We've been cautioning you for weeks to not get too excited about Roma's torrid October, mainly because the lambs led to slaughter were Carpi, Empoli and Palermo. However, now that Roma has toppled the formerly first place Fiorentina, are the Giallorossi any more of a credible threat? What do we make of Gervinho's form, can he keep it up? And what about Alessandro Florenzi, what sort of legacy will he ultimately forge?
I sat down with a couple of the crew members to chew the fat about Roma's latest state of affairs. It's a bit of a light roll call this week, just me, Kevin and Masonio. I really gotta start dropping the hammer on these guys, huh?
Okay, so what do we think of Rudi Garcia's subtle switch to the 4-5-1 as the match progressed? Dzeko played awfully deep and seemed to buy a lot of time for the wide players to advance. Should we credit Roma's performance for this change? Is this the optimal tactical set up going forward?
masonio: It's a nice idea but not after just six minutes of football. It took Roma a while to settle down to the shift in tactics and they were fortunate not to concede as Fiorentina easily passed their way through our defense. Though, eventually we grew more comfortable and things were locked down for a lot of the match... Well, until things nearly fell apart towards the end. Full credit, from hanging on for dear life and obtaining the result to having next no possession and limiting the effectiveness of our technical players should go to this tactical change. In the end, Roma did win and for some that's all that matters - even if Fiorentina was treated like Barcelona. It just as easily could have been a repeat of what happened midweek against Leverkusen or worse, had Fiorentina not been sleeping on Gervinho's goal or managed to knock in any of their few great chances. I don't think this strategy is optimal because Roma lacks the concentration to be a purely counter-attacking side and they never look fully comfortable when allowing the opposition to dominate possession. It might be a necessity against vastly superior opponents, but Fiore is not one of them.
Bren: Hard to argue with your points there, to be honest; concentration is a huge issue for this club this year. Quite honestly, I don't think there is an optimal setup because so many of the ones that seem amazing come with serious flaws or seriously miscast or underuse key players. But I think as long as Gervinho and Salah stay hot, you have to use some sort of setup that gives them room to move and frees them up to be out and out attackers.
Kevin: Hard to disagree with the assessments above. I think Bren hit the nail on the head with this one; almost any setup has some sort of negative, whether it be miscast/underused players or lapses in concentration. Any lineup with Gervinho and Mohamed Salah right now would be optimal given their current form.
Gervinho currently has five goals and two assists in all competitions and seems to be on pace to top his terrific debut season in 2013-2014 when he cracked double digits in both categories, but last season he was awful. So who is the real Gervinho? Can this Gervinho co-exist in the long run with Dzeko?
Bren: I think the truth is somewhere inbetween, but right now, for whatever reason, he's really excelling, be it the improved play of the team as a whole or the lack of International commitments. At this rate, I think he's going to make a run at 10 goals and 10 assists again, plus with Iago Falque and Juan Iturbe around, Garcia should find more chances to rest him, as hard as that might be to imagine. As far as his co-existence with Dzeko, that's a bit tougher. You have to figure at some point, Dzeko will want to take a couple cracks at goal, but Gervinho was never going to be Dzeko's main supply line for crosses, so at some point, they have to figure out a way to share the wealth because Gervinho won't see the bench like this and Dzeko won't be happy simply holding up play for Gervinho.
masonio: The Law of Gervinho's Averages should eventually catch up to him, unless he's somehow become a much better player suddenly and randomly. I won't be complaining as long as his efficiency remains like this, though. He should do arguably better than last year with the additions we've made in attack. Dzeko will be hating life with Gervinho at least statistically because Gervais often has tunnel vision and can struggle with the most simple of passes, even squaring the ball like we've already seen this season. Gervinho shouldn't mind Dzeko, though, as today it even showed how the Bosnian can hold up the ball before launching it through for Gervinho. They can definitely co-exist, but"this" Gervinho will especially be the one who benefits the most.
Kevin: Definitely somewhere in between. Gervinho does amazing things sometimes that nobody else in the world can do, while other times he can't even do basic things that amateur soccer players can do. Like every player, his form has ups and downs, it just seems to be extreme on both ends, which makes him frustrating to watch at times. We'll have to wait and see if this Gervinho can co-exist with Edin Dzeko in the long run.
What do we make of Antonio Rüdiger? The blueprint for a top class defender is there, but even for a young player, he's been erratic--what can we expect from him going forward? Is the club better off with him or De Rossi back there?
Bren: Again, I think this is where the assumption of a fit Leandro Castan was woefully shortsighted, and we could even say that about letting Davide Astori walk, too. Rudiger has all the tools one craves, but we've seen that movie a thousand times before; if he doesn't have "it" between the ears, all the potential in the world won't save him. I think the best course of action is to leave him in there and let him learn on the job, keeping De Rossi in a virtual sweeper/libero role, but then you run the risk of gassing DDR before the stretch run. It's a tough riddle to solve, so don't be surprised if we see another CB coming in this winter, but Rudiger has enough talent where I hope Roma gives him a legitimate shot.
masonio: He looked promising in his first three matches. Not so good in his last two since returning from injury, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was brought back too soon. We're good at that. If he's playing hurt then he shouldn't be playing (see De Rossi playing hurt today). If not, then keep him playing. I like him. De Rossi should not be playing in the backline unless we have no other choice. We need to be doing better with managing our fitness levels or even more players will get burned out and injured.
Kevin: I think it's still too early to pass judgement on Rudiger. He hasn't even played 10 games with the club yet, and he's been injured for a good amount of time since he's arrived in Rome. Like masonio said, his latest recovery spell seems to have ended a bit too early, which has clearly affected his form. With Daniele De Rossi capable of filling in at center back, is playing Rudiger injured really necessary?
Free write: tell us about Alessandro Florenzi's future with this club--where does he play? how long before he's captain, what sort of legacy will he have?
Bren: First things first, De Rossi has earned the right to wear that armband as the stand alone captain, so once Totti is retired, De Rossi should be given that honor until he himself retires, then it should go to Florenzi; he's the perfect heir. I can see him being a bit of a super utility guy, though one who plays every week, but I certainly hope they find a steady role for him. Slowly but surely, I'm becoming convinced he can make the permanent switch to fullback, but we'll see, he's certainly valuable further up the pitch, too. As far as legacy is concerned, he could be the Totti for the new generation of Roma fans, the player who embodies everything special about the club while also seeming to "get it", to understand how lucky he is to do what he's doing for a living and to it in Rome.
masonio: If Alessandro is still here once De Rossi completes his Roma career then he'll most likely take over the armband then. Unless we still have Strootman, I guess. Time will tell on that one. I still like Florenzi best as a midfielder and feel he's being wasted as a fullback. Or maybe the proper way of putting it is that him at fullback doesn't bring the most out of his qualities. Yeah. If kept as a do-it-all handyman, his "legacy" won't be super special. It'll likely be on par with other average to decent players with whom the tifosi have a huge amount of affection for. Maybe someone like Tommasi plus bonus points for being Roman. Which isn't a knock on either player.
Kevin: He'll play wherever he's needed, he's Roma's utility man. In the immediate future it looks like he'll continue to play at right back, though. I was skeptical of him playing right back at first, but here we are, and he's got the starting position virtually locked down. While he's been a pleasant surprise at the position, his best position still seems to be elsewhere on the pitch. It won't be long before Florenzi is captain, as I don't see De Rossi lasting as long as Totti has. He'll leave his mark on Roma, perhaps more than De Rossi has in all honesty. Everyone loves a good De Rossi celebration, but entering the curva to hug your nonna? That's awfully hard to top already, but I have a feeling Florenzi will find a way to do so over the coming years.
Now that Roma have a two-point lead on the field, who is their biggest obstacle to winning their fourth title?
Bren: While I wouldn't be surprise if Juventus manages to claw their way back into European contention by the spring, I think they're too far adrift to threaten for the Scudetto, so I'm going to stick with Inter. They just have so much depth in attack that they can survive a bad day by any one of their component parts, and Im not sure the same can be said for Roma's defense, making those two fixtures possible title deciders. I hate Inter more than any other team, so they scare me. I can already see Ljajic scoring a Pablo Osvaldo-for-Juventus goal against us late in the season.
masonio: The biggest issues going forward will be maintaining consistency and avoiding complacency. Giving a rest to some players and participating in more voluntary (vs forced) squad rotation wouldn't hurt, either. I guess that means I'm saying Roma is Roma's biggest obstacle, which makes sense especially if you consider how weak Serie A is right now. Napoli should be fun, though.
Kevin: Roma. Come on, that one was a softball.
I can't think of a better way to end it than that. Good on ya, Kevin.