There's an old adage in show business that says to always leave them wanting more. After running Juventus off the pitch two weeks ago, the extremely long and extremely dull international break did just that; left us wanting more--more Digne, more Dzeko, more Falque and more free flowing football. Today against Frosinone, Rudi Garcia not only whetted our appetite for Roma, but he stepped out of character by completely altering his tactical lineup, opting for the seldom seen 4-2-3-1 with Totti, Gervinho and Falque supporting Dzeko.
So, in their first ever encounter with Frosinone, did these changes do the trick?
Despite the two weeks of buildup and the fancy new formation, Garcia's men looked a bit listless and disjointed and downright last yearish. While they held the statistical sway in most major categories, they barely managed to heap pressure on Frosinone, managing only one more shot on goal than the Serie A newcomers, and were, once again, bailed out by a miraculous save from Wojciech Szczesny. In fact, Woj was highly involved in the first 45 minutes, as his 34 touches were second most of any of the 22 men on the pitch.
Frosinone was perfect content to sit back—not in the park the bus sense—but deep enough to keep Roma's attack stagnating in around the center circle, underscoring Miralem Pjanic's ever-increasing importance to Garcia's machinations.
Really, the first half was a near carbon copy of everything we witnessed last spring. Roma held enough possession and moved the ball well enough, but simply couldn't create any genuine scoring chances, largely due to their poor passing in the final third.
But then, Frosinone finally bent to Roma's will:
Iago Falque: 44th Minute
GOOL Roma. Iago Falque slots it into the back of the net & puts Roma up 1-0 over Frosinone. 45th min pic.twitter.com/9ubXLVdqyJ— Marco Messina (@Marcocalcio22) September 12, 2015
It's pretty rare to see a goal scored directly off a throw-in, but two of Roma's most impressive imports did just that. Digne's throw was lofted precisely and settled perfectly into some vacant soil, where Falque reacted quickly enough to slot it home, and thank god Gervinho didn't actually touch that ball.
Not much action in the first ten minutes of the second frame, but Garcia opted to take Dzeko off for Radja Nainggolan, thereby shifting back to a 4-3-3 with Totti in his familiar false nine role. Unfortunately, the change of formation didn't breed any better results; Roma's movement was stilted and their precision failed them as they approached the final third. Fortunately for Roma, this was Frosinone and not someone like Fiorentina or Inter, so the poor play didn't ultimately cost us any points.
The second half was a rather dull affair, so much so that the only discernable action came in stoppage time, when Juan Iturbe pulled off this lovely move:
Juan Iturbe: 94th Minute
Charging down the right flank in his descriptive style, Manu was able to slam on the brakes and change direction, leaving the Frosinone defender in a heavy footed heap on the floor as Iturbe settled, took a touch and buried it top shelf in the far corner.
Quite a lovely goal from a player who desperately needs a confidence boost
We'll chalk up the rusty play to the two week international break, one in which virtually every member of Roma's XI was on duty for their respective nations, so there was bound to be some disconnect from their resounding performance against Juventus two weeks prior. Starting a new season and then immediately breaking for international duty isn't exactly sound planning on behalf of the powers that be--at some point you have to wonder if they'll move the schedule up to match the Premiership, stopping and starting like this has a negative impact on the aesthetic appeal of the league, it's just bad business..
But I digress, Roma managed, albeit in a less than overwhelming fashion, to subdue an inferior opponent, temporarily putting them atop the Serie A table, and once again received sound performances from Lucas Digne, Wojciech Szczesny, Alessandro Florenzi and Kostas Manolas.
So, enjoy this victory because things get much, much more difficult on Wednesday when Barcelona visits a sold out Olimpico for the Champions League opener.