I'm not quite sure what that was, ostensibly the 22 young men running around the pitch at the Luigi Ferrari's were playing some sort of sport, one for which they get paid handsomely, but it bore no resemblance to the football we've seen from Rudi Garcia and Roma this season. However, when you consider the fact that today's lineup featured only three nominal starters, the best case scenario was always a draw, and, were it not for one defensive lapse, Roma would have achieved just that.
In case you didn't notice, Roma's season was, for all intents and purposes, wrapped up on April 19th when the Giallorossi officially qualified for next season's Champions League. There was simply no catching Juventus, who just established a European record for points in a season (Hey, it least it was an Italian team, right?), making the past three weeks veritable petri dishes for Rudi Garcia, freeing him to experiment with lineups, while also sending Walter Sabatini a not so subtle signal to beef up next season's bench. Who knew the French could be so passive aggressive?
We'll forego the highlights because, well, because they didn't exist, save for a few moments of brilliance from Adem Ljajic and another spectacular save from young Lukasz Skorupski.
The song remains the same; Roma bested the Genoa in passing, possession, and total offensive output, but were left wanting when it came to actual results. Roma's patchwork offense mounted a decent enough attack, peppering Mattia Perin with 11 shots, four of which were on target. However, Roma's best chances--two from Ljajic in the box, Destro from the edge of the 18 and Rodrigo Taddei from distance--were all turned away by Perin, whose €10m price tag is starting to look awfully enticing.
We've witnessed more infuriating performances from Roma this month, but unlike the past two defeats, Roma didn't have to settle for a barrage of shots from distance, they were able to work the ball into high percentage scoring areas, they simply couldn't convert them.
That's really about it; this was an ugly match, so the numbers can only reveal so much. So, rather than wringing our hands over statistics, let's take a look at some of the lesser known names that shined (a term I use loosely) this afternoon.
As one of our Scottish readers pointed out earlier this season, this young man's surname is an odd amalgam of anatomical colloquialisms, but there are far better (and let's face it, more mature) reasons to remember the young Croatians name.
Jedvaj is only 18-years-old, yet already stands 6'2" and weighs a svelte 175lbs, and though he looks like the disregarded member of One Direction, he is very much a man-child. In only two appearances this season, Jedvaj has shown (again, used loosely) the ability to play inside and outside, pair him with Alessio Romagnoli and you have two massive, athletic, and versatile defenders upon whom Roma can rely for years.
In today's tepid defeat, Jedvaj was arguably Roma's best asset, turning in a match high five tackles and ten clearances, while also picking off two passes and completing 92% of his own. At this stage in his development, Jedvaj would probably be best served by a few seasons on loan, but he certainly has all one craves in a defender: size, speed, strength and hairdo that makes all the tweens swoon.
While his performance this afternoon wasn't quite as noteworthy as last week's spell against Juve, Skorupski still showed enough to keep his name in the discussion as Roma's keeper of the not too distant future. At 23-years-old, Skorupski is still a baby by keeper standards, but take one look at the kid and you can see why Roma even considered him in the first place; he cuts an impressive figure.
While he's not the tallest keeper on earth, Lukasz certainly looks like he knows his way around the weight room. Through his first two appearances in a Roma shirt, Skorupski has looked lively, strong and fearless. Add a few years of tactical seasoning to that mix, and Roma might be on to something here...but Perin, man if we could get Perin, we'd be golden.
A Matter of Mays
Despite flailing in the month of May, Roma pulled off a 23-point turnaround from last season, establishing high water marks for points and wins in the process, finally recovering their place in the Champions League. Yes, this rather ignominious end to the season was....well, enough with the thesaurus words; it sucked, plain and simple. In a matter of three weeks, Roma suffered 60% of the season's defeats, while besmirching their once glorious defensive record. We may never fully understand why Roma failed to show up against Catania, or why they ceded focus to Juventus in the waning minutes, or simply what the hell that was we just saw, but this was not a fitting end to what was otherwise a spectacular season.
While this is sure to leave a bitter taste in your mouth, don't let it dampen your spirits. Roma is headed in the right direction, and for the first time in several years, many of the names attached to Roma this silly season won't be so silly; they will be reasonable and they will be necessary. Roma is very much a Scudetto front-runner and, depending on how things shake out, should have every reason to expect an escape from group play in the Champions League next season.
For once, Roma's finances and reality are in sync with their expectations. Make no mistake, the fallout from this May is nothing like the last one.