Facing their scarily in-form nemesis in Turin, Roma trotted out a new formation and slotted DDR, Pjanic and Nainggolan in different positions in a 3-4-1-2.
Before I go on, I’d just like to take a moment of contemplation to reflect on the atrocity that is Pogba’s haircut. He has leopard prints on his head. This idiot sat down in a chair and (presumably with his own money) asked some overpaid follicle terrorist to actually put that crap on his head. No matter how good this kid gets, I for one am glad he doesn’t play for Roma. (Dybala, not so much).
From the onset Juve stamped their dominance over the capital club, monstering possession and pinning i lupi inside their own half. The back three system Spalletti was employing managed to make it through the half without conceding and even managed to successfully pull of an offside trap on Dybala once or twice.
DDR was his usual cranky self in the Juventus stadium, scoring a quick yellow card after a fairly innocuous tussle with Mandzukic. The Croat hit the deck as though he had been impaled by a javelin and tended to do this every time the ball came anywhere near him.
Rudiger was suitably inspired by his captain and got a yellow card of his own with a hack on Dybala coming moments after his flying arse tackle on Marchisio.
The match had the feel of a sparring session in boxing as Roma nervously tried out their new formation. There was little to no pressing by the front three as the side focused on moving as one in defence and keeping Juve outside their penalty area.
After about half an hour, Roma began to find their footballing feet and started moving the ball around the pitch and probing the Juve defence. This was very much a welcome progression from the backpassing demon that tends to rear its ugly head every now and then.
Around the 40th minute Juve appeared to have been dudded a penalty kick when Pjanic missed a header and instead brushed the ball with his flailing arm. These sorts of decisions are normally 100% pro Juve and it fooled many of us to thinking that maybe we had the football gods on our side today.
Positive moments for Roma were few and far between in the second half. Rudiger copped a massive elbow/forearm to the face from the Croatian coward, Mandzukic which for reasons explicable perhaps only by the fiendishly inept linesman, was only punished with a yellow card. This was a red, all day long.
Roma struggled to carve out chances as Juve dominated territory and possession but were continually frustrated by the defensive efforts of De Rossi and company. Allegri seemed to be pretty much tactically schooled by Spalletti and chose to bring on Cuadrado in the 65th minute to provide a bit more width on the right hand side.
Meanwhile the Juventus forwards were very effective at tracking back and nicking the ball of the boots of the Roma midfield. In return, Salah and Dzeko basically chilled out in random spots around the halfway line amongst Juve’s back three.
When Spalletti subbed on Keita for Vancouver, who had put in a fair shift against a very classy Juve midfield, the possibility of a 0-0 draw looked very real. Alas, enter Pogba and Dybala.
In the 77th minute, Evra robbed Florenzi mid stride and then hurled the ball forward to his French teammate who slid through a delicious through ball to Dybala who brashly slotted it past Shez-baby. It was a breathtaking counterattack and simply shred the Roma defence in ribbons, capped off with a class finish from perhaps the best player in Serie A right now. Seriously, that Dybala kid is top shelf.
Roma was forced to press for an equaliser and in the 80th minute, you wouldn’t believe it but Dzeko had the ball in the back of the net following some terrific centre-forward play. Regrettably the referee had already blown his whistle for a non existent foul on Marchisio, who was adjudicated to have been pushed despite just timing his leap wrong. This was a cruel blow for both the Bosnian and his Roma side.
Spalletti threw both Sadiq and Torosidis on the field in the dying minutes, to continue his worrying trend of leaving Francesco Totti on the bench. Lets all hope it is a fitness rather than a tactical decision.
As the final whistle went, the players looked suitably disgusted with themselves. Losing to Juventus is the worst.
In context, this performance was actually quite positive. The defensive shape of the side held well and was undone only by an impressive quality moment by Pogba and Dybala that should more or less be expected to occur when playing Juve in Turin.
The problems at this stage for Mister Spalletti are quite obvious. The giant gaping hole in the trequartista or Totti role is quite alarming. Radja clearly displayed that he is not that man, he doesn’t possess the grace and poise to thread a killer ball through to his striker and is more effective as a workhorse terrorising the opposition’s midfield.
Likewise, Pjanic once again struggled to create anything meaningful from the regista position. It was very disappointing seeing the number of times he took the easy option to plonk the ball wide or backwards to his defence rather than present a threat. Spalletti will have his work cut out trying to de-Rudi him in this regard.
I’m not sure what Salah’s problem is. Actually let me rephrase that, I’m puzzled by the hype and expectations of brilliance from the Salah fan club. He hasn’t really grasped Spalletti’s game plan at all and looked bewildered on the field and completely disconnected from Radja, Dzeko and his other teammates.
Currently he is completely a luxury player who looks class against mediocre defences but is not the man to grab the match by the scruff of the neck and bring his teammates into the match. There is of course plenty of time for him to grasp his new manager’s concepts, but it remains a concern and a source of massive frustration to his teammates as he constantly turns over the ball in attack.
Speaking of mediocre attackers, Dzeko (apart from his disallowed goal) once again looked completely miserable and possibly allergic to the football. He was outclassed by the Juve back three and struggled the few times Roma were able to get the ball to him. Will the return of Roma’s number 10 solve Dzeko’s woes?
He does however present a decent threat from crosses in the box and it is rather mystifying as to why Florenzi and Digne (especially the Frenchmen) send so few crosses towards him from the flanks.
This team needs lots more work if it is to reach the pinnacles of Spalletti football. Apart from the obvious debacle that constitutes the Roma defence, the front third of the pitch is a seeming black hole of static players failing to run into threatening positions. Progress is being made but the decision to persist for as long as the suits did with Garcia means the timeline of Roma clicking in sync to challenge for the champions league appears to be out of grasp.
Losing to Juventus is never good, no matter how logical that result appeared before the match. But, glimpses of light are beginning to surface from the cave of despair the team has been hiding in this winter. Roma now has a nice run of matches against less formidable opponents that provide Spalletti with the challenge of getting the attack into gear.
Stick around kids, it’ll be worth the wait.