Roma's resounding 2-0 victory over Lazio in the 179th Derby della Capitale came at a cost. After his ankle was damn near split in half in the second half of yesterday's victory, Mohamed Salah was carted off the field with what appeared to be a horrific and potentially season ending ankle injury. While the worst case scenario was indeed avoided, Salah sustained ligament damage that should see him sidelined through the end of the calendar year.
Despite Salah's troubles, Roma has won five of their last six league matches and sits only a point off the title pace. So, with that in mind, we sat down and talked Gervinho, Dzeko, Lazio and more...
Say what you will about the American ownership, but Roma is in a better spot than Lazio in many regards, so is this rivalry about to swing our way on a permanent basis?
Bren: It's hard to predict permanence in anything as temperamental as sports, especially in Italy, but Roma's administrative and financial well-being seems far more stable than Lazio's, especially if that stadium ever comes to fruition. Of course, part of this response is due to the fact that I don't pay too much attention to Lazio, but if we can't hang onto Pjanic, they sure as hell won't be able to keep Felipe Anderson away from England.
Kevin: I agree with Bren, I think moving into a new stadium could be the tipping point for Roma.
JonAS: Yup, agreed. One thing I've learned from history lessons in school is that you don't **** with USA. They know what they are doing. Under Sensi management it was a fairytale, a romantic idea of having a local owner, a Roman family keeping tabs on the club. But as harsh as it may sound, times have changed. Football means business, sometimes hard decisions have to be made, financial welfare, fresh ideas etc. Money talks. And they clearly have a long-term vision for this Roma brand and I back it. We're well on our way to end in a top 2 or 3 spot for the third season in a row, that's quite a statement: Roma's among the bigs boys now and want to stay there. Lazio on other hand still are too inconsistent. That said, a derby is a derby. Every game is special and can go either way.
NANF: Money can't buy the derby it takes heart to win the derby.
Dhaw: It would be a shame if Roma wasn't after wasting/spending millions of euros.
masonio: It honestly should, but there will always be something intangible about the derby.
Gervinho now has seven goals and two assists in all competitions and has converted an absurd 46.2% of his shots into goals (league play), and while he's bound to cool down a bit, has Gervinho finally "arrived" as a player?
JonAS:The Rudi Garcia-Gervinho combo seems be working again, like in 2013-2014 or during their Lille days. God knows for how long though. Yao is an easy target for criticism since he's quite one dimensional. If he disappears two or three games in a row, the pitchforks are back again and we'll want Iturbe or Florenzi on the wing. Personally I hope he can keep this on for a long time. Like we saw against Lazio, there are few players out there who can be such a threat during a counterattack. He's a big weapon, you just need to treat it with care.
Bren: I think you're correct, Jonas, but I don't recall him being this hot during that first season with Roma. Something definitely seems different this season. While he still paints himself into a corner from time to time, the good runs have outweighed the bad ones, especially over the past seven to eight matches. What was it that Totti said about him? If he could finish he'd be as good as Ronaldo and Roma could never afford him anyway--I don't think that'll ever happen, but he definitely seems to be hitting on all cylinders, but I think it's important to remember he's a streaky player, but I think (or I hope) he's reached the point where we'll see more peaks than troughs.
NANF: He is still the same player. I flip a coin ten times I might get tens head. Just don't ask me to do it again. Sample size is still small. His current form is something special though.
Kevin: Hard to say given he had a great first season and then disappeared last year. Although he's on pace to shatter his first year numbers at Roma, it should be noted that if he were to top those numbers, it wouldn't be the first time he's done so in his career. In his second season with Lille, Gervinho had 18 goals in all competitions, but lacked the consistency to continue scoring, which is something that hasn't changed with him. Gervinho is on fire right now, but will eventually suffer a cold spell.
Dhaw: He is enjoying his purple patch. It's just a matter of few more weeks before the real Yao shows up. Irrespective of goals or no goals - he can be fun and frustrating to watch at the same time. That's just the kind of player he was and is and will always be.
masonio: Same player, but definitely not complaining about his current form. With the opposition not completely focusing on neutralising him anymore, he's had more space to work with. Good on him for being productive so far.
With four attempts on goal, the converted penalty, and the missed sitter, we saw the good and bad of Edin Dzeko against Lazio. While he's been a bit underused as an attacking asset, are you at all worried about his performance thus far?
Kevin: Dzeko's come in and been a professional while struggling to fit into Rudi Garcia's wing-oriented attack. He's popped up on the scoresheet in important matches and has shown flashes of technical ability that few knew he had. While I thought he would have more goals at this point, I'm not at all worried about his performance.
JonAS: Nope, I saw a decent Dzeko on Sunday. He scored, kept defenders busy and once again one of Yao/Salah scored. Roma's recent run of results prove it: keep him in the first team! Don't change a winning team.
Bren: I'll let the record show that I never pegged him as the capocannoniere this season, but I was still expecting at least 15. I think he's still going to burst through, though. Especially now that Mohamed Salah figures to miss some time, and you know Gervinho will have his moments; Dzeko is simply too talented to go unnoticed for long, but man, how he missed that second goal is beyond me--you have to make those.
NANF: He is still doing the right things. But ultimately it is his job to show up on the score sheet. Hopefully he can start to put it all together.
Dhaw: He is doing what Totti does effortlessly. I like Edin Dzeko, but he has to start banging them in regularly and get used to his team-mates really quick.
masonio: It's alright for now but he can do better. Not worried yet.
Between the two of them, Kostas Manolas and Antonio Rüdiger combined for two last man tackles and one clearance off the line, flashing their speed and agility in the process. Are we finally reaching the point where their minds are working as fast as their feet? Can Roma win it all with these two as their central pairing?
Kevin: I like the Rudiger-Manolas pairing a lot. Although they're young and therefore inexperienced, I still think Roma can win it all with this tandem in the middle. Walter Sabatini should think twice before selling either of this dynamic duo in the future.
JonAS: I'm a Castan fan, I can't help it. While those two have age at their side, I think Castan could be ideal partner for one of the kids, just for his experience and calmness. Manolas and Rüdiger are still young and will make mistakes. Between Coppa, CL and Serie A surely those three CBs can split some game time together no? That said, the more they play together the better the chemistry will be between Antonio and Kostas. So basically it's a luxury problem for Garcia. Not that long ago Spolli or Toloi were close to starting for Roma as CB. Now if only we could bring back one of Benatia or 'Hos and play a 3-5-2...
Bren: I dont think their ascendency will push out Castan, so I wouldn't worry about that Jonas, but, unfortunately, I'd say his days as a regular starter are over, at least for now. But back to the matter at hand, the maturation of these two tremendously gifted defenders. I think there will still be growing pains, especially with Rüdiger; he's nowhere near as experienced as Manolas, who has played in the World Cup, lest we forget. I like both these guys and think they have a world of potential, they simply have to reach the point where they're actually reading the game rather than simply reacting. We're not there yet, but I think these guys could be a special tandem if everything shakes out right.
masonio: Unlikely, but Rudiger still has a lot of room to improve.
What did we make of Rudi Garcia's narrower approach against Lazio? Could this be a way to reintroduce Francesco Totti into the squad in the Falque role (boy that sounds odd)?
JonAS: It was more because of a case of emergency I think. As someone on CDT stated: we missed our entire midfield of the grand 2013-2014: Pjanic, Dani and Strootman. That's not a small feat. Dani and Pjanic will come back, Radja will probably stay in the first team, Vancouver to the bench and Falque replaces Salah in the 4-3-3. I don't want to rush things with Totti.
Bren: Well, we've seen it a few times this season, so at least it's an option now, emergency or not. However, it would enable Garcia to get all of Roma's best players on the pitch at the same time, while having providing a more direct route to Dzeko without sacrificing any of the freedom afforded to Salah or Gervinho. As far as the Totti part of the question is concerned, we still don't know what role he'll assume when healthy--short term starter? second half sub?
NANF: Today it was out of necessity and it got the result. But just a few days ago Rudi went narrow and it nearly cost us. Its nice to add a new tool to the toolbox but it doesn't do a whole lot of good until he understands its use and purpose. As for Totti, you find a way to make your best players work or you do something until they do.
Kevin: Agreed, it seems like another tool (albeit not the most effective one) in Garcia's repertoire. As for Totti, I'd like to see him reintroduced as a super sub; I think that could be the way to get the best out of him this season.
masonio: Garcia was forced into making this change. I don't think Garcia really knows when to use this approach, at times it has been effective and in others it has been a mistake.
The top five is absolutely jam packed at the moment, and Milan and Juve are creeping just behind, give us one or two teams that will trail off and why.
Kevin: Fiorentina and Sassuolo. Fiorentina had a fantastic start, but they're bound to fall off over the course of the season, and Sassuolo is a minnow that's overachieving. I don't see either of these teams dropping far in the table, however of the top five or six, they're the most likely to drop.
JonAS: Agreed, Sassuolo won't keep this up. Inter, Milan obviously don't have European headaches so can fully focus on Serie A while Juve is slowly making a comeback. Only Sassuolo seems an obvious one hit wonder, all the others will probably stay in top half until New Year.
Bren: I'll be honest, I was a bit shocked to see Sassuolo that high, but I think Fiorentina is the safest bet to suffer some down times, but something about Inter is fishy. Samir Handanovic has been forced to make 17 saves the past two weeks, while Inter only managed two goals. In a sense, Handanovic is like the ace pitcher on a shitty team--he can only keep them in the game for so long. Unless they start scoring goals, they're in trouble.
NANF: I really believe Sassuolo can keep pace. Daje Di Francesco! I don't really watch enough of the others to have an opinion.
Dhaw: Fiorentina & Napoli. Sassuolo play the best football in the peninsula and they deserve to qualify for Europe. I hope they make it. Never know with Roma... we just need 2 or 3 Rudi specials on the trot and we'll be trailing.
masonio: Inter & maybe Roma, depending on your definition of "trail off." As it stands Inter hasn't been that impressive, but if they figure out their attack they could run away with the title. For Roma, an expected run of draws would be enough to peg them back.
Lastly, how will you spend this international break?
Kevin: Midterms and final papers prep!
JonAS: Work hard, play hard! Got a wedding coming up next weekend (not mine), plus I've still got to watch some episodes of Ballers, an HBO series with The Rock. Highly recommended! In between a bit of good Belgian Trappist and I'm a happy man.
Bren: Hmm, aside from plumbing the depths and trying to come up with stories here, I'm not really sure. I just dug into Master of None on Netflix, which I highly recommend if you're an Aziz Ansari fan. But I should probably batten down the hatches soon, winter is coming.
NANF: After applauding JonAS for an excellent choice in shows, and reminding myself that I still have to watch the finale, probably keep getting ready for winter. Days are getting too short to try and get anything done outside.
masonio: Physiotherapy, cocoa & Netflix.