Although I didn't plan it out this way, we end our season ratings series with perhaps the hardest group to judge, the forwards. Aside from Francesco Totti's transformation into the most lethal sixty minute player the world has ever or will ever see, Roma's forwards were bad, like, baaaaad, at least compared to the previous season's dizzying highs. In fact, Roma's forwards scored ten less goals than they did the prior season. Making matters worse, Mattia Destro accounted for 18% of this season's haul, so of course it makes complete sense he was dispatched in January.
Roma's attack was completely punchless this season—only 54 goals scored and a collective 46% shot accuracy, both of which were out of the top five—so, grim as it might be, let's revisit this menagerie of mediocrity.
Because they had less than ten appearances between them, Roma's youngest attackers, Daniele Verde and Antonio Sanabria, will be left out of this rundown, while Victor Ibarbo will be considered a forward in this instance.
Once again, stats are inclusive of all competitions and players are ranked from 1 (Adriano) to 10 (Totti's 26 goal campaign).
Stats: Two goals scored, 74% passing
Good god, where to begin? If this wasn't the worst transfer in Sabatini's tenure, I don't know what was. There's a reason the stat line above is so short; he didn't do shit. Quite frankly, I cannot even recall his two goals. Give me a second....Ah yes, Doumbia's debut for Roma, the one where the keeper set it into the net volleyball style
To be fair to Doumbia, his second Roma goal (against Genoa) featured some pretty nifty moves and showcased his dribbling and agility, but you can't piss on my foot and tell me it's raining. Doumbia was awful for Roma, and the fact that Sabatini thought he was the ideal winter reinforcement says a lot about his job performance, too.
I wouldn't go so far as to say he's beyond redemption, but he has an awful lot of demons to exorcise before he wins over the Roma faithful.
Stats: 11 appearances, 1.3 key passes/match, one dribble/match, 83% passing
Coming a close second to Doumbia for Roma's Worst Transfer of The Sabatini Era Award is Colombian forward Victor Ibarbo, brought to Rome on loan from Cagliari during the winter transfer window, which was then inexplicably renewed this summer.
While Doumbia failed the eye test in horrific fashion, there is actual empirical evidence supporting Ibarbo's suckitude. Let's start with his shooting, which was putrid. Ibarbo only put 14% of his shots on target (granted, he didn't take that many), which was tied with Kostas Manolas, a 23-year-old centerback, for worst on the squad. Ibarbo, however, has always been renowned for his dribbling, so let's move the discussion there. Ibarbo was fucking awful, leading the club in dispossessions and unsustainable touches per game, while only succeeding in 43% of his dribble attempts, third worst on the club.
And yet, Sabatini saw fit to extend this loan for one more season. I just don't understand this move whatsoever. For you NFL fans of a certain age (say early to mid-30s), you might recall a trend during the late 1980s and early 1990s when teams, namely the Raiders, collected hordes of failed track athletes and attempted to convert them into wide receivers. Needless to say, it didn't work out too well; speed and athleticism can only cover up tactical inefficiencies for so long, eventually you're going to be found out.
Victor Ibarbo is Walter Sabatini's Sam Graddy.
Stats: 37 appearances, four goals, three assists, 1.7 dribbles per match, 77% passing
I have a separate Iturbe-only piece queued up for later this summer, but suffice it to say Manu did not live up to his €22m price tag, even when we consider his age and adjustment to a new, larger club. Beyond simply struggling to adapt and live up to his new contract, Iturbe actually seemed to take a step backwards this season, falling behind his Verona performance across a host of categories, including his calling cards, dribbling and crossing.
There were flashes of brilliance, however. Take, for example, his one goal two assist performance in Roma's 5-1 beatdown of CSKA Moscow in September or his man of the match performance against Fiorentina in January where he absolutely ripped apart the Viola defense, pulling off seven dribbles and setting up Roma's lone goal in this 1-1 draw.
We'll save the finer points for the separate piece, but Iturbe did save some face in the more nuanced statistics, but he was a disappointment this year, there's no denying that. But trust me when I tell you, there may be no player more important player to Roma's success next season than Iturbe.
Stats: 34 appearances, seven goals, five assists, 2.9 dribbles per match
Where do we begin on this one? While he wasn't infallible last season, Gervinho had seemingly shed his Arsenal demons and emerged as a nearly unparalleled attacking threat for Garcia last season, terrorizing opponents with his speed, playmaking and goal scoring ability, turning in a 10 goal, 10 assist campaign.
Yao has always been a frustrating player to analyze. Take, for example, his dribbling and playmaking statistics. Despite the headaches his decision making caused this season, Gervinho's key passes per 90 minutes were exactly the same as last season (1.21), while his dribbling success rate actually increased by 13%. Similarly, if we look at his cockups, the stats are just as confusing, as he was actually dispossessed less this season, though he did have a 33% increase in unsustainable touches. However, if you want to pinpoint a major, major area of concern, focus on his shot accuracy and conversion rate, which fell 21 % and 52%, respectively.
Gervinho is always going to be able to blow past opponents, that's just what he does, but this past season, much like his days in London, brought an old ailment to the forefront, his pitiful finishing, a byproduct of which are his dribbles to nowhere.
Stats: 19 appearances, five goals, 1.4 shots per match, 76% passing
While Destro was never likely to live up to his torrid 2014 performance where he put 63% of his shots on target, converting 37% of those into goals, 13 to be exact, scoring 0.95 goals every 90 minutes, there was every reason to expect a solid season from Mr. Right in 2014-2015. Even if we accounted for some subtle regression, given consistent minutes on Garcia's frontline, Destro could have easily grabbed 15-18 goals on the balance of the season.
Indeed, his performance prior to his January loan to AC Milan bears this out. Through 16 league appearances, Destro was up to his usual tricks, putting 67% of his shots on target, scoring five goals (28% conversion) and even creating three scoring chances. When all was said and done, Destro's 0.55 goals per 90 minutes still led Roma and, as we mentioned, he accounted for 18% of all goals scored by Roma forwards this season.
He may not be the world's most complete footballer, but was there anything in that performance that suggests Roma should have jumped ship? He may not be a multifaceted forward who creates oodles of chances for his teammates, nor is he a hulking presence like Luca Toni, but Destro has an eye for goal and a keen understanding of movement and spacing, traits which have proven successful in Garcia's schemes.
We still don't know what the future holds for Destro, but he was as effective as ever during his brief respite in Rome this season.
Stats: 41 appearances, nine goals, two assists, 1.4 key passes per match, 89% passing
The man affectionately known as Nutella took another step forward in what promises to be an extraordinary career, besting his 2013-2014 numbers in goals, key passes, and chances created per 90 minutes, with slight dips in dribbling success and shot accuracy. A further sign of encouragement was the sheer amount of minutes he racked up, eclipsing the 2,500 minute mark for the first time in his career.
Beyond tying Totti for the club lead in goals scored, Ljajic was third in goals per 90, third in shot accuracy, third in passing accuracy, third in key passes, fourth in assists and fifth in dribbles. Any way you slice it, Ljajic is one of Roma's three or four best offensive talents, and all this at only 23-years-old.
What we're essentially dealing with here is Totti's direct replacement. No one on this club possesses an iota of Totti's brilliance of course, but Ljajic comes closes to replicating his skill set, which will make the inevitable Post-Totti transition far easier.
If Roma can hang onto him, five years from now we might have one of the top 20 attacking talents in the game, if not, I'll lose my fucking mind.
Stats: 36 appearances, 10 goals, seven assists, 1.7 key passes per match, 1.9 shots per match
At the risk of beating a dead horse, I'll keep this one simple; Totti is still Totti, you just have to make more economical use of the magic. From our analysis earlier this summer:
Totti's eight goals in league play amounted to 0.42 goals per 90 minutes, tied for 19th in the league. In other words, at damn near 40, Totti was still one of the 20 most efficient goal scorers in Italy, where scoring was up across the board, I might add...
Totti's 2.13 key passes per 90 minutes was good enough for 13th in the league, while his 0.36 assists per 90 minutes was tied for third in Italy....Cast that net a bit wider, into Europe's top five leagues, and both those figures still fall within the top 100. Furthermore, if we limit the population strictly to forwards in the top five European leagues (that's what Totti is, after all), Totti's numbers place him among the 20 most creative forwards.
What else is there left to say? Francesco Totti is one of the best athletes ever, and with every touch and every goal scored, his legacy multiplies.
Areas of Need for Next Season
Well, the simple and apparently-more-expensive-than-they-thought-option is Edin Dzeko, but the truth is they just need to make up their fucking mind. Between Gervinho, Mattia Destro and Seydou Doumbia, Roma could have upwards of €40m worth of strikers rotting on the bench or sulking on the pitch this season, and with each passing minute that these men remain in Rome, the situation becomes more intractable, as that much money invested in so many useless assets could lead to desperate sales of more useful and talented players.
This much is certain, they cannot, despite his performance, continue to rely on Totti to bail them out time and time again. If given minutes and a consistent role, look for Adem Ljajic to take another step towards stardom, if not, then he's just the latest in a litany of players to suffer due to Garcia's tactical intransigence.
Bottom line, they need to cut the deadweight, bring in a new striker and increase Ljajic's role.