In order to better manage this review, I thought it prudent to segment it into two halves.
Where to begin?
How about 2012 again?
After ending the year on the highest of notes, walking everyone through the holidays with the most filthy four-letter word in the English language, hope, Roma has done as Roma does, as Roma did. Though they haven't quite capitulated, hope is now fleeting and the Champions League seems an every-shrinking fantasy. Hell, they've now netted four points out of their last fifteen in Serie A (yup). Clearly something is wrong somewhere.
The midfield is usually a good place to begin, but against Inter, it was okay, passable, though incredibly disjointed in the first half (we'll get to that). The problems finally seem to be shifting to the attack, where Osvaldo turned into Destro and Lamela's now on the side of a spoiled milk carton and well, Totti can't do it all. The fact that Roma's best opportunities came through their striker, expected, and the rightback being asked to do a yeoman's work currently, unexpected, should explain much of it. Erik Lamela, as Zeman pointed out, has simply not been moving off the ball as he was last calendar year, and defenses are adjusting to cripple his game.
The formation in the first half was curious for one reason: Michael Bradley. Sure, on the surface it looked nice by pressing the central defenders and Samir Handanovic and some little girl in the curva for her hot cocoa, but this forced an incredible shift in formation, to the point it was damn near a 4-2-3-1 at times. "Running a lot" looks good, but when it forces a two-man midfield into a shift of tactics, thus leaving one of the sides exposed - in this case the right, Piris - and forcing Erik Lamela to help further back than desired, it's a problem. The difference between Bradley's positioning in the first and second halves was enormous, appearing as though he'd been given the John Arne Riise halftime treatment: "Calm down and stay the @#$% at home, a'ight?" Running a lot and running wisely are too entirely different concepts. Perhaps he's simply trying to make up for Erik's current lack of existence and, well...can't really blame him. Erik's just....gone.
Rodrigo Taddei used to pull this same routine all the time, but he wasn't a central mid, and in fact Alessandro Florenzi was the one with the brilliant tactical play on the day. When he was playing so well in the first month-plus of the season, it's because he was sort of arriving to the party late, finding the space in the box after the defense had set itself, as the midfield runners should, and thus exposing weaknesses which, of course, Francesco Totti knows before they actually happen. Sunday was the closest, tactically, to that same Florenzi, which is an excellent sign.
The rest was just okay. Marquinhos and Castan offer no heart palpitations unless they're both trying to stop the same guy and fail, in which case, well, yeah. And perhaps Palermo should be probed as to whether or not they put lesser legs on Federcio Balzaretti before shipping him up north, and whether or not he's still in the return window. There's just...what the hell happened to him? He has a worse hit-rate than sperm. Plus he runs with what seem like permanent dead legs. Dodo has shown no ability to be even a passable defender, but maybe he's due an extended trial one of these days. The first teammate he hits with a cross will equal Balza's season total.
In the end, no one was brilliant, no one was poor, the second half was a snooze, and Orsato handed Roma a point with a baby's bottom soft penalty call. Luckily, they'll have another chance at it again on Wednesday.
- One has to wonder if the suits/Zeman thought that Napoli, Catania, Fiorentina and Inter would all test Mauro Goicoechea enough such that they could make a definitive call on the goalkeeper situation,either slotting Maarten back between the sticks or shuffling him off to another club.
If so, they thought wrong. Mauro's been neither scintillating nor deplorable because he simply hasn't been tested enough in these weeks. Sure, he's awkward at times, but so isn't Iker Casillas, and no one's faulted him for that yet. Means to an end, etc.
- Pablo Osvaldo missed the same chances as Destro, Mattia simply creates more chances on his own thus looks worse due to volume. (For the same reason Michael Bradley wouldn't be so damn noticeable if he wasn't running around with what looks like a flashlight on the top of his head. And given that he's a pasty American, it looks like a halogen when he's sweating.)
- Taxi is. (That's the end of the sentence til he gets his identity together. He's got something. Talent definitely. Sometimes he stuffs it in his shorts before entering the pitch. Sometimes he doesn't.)
- Early rumor is Daniele is out of the Coppa match on Wednesday, at the very least. Too bad, because he seems to at least be attempting to pick up the tempo as a regista, though the longballs are still overused.
- At the end of the match, it really seemed like Destro and Osvaldo need to be given a chance to play together when Mattia is on the left. He plays remarkably different cutting in with the right and defenses, given his size, speed and technical ability for a striker, have to pay attention, which frees up Osvaldo a little bit more than when Francesco is hanging back as a trequartista. Given Erik's difficulties of recent, I'd be perfectly happy with the attempt of a Destro-Osvaldo-Totti attacking line in the near future, just to try.
- Oh, right...