Rudi Garcia's tactical lineups are always a matter of contention, eliciting far more than mere second guessing from fans and journalists alike, but today's selection, well, that was a doozy. Having been bitten by the injury bug, Roma's ranks have been thinned a bit, forcing Garcia to roll out a never before seen frontline of Juan Iturbe, Gervinho and Mohamed Salah. It may be a gamer's wet dream, but would this run-at-all-costs lineup actually work on the road in a Champions League fixture?
Umm, yeah, about that. It didn't.
Roma was woeful, though in Garcia's defense it had nothing to do with that formation in and of itself, this team is just completely lost in all phases at the moment, which is Garcia's fault. So, six of one, half dozen of another, right?
But in this, his 100th match at the helm for Roma, Garcia was exposed for what he truly is; a one trick pony. When Garcia's Plan A doesn't work, he simply doesn't have the understanding, flexibility or balls to try Plan B, which was fine when Plan A was hitting on all cylinders, but it's reached the point where his Plan B, to the extent it exists, cannot even defeat BATE Borisov.
I'll give you three words for Roma's performance today: pathetic, abysmal, disgusting. They were, in the worst possible way, absolutely undressed by BATE tonight. These weren't cheeky little goals that could have gone either way, BATE exposed Roma's defense for what it was—shaky and lacking cohesion—while reminding the world why Arsenal was so keen to let Szczesny walk away for a year, while the trio of Salah, Iturbe and Gervinho accomplished little more than adding to their pedometers.
The ironic part, from my perspective, is that these types of matches are far easier to recap. There is no need for tactical analysis, no nuanced discussion about key moments or players, and no what ifs to ponder; Roma was just absolutely dreadful tonight. Simple as.
Have a look, if you dare.
Igor Stasevich: 8th Minute
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BATE stunned Roma in the 8th minute, though when you watch the replay the shock isn't so much that Roma conceded to a supposedly inferior opponent so soon, but rather how tidy and succinct BATE's movement was on that goal. When's the last time we saw Roma pull one off like that?
Either way, the BATE attack absolutely toyed with Roma's backline here, drawing them in by overloading the left side of the pitch—or more rightly, Roma over committed to one man with the ball—then spreading them thin with a couple touches of the ball before finally finishing them off with a beautiful final pass that left back line twisting in the wind.
Granted, the goal required a couple of deflections after the initial passes, but that buildup was sublime and made Garcia's backline look amateurish.
Filip Mladenovic: 12th Minute
I'm not sure how to best explain Wojciech Szczesny's positioning here, maybe he's allergic to geometry or something because his line/angle on the ball was atrocious, or maybe his chakras simply weren't aligned correctly because he definitely was not centered on this one. Either way, someone get this man a protractor and some incense.
Just for emphasis, here is a screenshot moments before that goal. Even if we account for the camera angle, Szczesny's positioning on this goal was inexcusable.
Despite all his miraculous saves this season, we're starting to see glimpses of the waning concentration that doomed his spell with Arsenal. His positioning on that goal, and performance in this match, was horrible. Remember, this is a guy who had more Champions League experience than Morgan De Sanctis, despite being more than a decade younger, so it's not as if this was his first time under the European lights.
Filip Mladenovic: 30th Minute
I supposed I'd have more confidence in Szczesny if he didn't have a seventh graders haircut, and while this one wasn't quite as egregious as the second goal, his positioning left a bit to be desired here. Although full marks to Mladenovic, he rifled that into the top of the net and deserved every bit of that goal.
At the risk of sounding redundant: pathetic, abysmal, disgusting. We're supposed to believe this team can challenge for the Scudetto and advance in this competition?
Suffice it to say, the first half was a disgusting disappointment. Roma had a real shot to command Group E here only to squander it to an inferior opponent--though my confidence in that statement is certainly waning.
And yes, they pulled a couple goals back in the second half and were an Alessandro Florenzi bender away from levelling it, but this was just the latest in a litany of putrid performances from Roma, and on Garcia's 100th match no less.
One hundred matches is certainly enough to time to judge a manager's ability to inspire his players, to make week-to-week and season-to-season adjustments and simply whether or not he's the right man to take your club to the next level.
The book on Garcia has been written and it's stamped overdue. The time for change is now.