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Positional Breakdowns: Midfield

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Midfield: Roma's bread and butter. Really a mixed bag though this year, when you think about it. Between injuries and players out of form (coughbrazilianwingerscough), they really did well making up the difference in other areas despite having their best area far from optimal at times. Of course, there were days when Daniele De Rossi & Co. bossed the middle of the park like none other, but between Aquilani's injuries, Taddei's form and injuries, Mancini inability to give a fuck, Perrotta's cement overshoes and David Pizarro's Doni-esque decision making, it wasn't always pretty. Perhaps the defense picked up more slack than we thought.

Daniele De Rossi: See here. A+. A++. 110%. Whatever.

Alberto Aquilani:
Certainly a disappointing season from an injury standpoint, but we all saw the glimpses and, on occasion, the beautiful end product. His play is so subtle at times it goes unnoticed - that is, unless he's unleashing weapons of mass destruction from distance.

It's clear he's part of the immediate future with this team, and the team is on another planet when he's playing well. One problem is keeping him healthy. The other problem is, of course, The Grand Imperial Poobah's puppy love with Senor Pizarro. Kid just wants some playing time. Every other club in the world sees it. Donadoni sees it. We've seen it with Roma, so he certainly fits well into the system. So why can't Spal just put little ol' David on the bench?

In the end, Aquilani is too talented not to force his way into the lineup next season. Had he been healthy this year who knows how things would've looked. We all remember how ridiculously good Roma played in the first five games of the year when he was on the pitch and Roma didn't concede a single goal. Hard to believe he didn't play at least a small part in that. Perhaps more of the same is in store next year. Both ends, he's the future.

Grade: B+

There were games where he was less evident, but no real clunkers that I can recall. Obviously this wasn't his ceiling, and we'll hope for a full year of long range shots, subtle touches and floppy hair next year.

David Pizarro:
The Udinese away fixture summed up his season for me: falling on his ass inside Roma's box attempting to dribble between two striped forwards in the first half, putting half the fanbase into cardiac arrest, then lofting a gorgeous ball over the top to set up the equalizer in the second. The guy is an absurdly dramatic wash. Perhaps the most frustrating athlete to watch I've ever encountered.

There were more fuck ups in the first half of the season while there was more good play in the second half. So hopefully this was a case of the early season injury. But man, some of that decision making is seriously suspect.

Credit where credit is due, though; for all his defensive inadequacies, he hustled his little ass off at times to make up for it, even if his timing will never rival that of DDR (A for effort on a few of those yellow cards...execution? yeah, not so good). And I've never seen a guy score more deflections in a season. Of his five goals, one was a peno and three deflected in - and one deflected twice. How the hell do you explain that?

Grade: B

Good, not great, and I think he saved a lot of gray hair with the improvement in the second half - even if he is painfully close to becoming the new Doni.

Matteo Brighi:
Despite that ridiculous talent that had him labeled a future superduperstar with Juve, Matteo seems to simply be a niche guy right now. You could say he's DDR's backup, but Daniele never takes a seat. At times he's also Simone's replacement, though more often than not that was Ludovicious. His role is really as the late game guy with legs to do a bit of cleanup work. Kinda like the janitor. And he's definitely the best gum chewer in calcio.

For what he was asked to do, his contributions were pretty good. Not exactly a lock down guy - Roma did concede quite a few when he was brought on late in the game - but he did his job well enough. Great squad guy you could say. Not much else to say.

Grade: B?

If you go by what he actually contributed, he was above average but nothing spectacular. If you're grading by what he was asked to do, he was great. No clue. Toss up.

Ahmed Barusso:
The highlight of his year were those pics of him at ritiro when he looked like Jax from Mortal Kombat. Bout it. Obviously not ready this year, maybe half a year in Turkey did him wonders. Color me blasé for now.

Grade: N/A

Simone Perrotta: Finishing sucks, yadda yadda yadda, we all know this. But what he brings to the table is so vital at times. Really one of the most underappreciated players in calcio right now. Coaches love him for a reason, all that good stuff. Same old spiel.

Does RAI, or any other outfit for that matter, keep track of meters run on a weekly basis? Because I'd love to see how his totals stack up against the rest of Serie A. Born in England, plays for Italy, runs like a Kenyan. The guy couldn't stay healthy to save his life for a few months there, and would grab an ankle legitimately at least once a game. But he still put himself into the right positions, tracked back like a madman and contributed immensely to the overall cause. If I had the time (I don't), I'd love to take a look back at the games he played versus the games Ludovicious played at treq, and determine what type of impact it had on Daniele De Rossi's performance. Logically, one might think DDR was a little more comfortable in roaming touch to touch with a bombing Simone coming back to fill the middle. Would DDR have had the same season with a sexier, truer trequartista in the fold? Maybe not. Now extend the consideration to other players on the team, like Pizarro (who would never ever lock down a starting XI spot if not for Simone), or even the fullbacks. Domino effect. It's these little things which turn out to be really, really big in the end.

Now, if someone could only get him an old pair of Totti's boots...

Grade: A-/B+

Like I said, my hardest grade. Tear this one apart, but he's a lot more vital than most give him credit for.

Mancini: With all the insane rumors flying around, signaling the beginning of yet another summer when the journos will lap up each and every tasty nugget that comes along, regardless of legitimacy, I've tried to decide which potential link could make the biggest difference in Rome next year. You know what? How many players on the wishlist could possibly make the type of impact an inform Mancini who gives a shit next year? Very few. What difference would an in form Mancini have made this year? Refs or not, probably a scudetto. You can say Vucinic replaced the impact of Mancini, but what if Roma had both at their disposal? My oh my, what an attack.

The guy had one really good run in the dead center of the year, but other than that he was on the wrong end of his inconsistency, oftentimes utterly useless. We could probably go deep into the Armchair Psychiatrist's Manuel right now, but we'll just say it looks like his time in Rome has just come up. That's all it looks like. I've talked about Brazilians more than anyone else recently, so that's it.

Thanks for the good times, but the clock has struck twelve and your time has come. Arrivederci.

Grade: C-

Honestly, if he even acted like he tried half the time, it'd be way higher, but he doesn't. I may be a bit generous here, too.

Rodrigo Taddei:
From that post season mini-wrap:

The way I see it, we’ve had two Brazilian wingers this season out of form. Their origins are probably different - Mancini was hurt before the year, but this doesn’t appear to be a valid excuse, while Taddei has gone down a few times now and appears to be suffering from an injury-plagued year - but their contributions have been vastly different. When Taddei’s technique and skill fails him, as it has during stretches and understandably so, he makes up for it with his workrate, tenacity and will. When Mancini’s technique and skill fail him, not exactly a rare occurrence, Mancini accentuates it by dropping a figurative turd on the field.

Rodrigo will never be a light-up-the-world Quaresma or Robben type winger, even if he has a respectable bag of tricks. However, he is a very good winger with a lot of qualities painted in a broad stroke across the board, and his contributions often go unnoticed (like Simone). The guy allows Cicinho more liberties on the right, for starters, because we all saw the landing strip offered up like a glorious housewarming gift to the opposition when Giuly was on the right. His technique exists, even if it failed him much of the time this year, with glimpses against the likes of Udinese, Cagliari and that glorious moment of brilliance he netted against Lazyo.

His form will return, totally convinced of that - a summer of rest should do him wonders. But in its absence, he was still able to contribute with sheer desire and will. Is there anything more you can ask? He gave what he could. Not ideal, but we can certainly see the contrast between the Brazilian winger on the left and the one on the right.

Grade: B

In truth, given some of his performances, this is generous. But he gave to the cause and that's worth a great deal.

Ludovic Giuly:
His playing time fell off the face of the planet in the second half, which probably had a great deal with Perrotta getting healthy after he was going down at the slightest hint of a strong wind (like Cristiano Ronaldo, but with actual injuries). For me, he was two entirely different players when his play was concentrated on the wings and when he was in Simone's treq spot. His ability to dart in and out of that central spot in closed spaces was great - provided he wasn't getting steamrolled by defenders twice as big as he. A real nuisance. On the wing is where he seemed to do his most Houdini impressions - at least in games he started from the opening blow.

In summation: good year. Pretty much what was expected, a good attacker who contributed in some key goals and some key moments. Particularly useful as a late game injection of pace to sort of change the complexion of the squad. One of the main beneficiaries of playing with Totti, I thought (though who isn't).

It's hardly devastating if/when he moves on, but he was a great asset for this year. The role he was handed was probably his ceiling in Rome, so you can't really blame him, either. At the end of the career I can never blame a guy for wanting to finish his days out on the pitch rather than the bench.

Grade: B+

For what was essentially a loan (depending on his transfer fee, perhaps an expensive loan), it was really good. Bout it. Grazie. And I wouldn't be upset if he stayed, though you've got to wonder if one of the kids (I'm looking at you, Cerci), could use his minutes to develop in the squad while maybe kinda sorta perhaps fill in the production (hoping, at least).

Mauro Esposito: Here's the deal, if he had netted one ball in the minuscule number of minutes he was given early on in the year (ManYoo, for example), he'd see some actual playing time. Problem is he never really forced himself into the squad in the minutes he was given, and for some reason Spal didn't seem to see anything in practice which was worthy. Plus the "squad was closed".

So thanks for the professionalism. Bout it. Have fun in Napoli.

Grade: B-

And if Espo scores another 15 or so goals next year, I'm going to be mighty pissed. I think a steady run of games would've helped A LOT.

Adrian Pit (Pronounced 'Piz):
Way back in December I was too busy shopping for fantastic X-Mas gifts for my fam to catch up on the Torino highlights from the Coppa away leg, so the first time I saw him in the kit was last week. Kid knocked an absolute cracker in the highlights. Ooh. Ahh. Blah.

Now tell me, why the fuck didn't he go out on loan again? Did he really acclimate himself to the system sooooooo well this year its benefits usurped that of a full year on the pitch? You'd have to give me a hell of an argument. Even Serie C1 would've sufficed. Something, anything that wasn't the Swiss Mentally Challenged division.

But he was signed to an extension through 2010 at some point this year, so it doesn't appear he's a total turd. Just maybe the fake joke store kind.

Grade: N/A

Mancini looks gone, so you can start talking about a vice-Vuci. Giuly and Espo look gone, so you can start talking about a vice-Taddei or perhaps even a platoon-mate, if Spal is feeling frisky (and this is where you start to think that Mancini's pricetag falls somewhere directly in the range of Rosina's pricetag....). Seems like the duo of Aquilani and Brighi is enough cover for Simone and provide some of the right qualities, or maybe a Giuly type who can play across the line (coughrosinacough).

Seems this is a spot for the most turnover, but the greatest wonders are the unknown. There was a rumor that they were considering bringing back Cerci in January, much less now. But his injury turns that consideration on its head, along with his goal drop in the second half (can't comment on form though - don't get around to watching Pisa much). If Espo wasn't going to play in a closed squad, Pit sure as hell wasn't, but maybe he has more quality than we give him credit for - Panty Corvino was after him for fuck's sake, that's a helluva endorsement right there. Even Della Penna seems to be doing big things in the Primavera, though he's a really unlikely candidate to be brought up so soon. A few internal possibilities here.

When you start talking about the back two in the midfield, I highly doubt we'll see an major flux there, and the only potential movement involves Barusso, who may or may not push someone out. You aren't utter shite when teams like Arsenal and Milan are after you, so he's at least an enticing specimen. Perhaps Galatasaray went well. We shall see.

This area may be a revolving door this summer. Enjoy the drama.