The past ten days in Romaland have been quite interesting. The buildup to last week's Derby della Capitale was rather subdued, at least among our sect here. But, as one would expect, that digital serenity didn't translate to the real world, with both Lazio and Roma fans being banned from attending matches for five years, as well was the Prefect of Rome threatening to have future Derby's behind closed doors. Apropos of nothing, I hope one day to the be Prefect of anything
Beyond government threats, this week saw another exclusion, with Pablo Osvaldo effectively being excommunicated from the Chiesa Di Totti. PDO, rather than supporting his teammates, toured Jolly Old London with his lady friend, resulting in a stern lecturing from Nicolas Burdisso, further cementing both their respective places in Roman lore; one lamented, the other lionized.
But I digress, on to the affairs of the day...
Symmetry can be a wonderful thing, both a standard of beauty and a harbinger of good fortune. In this instance, the fixture list provides what we'll call scheduling symmetry, a reminder of what's gone wrong at nearly every turn this season.
Take your mind back to November 2012, a warmer or colder time, depending on where you're reading this currently. Roma had just dropped points in the derby and were mired in 7th place with lowly Torino next on the fixture list, needing a victory to climb back to 6th place.
Fast forward to 2013 and the story is much the same, following last week's draw with Lazio, Roma rests in 7th place, two points behind 6th place Inter Milan and three back of Lazio, current holders of Italy's last Europa League spot, needing a victory against Torino to remain within shouting distance of European Qualification.
In a rather listless match, at least in terms of the scoresheet, Roma and Torino kept each other in check until the 71st minute. In a play started by Michael Bradley just outside the 18, Marquinho drew a much debated foul, which PDO somewhat cheekily slid past Jean Francois Gillet. Several minutes later, Mattia Destro narrowly missed a chance to double the Roman lead, pushing a well-played ball wide right of Gillet.
Miralem Pjanic would seal the deal in the 86th minute, following a rather strange buildup that saw PDO carrying the ball from midfield, play it off to Destro, who summarily fell before receiving the pass, making it a virtual dummy to a waiting Erik Lamela, who was quickly dispossessed. Pjanic corralled the rebound and fired one past a slumping Gillet from about 20 yards, capping the two-nil victory for Roma.
We'll spare the detailed statistical support, but just know this, Torino is roughly average in most facets of the game, neither standing out nor faltering significantly in any statistical measure, which should account for their place in the table: 14th, three points out of 10th. So while you shouldn't necessarily tremble in fear of Torino, you absolutely have to respect them. While they're not really in a relegation battle, they have managed only one victory in their past six matches and have "only" a nine point cushion above the drop zone.
But, as we've alluded to on here many times, these are the types of matches you must win to be considered a legitimate contender.
So what does Aurelio Andreazzoli have in store for our eyes this week?
Well once glance at the squad list provides a few surprises. Daniele De Rossi, despite some mid-week concerns, has made the trip northwards, as has PDO, though you can't imagine he'll be anywhere other than firmly planted on the bench.
The biggest surprise of last week, one which many fans have been clamoring for, was the utilization of Miralem Pjanic. Andreazzoli slotted the young Bosnian in the hole behind Francesco Totti and Erik Lamela. Whether you call it a 4-3-1-2 or 4-1-2-1-2, there is little doubt that, in this early stage in his career, Pjanic's abilities are best exploited in a playmaking role. Miralem did not disappoint either, totaling 45 passes, three accurate long balls, four chances created and three successful dribbles. Though this was far from his best performance of the season, it was indicative of what he may yet, and most likely will, become--a dynamic attacking midfielder whose greatest gift will be the spark he creates for others; an heir to Totti, in function more than substance, but still a great source of consternation for forward thinking fans wary of his next locale. As the masthead says, hold onto your pillow.
While not the equals of their neighbors, Torino features a decent enough defense, so it will be interesting to see how Pjanic breaks them down. Helping out Miralem will be (most likely) Alessandro Florenzi, Panagiotis Tachtsidis and, if DDR isn't fit to start, Michael Bradley. I, in support of Michael over the summer, fashioned him as a ‘De Rossi-Lite', which, given how his performance fluctuates when paired with DDR, has proven somewhat true. After De Rossi was subbed off last week Bradley's performance improved, not markedly, but he tends to shine when his onus is defensive. So, as always, De Rossi is key is so, so many ways-but I'm sure we'll have volumes dedicated to that this summer.
Has anybody seen Federico Balzaretti? Anyone? Balzaretti has not benefitted from the Andreazzoi min-regime in the slightest, having been replaced by the tandem of Marquinho and Vasilis Torosidis, this week's nominal fullback pairing, supported centrally by Leandro Castan and Marquinhos. Torosidis and Singular have proven to be, if nothing else, fairly versatile players, so how much free reign they are given on Sunday will obviously impact what Roma does in the center of the park. Although they both remained fairly defensive last week, Torosidis, in particular, ventured out wide, particularly in the second half.
The draw last week was disappointing for several reasons, least of all because it was against Lazio. With Atalanta stunning Inter, a Roma victory would've put them on 50 points, even with Inter and Lazio, with bottom feeders Pescara and Siena ahead on the fixture list. So while our hopes aren't dashed yet, the club certainly squandered an opportunity to gain leverage in the European chase.
Leverage will be a salient point going forward for both the club and Andreazzoli. Despite his best efforts and intentions, the era of good feelings is over for Andreazzoli, as every point dropped sees his leverage, and ultimately his career, languishing.
The death knell has not yet rung, but the funeral arrangements are being made. For the sake of his leverage and his livelihood, Andreazzoli needs a Roman resurrection.