It's amazing how quickly the mood around CdT and Roma herself has changed since we started making these post match discussions a regular feature. Bit by bit the doubt surrounding Roma's torrid October has started to fade away. Gervinho is scorching hot, Miralem Pjanic is perhaps playing the best football of his life and, as we saw yesterday, Maicon reminded us all why he was one of the world's best for many years.
In that spirit of renewed optimism, I sat down with a few of the crew to get a better gauge on what we're witnessing...
First off, how amazing was Maicon against Udinese? What can we reasonably expect from him going forward?
Bren: This was a vintage performance for sure, the kind that brought you back to his Inter or City days when you thought to yourself "Damn, Roma could never afford a guy like that". He just adds another dimension to this attack, which may shouldn't sound like a slight at Ale because it's not; Maicon was simply one of the best fullbacks, attacking at least, of the past decade. If only there was a way to save these glimpses for the truly gigantic matchups.
Sam: Dougy played like Dougy! Garcia's system really needs the fullbacks bombing forward in order to provide room for the front three to cause some chaos. The fact he played this well isn't that great a surprise, the real surprise is why he has been left to sit on the bench for so long this year.
NANF: Hopefully more game time.
Kevin: He was world class to say the least. When Maicon came to Roma, I never imagined he would stay this long, let alone be this good still. If he can continue to play at a high level like he did against Udinese, there's no reason the 34 year old can't win his starting spot back (other than the fact that Florenzi is doing well at the position currently). Hopefully he can perform like this in the big matches as the campaign progresses.
masonio: He was good. Ditto what NANF said. We can also expect some mistakes he's made in the past, but hopefully not too many.
Very quickly. Maicon is a transformative presence in this lineup and, if he shows a fraction of that form week in week out, he'd warrant a new deal, but at his age and with his fitness struggles, would you offer him a contract extension?
Bren: It'd be mighty tempting, particularly if the absence of a real right back continues and/or Alessandro Florenzi is stuck in no-man's land, but I'll stick with old sports adage that it's better to let a guy walk a year too early than a year too late. I just can't see how you can rely on him for any shred of consistency at age 35 and beyond. If he wants to stick around at a cut rate and is cool with being a bit player, absolutely, bring him back, but that doesn't seem likely.
Sam: Yes I would, purely due to the lack of options we currently have in this position. Obviously you are going to cut back the salary and guaranteed playing time here but on his day Dougie writes the book on attacking RBs.
NANF: Even if he plays as half the player he was today, he is still miles ahead of his competition. As a reserve, which is really how he has been used this season I'd still give him an extension.
Kevin: I have to agree with Bren on this one. I'd rather Roma buys a cheap right back or calls up Abdullahi Nura from the youth squad next year. Very few players are dependable at 35, and Maicon just doesn't seem like one of them given his fitness issues. With that being said, we should enjoy every one of his performances while he's fit.
masonio: If he meets that criteria then yes. As long as he can play at that level, pay him. Age should only be a consideration if it's more than a year long deal.
Okay, what about Pjanic. We've all read the rumors about Munich scouting him in recent weeks, and he is undoubtedly in the throes of a career year. Keeping in mind that he's under contract through 2018, how much longer can Roma resist the beckoning calls of Europe's heavyweights?
Bren: My knee-jerk reaction is that the contract extension wins out, but Pjanic has been nothing but a solid citizen, so I can see a situation in which Pjanic respectfully requests a move to another, larger club. At which point I'd be disappointed, but grateful. Having said that, if Roma wants to be serious on the transfer market, they have to up their salary game, and if you can't break the bank for someone like Pjanic, who will they pony up for?
Sam: I have a bad feeling about this one. Pjanic fits the profile of the big fish a team like Barca or Bayern bring in to bump a team up in the champions league race. And then on the other side of the coin you have our rather sell happy management. Should we fail to gain a champions league spot either this year or the next I think it is safe to say he will be the first cab off the rank.
NANF: Management will not turn down a stupid big offer and maybe these set piece highlights will get some teams to throw stupid offers out there. I still think there is a good chance a lot of other pieces are on the block before Pjanic, I don't think it's luck that he has lasted this long.
Kevin: He's carried Roma at times this year, so management would be wise to reject any offer for Pjanic in the future. While it's still jarring to not see Totti in the starting lineup this season, I can at least take solace in the fact that Pjanic is. Not many players can carry Roma in Totti's absence, yet Pjanic has managed to this year, which makes me optimistic going forward. It would be very upsetting to see him sold, as he's finally found out how to be consistent and is still only 25. He's one of the best free kick takers in Europe and he's still three years away from his prime. Think about that.
masonio: Mire's been admired by Bayern & Barcelona from almost as long as he's been with Roma. He has always said he wanted to stay and I think so far that's why he has. If a stupid offer comes in, management will likely accept and then he will go. I don't see him going before that happens.
All this positivity is making my skin crawl, give us one criticism of yesterday's performance.
Bren: Gotta be the late goal, right? There was the usual offensive malaise in the second half--usual in the sense that they tend to do that with a lead--but conceding late in the game is seldom a good sign. That lack of concentration will bite them in the ass someday, and if you look at the goal, there's a ton of space between Digne and the centerbacks--signs of lack of experience and poor communication, both of which must be tightened up as the season progresses.
Sam: No Totti.
NANF: Sam and Bren hit the nail on the head. The absence of Totti this season is concerning no matter what place we are in.
Kevin: 75 minutes of the most beautiful football that Roma has played in the last year or so, but what was that last 15 minutes? The late goal ruined the perfect day, as did the lack of a Totti cameo at the very least.
masonio: We could have used some more squad rotation in this fixture, especially in hindsight after seeing how awful Udinese are.
Inter, followed by Bayer in the Champions League and a home derby against Lazio before the international break--can Roma run the table? Which match is the biggest potential pitfall?
Bren: Nine points out of nine would be fantastic, I can't deny that, but six of those points mean far more than the remaining three. I'm uncertain about my ambitions for Roma in the Champions League; increasing their lead on the table is far, far, far more important. Having said that, winning against Bayer would keep their CL hopes alive. As far as which of the three is the biggest trap or pitfall, I'll have to say Lazio. I can see them defeating Inter and Bayer and getting too sure of themselves ahead of the always volatile Derby della Capitale.
Sam: Sheesh kebab, busy times indeed! I think the biggest problem at this stage will be the Lazio game as we will be more or less physically spent for a match which will be more a mud wrestle than an archery contest. Champions League is important for this club if they are serious about growing into a european powerhouse and fielding a weak team is unbecoming. With that said I think both the Inter and Bayer results will have a big impact on Roma's psychiatry coming into the derby.
NANF: Roma have to not look past any games. Can't be thinking about the derby for the entire week, have two other arguably bigger games earlier in the week. Physically and mentally this is a tough stretch.
Kevin: It would be the most Roma thing ever to run the table, so yes it can happen. Can you imagine the international break after taking nine points? The papers would have nothing negative to report. Hell, there wouldn't even be any fights in here. The match against Lazio is the biggest potential pitfall, as derbies involve so much emotion that it makes the match hard to predict. Overconfidence could definitely be an issue to look out for as well, especially if Roma heads into the match with six points after matches against Inter and Bayer.
masonio: Can they? Of course. Roma is on a high and most of the football is going our way. The derby is the most important of the three as it'll have a great psychological effect on the rest of the season no matter which way the result goes. But the psyche going into the derby will be heavily influenced by what happens against Inter & Leverkusen. It's a tough stretch.