While Luciano Spalletti made some significant changes for this match, both in formation and personnel, this was very nearly a vintage Roma result. After coming out guns blazing—passing, moving and shooting at will—with little to show for it, Roma conceded in the 37th minute, failing to mark Jonathan De Guzman on the far post. It was for all intents and purposes, a slightly livelier version of last week’s encounter with Juventus.
However, as we’ve seen on several occasions this season, Luciano Spalletti worked his magic in the dressing room and the Giallorossi emerged with a completely different tenor in the second half. With 12 shots, six take ons and five corners in the second half alone, Roma completely dominated the run of play, and very nearly blew this one wide open, as Edin Dzeko missed two to three chances down the stretch.
As impressive as Roma was in the thick of it, in grand 2015-2016 fashion, it was the set piece that would lead them to salvation.
Stephan El Shaarawy: 45th Minute
What can you say? That thing was NASTY, look at the bend on it, look at the speed, the trajectory and how he just absolutely slammed it into the upper corner. Who knew El Shaarawy had that kind of magic in him? And talk about a guy who needed a statement match. That goal aside, SES was outstanding tonight—five shots on goal, four key passes, two dribbles, four fouls drawn and two crosses. If El Shaarawy can recapture his spring form, Spalletti will have a bevvy of attacking options at his disposal.
Speaking of magic, remember Edin Dzeko? After going four matches (all comps) without a goal, it was beginning to look as if the Bosnian Batistuta’s magic was all used up, but Dzeko grabbed the match winner seven minutes later.
Edin Dzeko: 52nd Minute
Dzeko scores a tap-in!! Roma 2-1 Chievo pic.twitter.com/q7FT9IvxxH— Serie A News (@TransfersCalcio) December 22, 2016
Nothing fancy about this one, just a tap-in, but the worry wort in you might be concerned with his second half performance on the whole. Dzeko had nine shots tonight, six alone in the second half, some of which were rightfully saved, some were blocked and some simply didn’t have enough mustard on them. But, hey, he scored, so this is merely nitpicking, but given his history with the club, it’s something to track.
Stats & Standouts
Wow, if we can even expect a fraction of this vigor against better opponents, Roma may have found themselves a new formation. Everyone from Peres to El Shaarawy to Antonio Rüdiger to Federico Fazio and even Thomas Vermaelen found new life in this formation. The passing was crisp, the chances flowed and Roma even dominated in the air.
Key to the new formation’s success was the play of Peres, who was simply sensational tonight and looked remarkably like the Peres we all thought Roma signed from Torino this summer. Pushed further up the pitch, and with Rüdiger supporting him, Peres was free to advance further up the pitch, dictating play on the wing as well as tucking in and threatening the heart of the Chievo defense. No matter what he chose, he didn’t get a foot wrong, pumping in an absurd 21 crosses and creating eight scoring chances. Roma needs this Peres if they have any chance at hanging onto second place.
He may have shaved the beard, but Captain Caveman showed up to work today. With 105 touches, Fazio was second only to Peres, while his two tackles, seven interceptions and fifteen clearances were instrumental in Roma’s victory today. We simply cannot say how grossly we underestimated Fazio this summer; he has been an absolute lifesaver for this defense.
Wrapping up 2016
We’ll have a more in depth year in rewind style post next week, but with this 3-1 victory, Roma finished a remarkably successful calendar year with a flourish. Since Luciano Spalletti returned last winter, Roma has been one of the most successful clubs in all of Europe, romping over Serie A (except for Juve) with a blend of speed, size and precision not seen in the Eternal City since, well, since his last jaunt through town.
Of course, second place is still second place, so we’ll be anxiously awaiting the winter transfer market to see what reinforcements Roma can scrounge up.
So, until then, enjoy the holiday season!