5m for 60% of his contract) but that's for next summer and Abner tore his ligaments shortly after the deal was done. In other words: Roma's happening, but in Brazil, so that's fine. Just keep it out of Italy.
  • If you have to ask why Alessio Cerci was sold, then, well, I don't know what to say. Selling Cerci wasn't an option; it was the only option at the time. He's since come good but he's still a nincompoop when it comes to decision-making and until he proves otherwise, a chance he does deserve now, a very selfish big fish in a small pond. That works on small teams; it does not work on good teams. Ricardo Quaresma would like a word...

    But goddamnit, these Romans against Roma are killing me. Stop it, already. Stop it. Hell hath no fury like Romans scorned, apparently.
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