For a man whose job may be on the line, Rudi Garcia sure stuck to his guns today. Facing the prospect of dropping points for a third consecutive week, and once again to a decidedly poorer side, Garcia ran out his tried and true 4-3-3, even being so bold to reintroduce Gervinho into the starting lineup against top flight first timers Carpi.
Call it hubris or lack of a simple better idea, but Garcia has made his money on the back of the 4-3-3, so let's see how his latest iteration fared today.
Roma's semi-augmented XI looked like a horde of walkers in the first ten to fifteen minutes, moving cautiously and barely mounting an attack against Carpi. Maicon and Mohamed Salah were making a meal of the Carpi defense, getting as far forward as their hearts desired, but, as is often the case with this club, the passes in the final third were lacking precision, missing the mark or simply being hit too hard or not hard enough.
In many ways, the early goings of this match mirrored the midweek debacle against Sampdoria. In fact, the Giallorossi were almost done in by the former sexiest man in Rome, Marco Borriello, who carved up the Roma defense and put a shot just wide, sparing his former club a heaping dose of humble pie.
Despite the stalemate in the first twenty minutes or so, Roma had the look of a team determined to control its own fate; they got forward with ease, moved the ball around pretty quickly and made some incisive, albeit inaccurate, passes in the final third. Come hell or highwater, they seemed determined to ensure this match wouldn't end in a draw.
In light of all that frustration, it was quite fitting that Roma broke open the match on a broken play
Kostas Manolas: 24th Minute
Greece Lightning was Johnny on The Spot in this instance, finding himself in perfect position after Roma's short corner was deflected and subsequently redirected towards the edge of the six, where Manolas was waiting to pounce, showing exceptional close control for a center back. It may not completely atone for his own goal against Sampdoria midweek, but it's further evidence to how special this kid could be. He'll probably never be the world's best defender, but his sheer athleticism and grit makes him a unique weapon in defense and set pieces.
Manolas' heroics wouldn't stand alone for very long, as Roma doubled their lead only four minutes later.
Miralem Pjanic: 28th Minute Free Kick
Pjanic is quickly becoming one of the game's greatest threats from set pieces, and this beautifully bent effort should only bolster that reputation. This attempted had the perfect weight, the perfect trajectory and the perfect angle, and you'll notice how he placed it in the only conceivable gap (which was quite big, if we're being honest) in the Carpi wall.
These things are becoming routine for Pjanic, but this one was a beauty, no doubt about it.
Gervinho: 31st Minute
The Predator dug into the goal scoring cornucopia a mere three minutes later, capitalizing on a rebound from Maicon—which was really a wonderful effort in and of itself—to put Roma up three-nil. Nothing fancy about this one, but, given his usual shenanigans, let's be thankful he didn't put it over the bar or run right past it and fall on his ass.
Marco Borriello would pull one back in the 34th minute on a pretty decent headed effort, and while Roma was turned away several more times in the closing ten minutes of the first half, they were as aggressive and as decisive as we've seen in weeks. To wit, Garcia's side completed 90% of their passes, created five scoring chances and ripped off 10 shots in the first half.
Granted, this was against an extremely overmatched club, but we haven't seen this much life from Roma in weeks.
The second 45 kicked off with only one change, Francesco Totti on for Edin Dzeko, which can be interpreted any number of ways. Dzeko got off to a roaring start at the outset of the season, only to suffer a slight drop in form--or at least tangible production--in recent weeks, so getting a goal against a side as defensively deficient as Carpi might get him rolling.
Nevertheless, Roma pressed on with their previously erstwhile captain in tow. So, it was quite fitting that Totti provided a spark five minutes later.
Mohamed Salah: 51st Minute
GOOL Roma!! Mohamed Salah taps it I to the back of the net & its his 3rd goal in his 3rd match! Roma up 4-1! pic.twitter.com/AhI6ir9ccY— Marco Messina (@Marcocalcio22) September 26, 2015
Totti capitalized on a Carpi error, finding himself nearly one-v-one with the keeper, who barely fended off Totti's toe poke, which then fell quickly and quietly to a waiting Salah who tapped it home, pushing the scoreline to 4-1.
And, as quickly as he arrived, Totti was off, gamely limping off the pitch five minutes later, being subbed out for Juan Iturbe. This seems like this would've been a good time to give Ezequiel Ponce his debut; up 3-1 at home over a lightweight, but I'm way past the point where I try and interpret Rudi Garcia—he's the Sanskrit of football coaches.
The next 15 to 20 minutes carried on in much the same way, Roma got forward whenever they wanted, Carpi mounted a few counter attacks, but neither side capitalized until Roma's fullbacks teamed up to notch Roma's lead up to four goals.
Lucas Digne: 69th Minute
Lucas Digne's first goal since April 2013. Fourth career goal. Roma lead 5-1 vs Capri. pic.twitter.com/87ZwpKKPub— OutsideoftheBoot.com (@OOTB_football) September 26, 2015
Ah yes, the always lovely video of someone's TV, but at least they got the good angle with the offsides graphic. Just look at how deep Maicon drives the ball, which makes his delicate outswinging cross all the more amazing. From there, it was simple stuff, Digne was wide open, put his forehead on it and snapped it home. 5-1 Roma. Gervinho nearly made it a six pack five minutes later, but was ultimately rebuffed by the post. Juan Iturbe followed suit a minute later.
Morgan De Sanctis Double Save
We don't normally throw non-goals in here, but this was fantastic. Not to be outdone by his outfield compatriots, Morgan De Sanctis got in on the highlight reel, saving a 76th minute penalty and the ensuing rebound. MDS hasn't been the most popular man in Rome, so this should certainly bolster his spirits.
By this point in the match, Roma was just showing off, and it was glorious.
What can we say? Roma flat out dominated Carpi, this was exactly the sort of performance Roma needed to stir up the echoes. We can't or shouldn't expect five goals each and every week, but this was a vintage Garcia team—the midfield was fast, the defense was stout and aggressive and the attack, after shaking off the dust in the first ten minutes, was fluid and efficient. If they can carry even a portion of this over to their next couple of matches, they might make things difficult for Inter Milan at the top of the table, to say nothing of the suddenly Messi-less Barcelona down the road.
On the micro side of things, this match also featured classic Gervinho. Beyond registering in the scorer's ledger, he was his usual self: wreaking havoc on the flanks, blowing past opponents and giving migraines to football purists. He's just an incredibly frustrating player, but at least this season he's a bit player, but he was quite effective today, we must say.
Part and parcel of that fluid frontline was Gervinho's counterpart Mohamed Salah. Everyone's favorite litigious winger was masterful this afternoon, carving up the Carpi defense like a Sunday roast to the tune of five dribbles and three shots on goal, one of which found the back of the net, giving him three in as many matches.
Roma also received solid performances from Manolas and Digne, each of whom scored their first Roma goals, but let's shine a little light on William Vainqueur. Willy VQ made his club and league debut today, coming on for Seydou Keita in only the 20th minute. While Willy VQ didn't factor in on the scoreboard, he was a rock in the midfield, making 67 touches, completing 94% of his passes, making three tackles and blocking two shots.
See, wonderful things can happen when you utilize your bench, Rudi.
It may have been against a club in the midst of their maiden season in the top flight, but Roma looked absolutely unstoppable today. On an afternoon when their biggest threat, Edin Dzeko, was barely noticeable, Roma's wide players (forwards and fullbacks) carried the heavy load, running circles around the Carpi defense, creating five scoring chances, two assists and three of Roma's five goals.
Roma will look to keep the era of good feelings going when they travel to Belarus to take on BATE Borisov on Tuesday evening.