Palermo 2 - Roma 0: Hey, I Know You

Tullio M. Puglia

Thought about republishing an old match recap. Pick one.

A few years back there was this idea that one could simply look at the match upcoming and, so long as Roma was for the most part healthy, predict the outcome with ease. If the opposition was a team of quality, Roma would hoist up their britches and put in a hell of a shift, often winning games from which they weren't expected to take the spoils. Against the lesser of the league? Well, they're going to throw away points to the minnows. In short, they played to the level of their opponents, for better or worse.

Welcome back.

The first half was an exercise in digging a hole, the second an attempt to climb out of said hole, falling critically short. Or in this case, a grave, considering the performance was so lifeless. What we saw in the match against Parma reared the expected here: a young, raw player like Panagiotis Tachtsidis is offering talent; he's not offering quality yet. Quality demands a certain degree of consistency, and this was a dud. He's not the only one, and his lacking performance was highlighted all the more by the inclusion of Miralem Pjanic, quickly assuming that "as he goes, Roma goes" mantra, but it's the perfect example.

And this, ladies and gents, is why youth is often given a backseat to the vets. Slow and steady and all that nonsense.

The most worrisome part about this performance is whether one wonders if they got a little too cocky. (This is why I cringe anytime I see someone broach those two words, "Champions League", in the press.) No club which played as poorly as Roma did during stretches this season should enter any match, whether the club is in last place or not, thinking three points is some sort of divine right. The performance played out accordingly - no one performed even remotely well apart from a freshly healthy Pjanic.

All of this brought out one specific reminder; one from the last time a coach was brought in to supplant a Roma icon during the middle of the season. There is, in the last several years, one match which left a taste of the harshest bitter in the mouth. Something so disappointing, both relative to expectation and not, I'd rather forget it ever happened. So obviously, let's talk about it.

Actually, I bet a lot of people could pick this out of all the failed Roman adventures in recent years. Surprisingly, it's not Old Trafford and it's not high-profile. See if you can come up with it.

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Roughly six weeks after Claudio Ranieri took over for Luciano Spalletti, things were beginning to turn around. There were stumbles, sure, and they had to rely upon the heroics of Adrian Pit and Stefano Okaka Chuka, never a clearer indication the end was nigh, but they were on the right path and finally, whole. And then in October of 2009, they played Livorno. Goose egg? Nope. Dinosaur egg. It was perhaps the most disappointing performance since Luciano Spalletti's first match as they not only didn't show up, but for the first in a very long time, they didn't seem to care. Yes, they'd just lost to Milan, but this was something else entirelyl There were listless performances, sure, but never one of such indifference. Pretty alarming that performance, of all the eggs against Livorno in recent-ish years, is the one which ears the prize.

This match was the first which came to mind during the Palermo match. Not because they seemed to be coasting for the paycheck, but because of the magnitude of disappointment brought forth by the performance. Ultimately it's a good thing because it means expectation was high and with justification, perhaps even as a wake-up call, but for a team so mentally fragile as Roma, all it takes is one little push.

Not one to enjoy sensationalist hyperbole, but this loss means this stretch upcoming could define both the long and short-term future of Roma. Either pitch those ninety minutes into forgotten lands or watch the city crumble.

Nothing ever really changes, does it?

Notes

  • It's difficult to blame any one group for this, but we'll try:

    It cannot be overemphasized how ill-advised it is to fire the coach on February 2nd, especially when the new coach switches to a three-back defense.

    Ivan Piris is not a CB. Not in the slightest. Now that's not really Walter's fault since Marquinhos, Castan and Burdisso + Romagnoli should've been enough to see out the season under normal circumstances, but there needed to be a little bit of foresight here. This team transitions from beastly to diabolical the moment one of Hos, Castan or Nico goes down, which is part of the problem. The formation works incredibly well, but the spine of it needs to remain strong for it to do so.

  • Which then means this might be that trial by fire for Aurelio previously discussed: how adaptable is he? Teams are figuring out Piris in the back, which was somewhat inevitable, with Nico also a shell of his former self, something which is easier to hide when he's stashed betwixt the two Brazilians, and it's clear that if the midfield has an off evening, it's a shooting gallery for the opposition. If one of The Big Three does go down, Aurelio may need to think about including a four-man back formation with a little bit of beef in the midfield to present the same amount of defensive solidity when the opposition is pressing as the current formation offers.

  • At 21 years old, Erik Lamela's performances should not hold so much sway over the fortunes of the side. They do. All too often this season the poor performances of Roma have mirrored matches in which his presence was glaringly subpar or non-existent.

  • There is a reason why Maarten Stekelenburg is inevitably benched on every single team for which he plays. It's one thing to be clearly beaten whilst having no chance; it's another to keep one's feet in cement as often as he does. It's not this instance, and it's not the last. It's the sum of them.

  • If there's one thing to which I've remained faithful this year, it's this:

    Miralem Pjanic is the single most important player for Roma's future, and that might also hold true for the present. Totti may be the eternal genius, but Pjanic is its conductor and the man who brings composure and balance to this side moving forward, which then strengthens the defense. Night and day with him on the pitch in his most effective position, yet again. Totti called him Roma's most important player last year. Nothing's changed but the manner in which he's being utilized..

  • Though the timing is remarkably convenient, there are rumors, and quotes, even, saying Josip Ilicic is Roma's at the end of the year. That's fine. But what would be nice is waiting to see who comes in as the coach before making any sorts of decisions. Let Walter pillage South America for nubile talent and leave the purchasing of senior side players a group think in the summer.

  • The last time Roma went into an extended break, it was on the highest of highs and scudetto talk fluttering in the air among the more delusional. (Hi.) An unexpected loss followed in the first match back. "Oh, they'll be fine, it's just one match." Roughly one month later, they were bailing water and the captain from the ship.

    Patterns. Watch out for patterns.

Now for the derby on the back of a loss to the last-placed team in Serie A?

This Roma? I know this Roma.

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