The more things change the more they stay the same. Remember that crazy Inception movie with Leo DiCaprio? You know where they are jumping in and out of dreams and doing insane stuff. Kind of crazy how this game felt like a dream from last season. I mean thank god Shez Baby and Dzeko were playing, otherwise I’m not entirely sure you could convince a regular Roma watcher that what they were watching was a new match.
Would someone please pinch the Mister and inform him that the season has started. Oh and while you are at it, how about letting our DS know that one requires actual fullbacks in order to successfully play a four man defence. Ok before we get all wrapped up in recriminations, I guess it is only fair that I provide some semblance of a review to this match.
Today was the first time in 13 years that Roma started the season with Francesco Totti not on the field. Thirteen years. Why you would want to start off an exciting new chapter with your best player off the field is a rather mysterious thing. Alas, Rudi trotted out a shiny new front three of Mohammad Salah the loser of possession, Gervinho the football pretender and Dzeko the pleader of service. The midfield three of Pjanic, DDR and Ninja was to be expected while the back four of Florenzi, Castan, Manolas and Torosidis was a rather unsightly. blemish to the CV of a professional football team.
Gervinho was on the field and Francesco Totti was not. Go ahead and read that again.
The first half was an utter train wreck. Rudi was comprehensively schooled by Andrea Mandolini who had his team wonderfully drilled in containing Roma’s brainless wingers and allowing the back four to perfect their meaningless backwards and sideway passes. From the first minute Roma was cut open like a fish as Juanito and that Icelandic baldy fellow gunned towards the wide-eyed Florenzi.
Roma was breathtakingly boring in possession and looked just as clueless as last season as to how they would break down a team that sits deep and springs counter attacks. Meanwhile the Verona back four eliminated threats towards their goal, moving like a tide creeping over the sandy beach.
Dzeko battled manfully to get some meaningful touches but with absolutely no overlapping runs from the defensively frail fullbacks he was unable to get in seriously dangerous positions. This was complimented with Salah and Gervinho’s consistently useless dribbles which only seemed to slow things down. Meanwhile Manolas and Luca Toni offered easily the most entertaining duel on the pitch as the speedy Greek defender did his best to shackle Luca’s seductive locks from sneaking behind Roma’s defence.
The highlight of the half was De Rossi’s headed goal line clearance which saved a certain goal and launched a promising counterattack which was poetically butchered by Ninja’s selfish long range shot over the bar in a tribute to Rudi’s 2014/15 Roma.
By the time the referee mercifully brought the half to a close Roma had failed to establish any clear-cut scoring chances. While Shez Baby carried out his duties with composure and limited fuss in goal despite both Florenzi and Torosidis causing heart attacks.
It didn’t take Einstein to see the match was crying for a Totti, Strootman or even a Ljajic with some composure and creativity on the ball. The lack of attack from both the fullbacks stunted the Totti-less Roma and encouraged Verona to attack with venom when they had the ball.
The second half didn’t appear destined to offer anything new as Rudi trotted out the same absurdly inappropriate starting eleven. Manolas had a good chance to put Roma ahead from a corner as his free header went straight to the keeper. Shortly after this Shez Baby did his best to put Serie A in the English speaking news with a stunning double save after both Manolas and Ninja sold the ball in a heart stopping part of the field.
In the 61st minute of the match Torosidis made Ashley Cole and Jose Holebas look like Maldini as he watched Hallfredsson’s lofted pass find the volleying foot of Jankovic who summarily slotted the ball into the net past poor old Shez Baby.
This goal was not against the run of play. Verona had been steadily building pressure throughout the match and hardly appeared nervous facing the over-hyped Roma attack.
Five minutes later, Rudi Garcia and Walter Sabatini owed Florenzi a beer. Ale launched an audacious daisy cutter from far and wide spearing it into the net to grant Roma a laughably undeserved equaliser. Seriously, how similar was this to last year!?!?!
An individual piece of brilliance granting Roma a goal in a match where their attack clanked along without rhythm or cutting edge. This was also another fine example of how Florenzi is being wasted in the RB role as he is always at his best in front of the opposition’s goal.
The game then opened up and it appeared ripe for the introduction of his holiness Francesco. But Rudi had other ideas, seriously batshit crazy ideas. On came Keita for DDR and Falque for Salah. While Iago didn’t exactly light the game on fire he sure as hell looked more assured on the ball than the Egyptian who seemed genuinely surprised everytime the ball was stripped from his possession.
In the 76th minute Pjanic was teed up by Ninja and launched a rocket that was closer than Kim Jong Un’s neck shave, swerving away to the right of the upright. As Verona sat deeper Roma continued to push for a winner by launching crosses from the right towards Dzeko. If only Roma had a #10 who could threat the ball through crowded areas onto the stride or noggin of a bomber…sigh.
Lucky for you and me, Rudi still had one substitution to make and in the 83rd minute he made it. Bringing on Victor Ibarbo. Nothing paints a prettier resignation letter to your employer like choosing the hapless Colombian over Francesco Totti. This was no Plan B, this was reinforcing a malfunctioning plan A!
Alas, the Vic with the Big Dick failed to deliver the inspiration to haul the three points back to Rome despite both Mira and Radja coming agonisingly close with efforts during stoppage time that were thwarted rather spectacularly by Verona’s keeper Rafael.
I blame the new jerseys for convincing the team that they were playing a training match and not the first game of the season.
It is important not to get too bogged down in the minutiae of this match. Sure Roma had chances to win, but so did Verona. What is most stunningly clear to both CDT and the wider calcio world is that Roma despite making it rain wingers and daring to Dzeko do not appear to have remotely solved the conundrums that had been dogging them so robustly last year.
You can have Gabriel Batistuta in the #9, but unless he is receiving quality service in dangerous areas, he is going to be easily negated by multiple defenders.
Rudi has some serious explaining to do as to why the hell his favourite sons Gervinho and Salah appear about as useful in Serie A as science is in creationism. The lack of decent fullbacks and on field chemistry is utterly alarming coming into next week’s showdown with Juvents, while the glaring absence of Totti reads like a subliminal resignation letter.
The double F of Florenzi and Falque seem to offer more on the wings than the selfish tunnel vision of Salah and Gervinho. Yet Rudi’s fetish with speed doesn’t appear to be altering in the slightest. Game number one and we are back hitting our heads against the same old wall.
Someone should really tell Rudi and his lads that 2014/15 was not a success. Emulating last year is not a goal worth pursuing.
Next week’s match against Juventus hardly needed more pressure but unless Rudi manages to get some oil into this rusty offence he may find the long knives of Rome being sharpened in the shadows.