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Is Ezequiel Ponce Ready to Fill Backup Striker Role for Roma?

Ezequiel Ponce wasn't supposed to arrive in Rome until next year, but after throwing down more than €4 million to bring him in early, is Roma ready to fire up the tank?

Lucas Uebel/Getty Images

With four weeks of play in the books, we're beginning to understand Roma's dogged pursuit of Edin Dzeko this summer; the Bosnian Batistuta has single handedly transformed Roma's offense, providing a target man the club hasn't had in ages. However, as we've seen intermittently through the season's first month, the lack of options behind him is deplorable and has already, for all intents and purposes, cost Roma points.

At this point in his career, Francesco Totti simply cannot serve as a lone forward, but beyond him, who is there? On paper, Victor Ibarbo had the physical tools to fit the bill, but then once you remembered he was a terrible player, that idea faded away, and thankfully so did his time in Rome.

And that it's it, that was Walter Sabatini's master plan. Spend four months chasing Edin Dzeko and leave nothing but Totti's aging legs and the prospect of Ibarbo playing out of position as your security blanket. He could have kept Marco Borriello or Mattia Destro or even (gasp) Sedyou Doumbia, but he chose to strip the cupboard bare and lean on Dzeko and Dzeko alone.

The problem, as we saw Sunday, was that Roma's second unit cannot operate without a proper striker, at least not in a 4-3-3. With such a focus on wing play, the lack of a target man or simple threat in the middle of the attack makes Garcia's second unit completely useless, causing wing players to paint themselves into a corner and forcing the club to rely on opponent's errors or miracle goals to bail them out.

So, what do we do? Where do we turn? Who can keep this team in contention when Dzeko is getting some hard earned and much needed rest?

The only other in house candidate is the Tank himself, Ezequiel Ponce. While we dramatically undersold him in our U23 prospect countdown—primarily because he seemed at least a year away from coming to Europe and probably at least two away from Rome—hastening his move to the Eternal City seems to indicate the club's faith in his skills as they currently stand.

They call him the tank for a good reason, he's a surprisingly swift, strong and direct runner, one who can carve his way through virtually any defense and muscle virtually any defender off the ball; he actually plays a bit like a Carlos Bacca or Tevez type, and we've seen how successful players of that ilk can be in Serie A.

But is he ready? Can he really go from barely even playing at Newell's Old Boys to serving as Edin Dzeko's primary backup, one who could potentially make two dozen appearances this season? With Garcia's disdain for non-French youth, I wouldn't count on it, chances are he'll rot away on the bench next to Salih Uçan, despite a plethora of chances screaming for his inclusion.

This much is clear, Roma cannot continue to play with a second-team frontline of Totti-Iturbe-Salah/Gervinho, at least not in a 4-3-3, so Ponce could present a litmus test of sorts for Garcia. Sure, Ponce might not have experience or any credible track record, but the talent is obvious, and with virtually no book on him, if he's in game shape, his sheer strength and athleticism, coupled with that unfamiliarity, could allow him to make an impact on Roma's second team.

Outside of Ponce, there are no in house options and with three months before the winter transfer market—where they'd be well advised to heed my advice and chase Cyril Thereau once more--Roma quite literally has no other option than to fire up the tank.