Strikers usually elicit one of three reactions:
1) Meh, anybody could've scored that, he was just in the right place at the right time.
2) ‘Kin Hell, this guy can go coast-to-coast anytime he wants, bra. (The person who would utter that sentence is most likely a British Surfer, or just an affected anglophile from Hermosa Beach)
3) Just wait, another year or so and he'll be banging home goals on the ‘reg. (This person is most likely a young street urchin)
The problem with Roma's primary strikers, Mattia Destro and Pablo Osvaldo, is that none of those reactions perfectly encapsulates each man's respective abilities.
On the one hand, PDO scores a lot of goals, but few seem to result from an exquisite exhibition of skill, except for his always entertaining array of side-volleys and near bicycle kicks. On the other hand, Destro appears like he might be part two someday, and is definitely indicative of reaction number three.
Factors other than each players skill set impacts this debate, including, but not limited to, club finances, proclivity for teammate slapping, age, transfer fee, and hairstyle(s).
So given such a confusing set of circumstances, which striker should rule the roost?
To frame the debate, let's take a look at each player; how they got here, what they bring to the table and what they've done since they've been here.
Tale of the tape:
Grinding corner flags
Resemblance To a Pirate
Likelihood to Impregnate Your Sister
He may have already
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo
All Roads Lead to Rome:
As you may know, PDO was one of the crown jewels of the Enrique summer, coming from RCD Espanyol with a buy it now price of €17.5m. PDO went on to make 26 appearances during his first year at Roma
What's He All About?
PDO, listed by some media outlets as an attacking left midfielder, forward and striker, makes the most of his skills and undoubtedly has a nose for goal. Witness his 41 goals over his past 93 appearances, dating back to the 2009-2010 season, which means he scores in roughly 44% of his matches.
PDO has decent size for a striker and is comfortable, and some might say well-suited, to a quick, short passing game. PDO is a decent dribbler, has good lateral movement, and an excellent sense of space and timing; witness his highlight worthy array of volleys, bicycle kicks and all around aerial acuity.
Speaking of highlights.
So while you can't precisely describe what he does, or how he does it for that matter, his foot, the ball, and the back of net are thick as thieves.
What Has He Done For Us Lately?
Through 10 appearances, PDO has 7 goals, tying him with Diego Milito for third in the league. He's amassed 895 minutes on the pitch, tallying two assists and completing 71% of his passes. His 4.1 shots per game are second in the league to Stevan Jovetic's 4.4. PDO has 10 total dribbles, defined as successfully dribbling past/around an opponent while maintain possession, and 9 key passes, those which lead an attempt on goal by a teammate, good for 6th and 10th on the team, respectively. He's also amassed two yellow cards and one red, stemming from an accumulation of yellows. All of PDO's appearances have been in the center of the attack.
All Roads Lead to Rome:
Destro, newly arrived in Rome this season, was the subject of a protracted three-way transfer saga involving Roma, Siena and Genoa, with the 21-year old eventually being loaned to Roma for €11.5M, with a further €4.5 M required to make the deal official next summer, which is largely ceremonial as he penned a five year deal with Roma.
What's He All About?
Destro, listed strictly as a forward, is slightly shorter than PDO but still has decent size for a forward. Destro is a quick player, capable of taking on defenders and creating his own scoring chances, is adept heading the ball home, and has the speed necessary to be an effective component on the counter attack.
Though the book on Destro is relatively short, (he is, after all, only 21) he is already seen as a legitimate offensive threat and one of Italy's most promising prospects.
What Has He Done For Us Lately?
Destro, for a variety of reasons, has only made nine appearances thus far. In that handful of matches, he's logged 485 minutes on the pitch, scoring two goals. Destro is averaging 2.2 shots per game and is completing 82% of his passes. Destro has totaled 11 key passes and 13 successful dribbles, good for 4th and 3rd on the team, respectively. Destro has also been booked twice, including one infamous, shirt stripping red card. Destro has made three appearances in the center and two on the right.
Now that we have a better feel for who these guys are, who should receive the lion's share of minutes?
Before I delve into this, a few caveats:
1) I like both players and find them equally entertaining, intriguing, and appreciate their passion and exuberance for the game.
2) This argument/debate assumes the healthy return of Erik Lamela, for reasons both offensive and tactical.
3). A vote for one is by no means a denigration of the other, but, much like the Highlander, there can be only one
So with that in mind, and for the good of their collective futures, Roma needs Mattia Destro to play, play a lot, and play well, now. Vincent Candela agrees, Giuseppe Sannino agrees and Angelo Di Livio thinks he's the next Bobo Vieri.
Granted, these aren't reasons in and of themselves, but the kid clearly has a lot of supporters.
Let's start with the fact that he, along with much of the team, are mere children.
Take a look:
If you'll permit a tangent, LOOK HOW YOUNG THIS TEAM IS!, hiccups are to be expected and, truth be told, given that youth and the new system, chasing a Europa League spot is probably where they should be.
But I digress, on to the debate.
By Roma standards, both players were expensive, as both deals, when finalized, top €15M. So in a sense, it's a wash. But look at it this way, PDO's deal pays him €2M over four years, at the end of which he'll be 29 years old, while Destro's five year deal, worth €1.5M annum, will keep him with the club until he's 26.
So in effect, Roma have acquired a greater portion of Destro's near-prime and prime years at a lower rate than they are paying for the apex and start-of-the-decline years for Osvaldo; similarly, should things progress as each party hopes, the club should be able to secure the remainder of Destro's productive years in his next deal. Now, this line of reasoning assumes that Destro will fulfill his promise, which is a reason in and of itself for him to play, and that Osvaldo won't achieve some Miroslav Klose-like swansong.
Looking at 2011-2012 stats, we find that PDO trailed the league leaders in both total goals and success/efficiency, including both Destro and Klose. Osvaldo scored 11 goals on 74 shots last term, good for a 15% success rate. Destro and Klose, each with 12 goals, succeeded at 17% and 20%, respectively. While the top scorers, your Ibra's, Milito's and Cavani's, ranged from 19-35%. This season has proved no more efficient or effective for Osvaldo, as his 17% hit rate trails the rest of the league's top ten scorers, as we discussed last week, but, given his increased number of shots this term, the 2012 stats are more concerning than 2011's.
Looking at PDOs relative lack of scoring efficiency, the likelihood he maintains his current level of performance as the ravages of time set in looks grim. Simply put, even at his current best, Osvaldo trails the league's leading scorers in scoring efficiency. So the odds that he maintains his current scoring pace, given his inefficiency and advancing age, start to decrease.
While advanced football metrics have a way to go, what these numbers show is that Osvaldo is an ineffective volume shooter. His rate of success is not commensurate with his role in the offense, a fact made worse as his presence in the offense has increased.
But, like I said, he just has that knack. But is that knack an actual skill or the product of good fortune? Does he have the innate ability to overcome his inefficiencies as he ages?
Looking at some other statistics from the past two years, Destro holds the statistical advantage in dribbles (32 to 23) and fouls drawn (47 to 23), while Osvaldo maintained the edge in key passes and passing percentage. But when you factor in the sheer amount of passes in an Enrique offense, those numbers make sense.
We should also take note that last season Destro was all of 20 years old and in his first full professional season. This season statistics also slightly favor Destro, with respect to total dribbles (3rd on the team), key passes (6th), passing percentage (13th), and fouls drawn (5th), all while appearing in half as many games.
As always, given the relative dearth of modern, viable football statistics, take these with a grain of salt, as statistics of any sort are open to interpretation; for instance, simply getting a shot off, regardless of its success rate, does hold some value in and of itself, while passing statistics can be influences by formations, tactics and simply philosophy.
Having said that, the objectivity at our disposable gives a slight edge to Destro, given his lower age/cost and broader set of skills, Destro's edge starts to look more pronounced.
Given how much has been invested in the rampant youth on this club, in both finances and spirit, they all need consistent minutes, none more so than Destro, who figures to be the tip of the Roman spear for years to come. Not only does he need the minutes for his own development, the sooner he can establish a rapport with Lamela, Florenzi and Pjanic, the better. Any offense, let alone a Zeman offense, requires a certain amount of dynamism and synchronicity between the attacking midfielders and forwards, laying the groundwork for this now will facilitate the club's future success.
PDO is a fan favorite for great reason; he has an unbridled passion for the game, the club, the fans, not to mention the admiration of the only man who really matters in Rome, making this debate a heated one.
As currently constituted, Mattia Destro and Pablo Osvaldo are fairly similar players, with one currently holding the confidence of his coach, the other holding a seemingly limitless future. The statistics simply provide some small measure of objectivity to what would otherwise be an irrational debate.
Filibusters and numbers aside, Osvaldo should by no means be shipped off to an MLS retirement home, nor sold for cents on the dollar, and if Roma were indeed in a scudetto fight, then by all means the proven should come before the possible. However, given the current demographics of the team, the relative points in their careers, Destro's slightly broader skill set, and the weight his sheer existence holds for the future of the club, Mattia Destro needs to play.