Following all the off field controversy and claims that nothing was really wrong with Roma, Rudi Garcia made two crucial lineup changes today against Atalanta, throwing Morgan DeSanctis and Leandro Castan back into the starting lineup at the expense of Wojciech Szczesny and Antonio Rudiger. While no one will really shed a tear for Szczesny, it was a pretty damning statement from Garcia, but would these changes have any impact on the pitch?
Right off the bat, Roma looked more aggressive, more wide open and more mindful in attack, creating six scoring chances and peppering Marco Sportiello with eight shots in the first half alone, not to mention several misguided headers and even an ill-advised bicycle attempt from Kostas Manolas.
So the superficial signs were encouraging at least; they had some verve, some vigor and a pulse, but (spoiler alert) it wouldn't last...
The game plan seemed simple enough, work the ball down the left flank and start pumping crosses into Edin Dzeko, and with 65 touches and six crosses between Lucas Digne and Iago Falque in the first 45 minutes, Roma did just that. The problem, as we've seen several times this season, was that Dzeko simply couldn't meet the ball at that precise moment, and rather than putting the full measure of his frame behind the ball, it glanced helplessly off his forehead.
But the plan seemed to work, Roma had total control of the flanks and were finding Dzeko left, right and center, but then this happened:
I'm not entirely sure what Digne was thinking there; maybe he felt unnecessarily rushed, maybe he simply didn't look or perhaps his hair was in his eyes. Whatever the case was, Digne gifted Alejandro Gomez with a perfect through ball in essence, catching him in stride and with acres of space ahead of him. Turnover or no turnover, let's give Gomez credit, he roasted De Sanctis on the far post from 20-yards-out.
And that was it, really. Digne's error wasn't an indictment of Garcia's regime, but it certainly cast a pall over the match and brought to light all of Roma's recent struggles; lots of movement, lots of chances, no results.
There's no need to dissect the second half, either. Roma was just as poor, just as clueless and just as apathetic, gifting Atalanta another goal following a Maicon penalty in the box. Garcia's only solutions were to remove Iago Falque for some kid named Sadiq and to throw Vasilis Torosidis on late in the match.
The time this club had a semblance of direction, of ingenuity, of simple faith in itself has long since passed. Rudi Garcia has reached his ceiling as Roma manager. The time for excuses and apologies is over.
The time for change is now.