I don't know whether to lay the blame on Roma for both failing to finish and giving Empoli the opportunity to score two goals; or to commend Empoli for one very lucky goal and one moment of pure genius from Ighli Vannucchi - which never should have been there. Probably a little bit of both, because they've shown a knack for getting it done against the big boys (Milan), the almost big boys newly potty-trained (Palermo & Napoli) and still in Pampers and still shatting themselves daily (Lazio). Roma fell into the trap and failed to walk away from Tuscany with 3 points, allowing in a late goal yet again. Let's recap this.
Juve: 88th 2-2
Fiorentina: 79th 2-2
Napoli: 84th 4-4
Empoli: 90th 2-2
All games which Roma had in the bag, all games which Roma controlled, and all games which Roma drew. That's a missed 8 points, which puts them 5 points clear at the top and in great position coming into the cakewalk part of the schedule. Hell, two out of four means Roma is still in first place sittin' drop dead gorgeous going into the latter half of the first leg of fixtures.
* - Well, it's either stop allowing late goals or score 3 per game, as that seems to be working out fairly well thus far.
To me, the blame lies heavily with three people: Doni for being so far out of position on that Sebastian Giovinco cross (yes, it was a cross), which was reminiscent of his positioning on Vincenzo Iaquinta's goal; Mirko Vucinic for missing 12,000 sitters against a 7 year old rookie keeper; and lastly, but more importantly and controversially, Luciano Spalletti, for yet again not getting his team ready to play a full 90 and making a questionable sub.
The issues with TGIP aren't exclusive to the Empoli game, and he is by far the least to blame for the issues in Tuscany, but have been increasingly worrisome ever since the season began. To me the first issue was subbing off Ludovic Giuly at halftime, which appeared to be a tactical switch, because instead of bringing on a like-for-like substitution in a system that was flourishing (such as Mauro Esposito), he brought on Max Tonetto, pushing Cicinho up to RW and clearly trying to defend the lead. Why? Lulu Gulu was one of the two most effective players throughout the first half, and his presence along with Mirko, Simone and Mancini nearly guaranteed another goal or two. Continually keeping Empoli on their defensive toes seemed to be working, did it not? They spent the entire first half making them look like a the JV girls team at my high school, apart from a few odd chances down that lefthand side (yes, the pairing of Cicinho and Lulu is a defensive nightmare, but it's no reason to change the complete makeup of the game when it's effective). The other sub was Simone coming off for Ahmed Barusso, which was on the docket early in the second half, when Ahmed was continually running up and down the sidelines, but still had the undertones engraved in Simone's backside. At least once a game there is a sub or non-sub which leaves everyone scratching their head. Rarely, if ever, does a sub make The Difference.
* - If Giuly did in fact get injured then I'll paste the pie on my face myself, but I haven't seen anything like that as of yet and he's listed for Sporting.
What these substitutions infer is that Spalletti was looking ahead to the game in Portugal. The only trusted option for the wing against Sporting is Ludovic, as Taddei will still be out, Mirko will still be playing up top and he clearly doesn't trust Espo enough to give him any sort of minutes - another aspect which I don't understand. Same goes for Simone, who will be needed in Lisbon. To me, those are two "looking ahead" subs. A coach making that type of mistake is inexcusable and really makes one question their abilities as a gaffer. Underestimate nobody. Period. Coaching 101. Hell, it might even be a coaching college prep course.
The other aspects which one must question are his inabilities as a motivator, a troubleshooter and an in-game manager. All three of which are apparent when looking at how Roma reacts to a) late game situations, and b) crisis situations. (Hint: They don't.) In the first game against Palermo, the boys in yellow & red had to park the team bus in front of net for a solid 20 minutes while continually being saved by the heroics of Doni (yup, it really happened). They got lucky, then came the string of dropped points as a result off late game misjudgments, as well as the derby, where Roma was taking massive amounts of pressure for the last 20 minutes after conceding a goal within range, but got lucky to leave with 3 points. All of this lies on the manager when it happens on such a consistent basis. On his ability to properly prepare (especially), anticipate, motivate and manage in-game situations which require changes in either tactics, personnel or mentality.
I still think he is a tactical genius. I still think he should be - and hope he will be - Roma's coach for a very long time. I don't think he has done anything to justify a coaching hot seat right now or in the near future. But I am increasingly beginning to question whether or not he can properly manage a great team, or elevate a team to consistently great status.
The other thing: This team misses its Romans. The international break cannot come soon enough.
1. Inter 7-0-4 (15)
2. Fiorentina 6-0-5 (11)
3. Roma 6-1-4 (9)
4. Juventus 6-2-3 (11)
Having Inter and Juve draw was ideal, leaving the gap between Roma and the summit unchanged at 3 points. What wasn't ideal, though, was me jumping off the couch to cheer that game-tying goal from Juve. Afterwards I felt the need to take many many showers to cleanse myself of bad juju which comes along with rooting for the jailbirds.
Also, Big Game Crystal Chivu came to the game once again, tripping or falling or breaking his stiletto heel or whatever which allowed Iaquinta to get space and drop the perfect ball in the box, enabling the goal. Yet another big game, yet another goal with Chivu's greasy prints all over it. Good shirt to do it in.
EMPOLI (4-4-2): Bassi; Raggi, Piccoli, Adani (27' st Antonini), Tosto; Marianini (27' Giovinco), Marchisio, Vannucchi, Moro (9' st Giacomazzi); Saudati, Pozzi.
A disposizione: Pelagotti, Marzoratti, Ascoli, Abate.
Indisponibili: Vanigli, Buscè, Pratali, Balli.
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni; Cicinho, Ferrari, Juan, Cassetti; Pizarro, Brighi; Giuly (1' st Tonetto), Perrotta (22' st Barusso), Mancini (41' st Mexes); Vucinic.
A disposizione: Curci, Antunes, Pit, Esposito.
Squalificati: De Rossi
Diffidati: Vucinic e Mexes
Indisponibili: Totti, Aquilani, Taddei, Panucci.
ARBITRO: Banti di Livorno
GUARDALINEE: Ayroldi e Lanciano
QUARTO UOMO: Giannoccaro
MARCATORI: al 13' Giuly, al 32' Brighi, 22' st Vannucchi, 46' st Giovinco
NOTE: ammoniti all'11 st Raggi, al 16' st Saudati, al 9' st Marchisio, al 19' st Ferrari, al 30' st Brighi, al 38' st Barusso e al 39' st Cassetti per gioco falloso.
Doni: All it takes is once, and he should have had that goal. Continually proving he is not the long term answer, as nothing seems to change. 6.5
* - Here's my solution: Park him in net one day, send every single body on the roster in the box, allow 4 to be defenders, hand Totti the ball anywhere from 10 yards outside the box on out and tell Doni he can't leave or do the samba until he saves 25 straight. It may take a couple months, but he'll be a better keeper and maybe learn a thing or two about positioning outside of kama sutra.
Cicinho: Good, especially in the first half, but nothing like his performance against Milan. 90% of the time he's in that "flashes" stage, where he occasionally gives a glimpse of his phenomenal abilities, but the other 10% of the time he can completely take over a game. That Cicinho takes this team to another level. 7
Ferrari: Alright, just alright. Played well enough, but looked a little out of his element a couple times. 6.5
Juan: Same shit-that-smells-mostly-like-roses, different day. 7.5
Cassetti: Decent. 6.5
Pizarro: Offensively, a decent performance. Defensively, STOP LEAVING YOUR FUCKING MAN. 6.5
Brighi: He's like a riddled-with-debt-but-by-no-means-poor man's Perrotta at this point, and that's not so bad. Also, one start, one goal. Is it time to start up the Mirko-esque goal tally for Matteo? Nah. But I'm sure as hell glad they kept him around, and hope he stays on the squad for some time. 7
Mancini: A consistent threat and a creative force throughout his time on the pitch (what, you didn't think he'd play the full 90, did you?), and appeared to take his responsibilities with the armband to heart. Also appeared to actually give a shit, which was nice and probably not a coincidence. I think giving him the band was the right move (whether it's dictated by seniority or not) and should reap benefits in the short term as well. A goal or two would have been nice, though. 7
Lulu Gulu: Great finish on the goal, was ever-present throughout the first half, continually creating and being the nuisance that we've come to know and love. Probably would have factored in another goal had he been left on the pitch. Roma was clearly two different teams in the first and second halves, and the only major change was his absence. I don't think this was a coincidence today. 7.5
Perrotta: Played very well, but should have been a little more selfish. I know I know. A month ago telling Simone to be more selfish with his shooting would have been enough of a reason to be taken to the gallows, but it might have helped. 7
Vucinic: Was so invisible in the first half (didn't touch the ball until the 9th minute), that I was beginning to believe his injury sustained in the Milan game was either recurring or more significant than anyone has actually let on. Either way, the statue of David could have finished those. If Mirko was a "very good" finisher, he'd have about 9 goals right now. What he does better than most is find space with which to work, from there it's a crapshoot. 6
Barusso: It was nice to get a look, and damn is he going to be something for the future, but he's not ready yet. Although he did nothing to scoff at, and he got up and down the field exceptionally well, clearly learning a thing or two from Simone in practice. 6.5
Tonetto: Just kind of, um, there. But who can blame him, it was his first rest of the year. Or it was supposed to be. 6.5
Mexes: Not enough time.
* - For anyone disagreeing that Spalletti shoulders some blame, he was given the second worst rating by the readers of il Romanista, for what it's worth (little, I know) - worst is Mirko by roughly 7000%. So I'm no one man crusade.
Roma v Stupid Decisions, Thus Stupid Goals: The offender on the foul which led to the equalizing goal was Casper the ghost, but either way you cannot let that go in. I also feel taking off Giuly was a stupid decision, and clearly looking towards Sporting was even more inexcusable. Therefore...Winner: Stupid Decisions
Empoli’s Team Bus v The Goal Scoring Virtuoso That Is Vucigol: Christ, Empoli didn't need the team bus. Hell, they didn't even need to throw out the team VW Beetle. They could've let Mirko go all Charlie Conway on them and no triple deke in the world he pulled from his arse-nal was going in. Horrid stuff, really. Winner: Empoli
DDR’s Replacement & David v Holding Down The Center Of The Pitch: Empoli was most effective taking to the flanks early in the game, but Vannucchi's goal never should have been allowed to happen. His man dropped off him for no apparent reason and he was allowed into space, the marker......you guessed it. A time here or there is understandable for someone with such little defensive ability, but continually like this? Enough is enough already. I'm sorry, but he has to go. You can score all the goals you want, but if you can't defend well enough to keep your tally one higher than the opponent, it will never matter. Winner: Empoli's Center Mid
The Top Scoring Booties In Serie A v 22 Year Old Backup Keep In His First Game This Season: The kid played alright, but he should have been on the losing end of a 6-something embarrassment, except Roma is Serie A's resident dry humpers. You know who won here? Nobody. Absolutely nobody. Especially not us, the fans.
MOTM: First half, Lulu. Second half, nobody. Gun to my head it's Mancini, but he missed some easy celebrations.
You can't drop points against an injury-riddled squad like Empoli, much less good teams, by giving up late goals and expect to compete seriously for the scudetto. Simply, the mentality of this team needs to improve and grow, or else history is doomed to repeat itself all over again.