Atalanta 1 - Roma 2
Loathe statistics. Absolutely despise them. There is a time and place, but this is not it. For me they've ruined entire sports (see: ball, base). Describing the action in words at leaves leaves the capability of romanticism, youthful innocence and doe-eyed wonderment. To say that so and so is the 'celestial spawn of gazelle and a divine purpose' does a bit more for me than saying 'he's fast because he runs the 40 yard dash in 4.3 seconds and can do the shuttle fast in however fast it is to do the shuttle'. This, for me, is part of what makes the beautiful game just that - it's simply rooted in the beauty of innocence and naivety.
Unfortunately there was no beauty in this match. And when there is no beauty, no supernatural romanticism or divine inspiration, we must go revert to droning of statistics and practicality. Oh, practicality.
- In October went 2-1-3. In November they went 4-1-0.
- In October they scored more than one goal in two games of six. In November they scored more than one in four of five.
- In October they conceded two goals twice, losing both times. In November they did not concede more than one goal, despite conceding one in each game.
What, you may ask, could've so drastically change the fate of a football club on November the first? Well I'd be more than happy to tell you: Mirko Perrotta and Simone Vucinic scored their very first goals of the season, a bit more than fashionably late, and in the process they returned to form.
In the process, they returned AS Roma to form.
The game was far from pretty. In fact it was, to a degree, vintage Ranieri football: a flat(ish) performance defined by three points at the end of the day.
The difference between this and Livorno, this and Udinese, this and Milan is oh so very simple: Mirko Perrotta and Simone Vucinic.
No one - or no one who doesn't belong bound in a rubber room - has ever questioned the enigmatic genius of the Balkan Maradona. But I will fight to the death the person who dares disagree with the notion that Simone Perrotta is the second most important player on this team when healthy and fit. And that's second, not third. One needn't be better to be more important to the structure. After all, marble is better than steel. But take the marble from the facade and the building loses it's aesthetic; take away the steel and the building crumbles.
Totti is most assuredly Roma's deity, and when God takes the day off, he sends angels to do his work. Mirko and Simone are His angels. Roma's angels.
Who says you can't find romance in statistics?
- I think they lose this game with Spalletti on the sidelines, and we said the same about Claudio's debut against Siena. That's no knock on Luciano - Francesco knows there were some less than scintillating performances that Spalletti's boys would've savaged - but just a display of their different qualities.
Ranieri works. He simply works. Despite their inability to hold a clean sheet, they've held the teams to minimal chances. I think the clean sheet will come once the back line can get back to some sort of continuity - meaning the back four remains the same for three or more games, as it hasn't happened in some time, while the team sheet does not include Marco Cassetti. Motta's better, Mexes is better and Juan is returning to fitness - for now - so they inevitably will become a lockdown defense. Of this I have absolutely no question.
And the difference, again, between the results and games which we'll pretend never happened is the players are now doing their jobs at the other end. (Should be noted they're all now at or close to full fitness - can't forget that.)
Claudio's system is here and it working. It may not flash the brilliance of Spalletti's Roma in its day, but it's effective and that's all that's needed.
- Plenty of people have wondered why Doni & Valdes weren't brought on earlier for Atalanta, and similarly bemoaned Roma's chances with those two from the off. Well I'm full of answers today. The reasoning is simple: with those two on the pitch along with a certain Yeremy Menez, this is a 4-1 Roma win rather than 2-1.
You'll notice Valdes was brought on one minute after Menez exited. In fact the moment Yeremy began wandering to the sideline Conte motioned and Valdes' tracksuit came off. This is not coincidence.
- Speaking of Yeremy, there have been moments of indiscipline over the past year+. Many moments.
And he picked up the only Roman yellow (for what is escaping me, but I think I remember a forward's tackle, which is entirely excusable).
This is not a small deal.
- Provided Juan doesn't get hurt between now and Sunday - now and breakfast is a victory; now and Sunday would be a fucking miracle on par with stigmata - the lineup will almost definitely include Burdisso at rightback. In fact he was held out for just that reason, so as not to risk him for the weekend.
- Methinks the ball on the floor to Mexes cross-body shot on corners has been picked up. Anyone notice him being double and triple-teamed on corners the moment he runs away from the scrum?
Might be time for a new trick from the bag.
- I was less worried about the Juan incident late in the game in the box - it was shoulder to shoulder and that's rarely, if ever, a penalty - and more worried by Pizarro's hours late two-footed tackle on Tiribocchi midway through the first. He was lucky that both feet went on either side's of Tiribocchi's peg, the big lug still went down, and that big lug part is another reason as to why there was no penalty, otherwise David really risked a red.
His decision-making isn't exactly top drawer sometimes, is it?
- I keep coming back to the same quote, or paraphrase, from Spalletti on Mirko and I can only think it applies so well to this game. In -6-07 there was a game, and I'm sure I could find it with the right motivation, where Mancini, not Mirko, was brought off despite Amantino having a fairly good game and Mirko having a rubbish one. And then, as though a stroke from Luciano's magic wand, Mirko got the result-winning goal in the dying minutes of the match. After the game Spalletti said that even when Mirko is not having his finest game, he has so much quality that he can turn the game in an off-form instant. That he is simply that good.
This was that game. A hand in both goals and otherwise a match to forget.
Now they, like myself, will tell you there's a game midweek.
Bullshit. To Sunday they march.