We are only three matches into the 2016-2017 Roma experience, and yet we’ve already seen a season’s worth of wild swings. Sandwiched in between Roma’s undressing of Udinese were two deplorable performances against Porto. Seriously, think about it for a second: I know Udinese aren’t on Porto’s level, but Roma pulled off 25 shots and scored four goals--all of which came in one half--against the Zebras but could barely mount a challenge against the Portuguese side.
I’ve said this numerous times in these spaces, but I don’t follow other clubs, so I have no idea if this chaos is unique to Roma or if it’s ubiquitous in the footballing world. Either way, Sunday’s match away to Cagliari is fraught with danger.
A Trio of Tyrrhenian Troubles
On the surface, this seems like a cake walk; there’s no way Cagliari can go toe-to-toe with Roma’s attack, so you’d think the Giallorossi could win this one walking away 3-0. However, scratch just beneath the surface and there are three reasons why Roma should be worried: Marco Borriello, Marco Sau and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Let’s tackle these in reverse order, shall we?
The Tyrrhenian Sea is the small patch of water that separates the island of Sardinia from mainland Italy. While I’m sure it’s a relatively quick jaunt, as well all know, Roma doesn’t always fare well when they leave the peninsula, so we have plenty of reason to be at ill ease for this away fixture.
Problem the second, Marco Sau. While he isn’t exactly a household name, Sau has a decent track record in Italy. Throughout his professional career, Sau has amassed over 50 goals across all levels of Italian football, which isn’t threatening in and of itself, but doesn’t he just seem like the type of player who’d score a 92nd minute equalizer against Roma?
Sau and Sardinia notwithstanding, the real reason to fear Cagliari is simple, and quite sexy we might add. Marco Borriello, he of 14 professional clubs and over 80 career goals, is leading the line for the Rossoblu this season. Borriello torched Roma three times last season, for two different clubs (Carpi and Atalanta), and despite his advanced age, his nose can still sniff out a goal, and as Cagliari’s main option, he’ll have plenty of chances to hit back at one of his 13 former clubs.
So how can Roma keep Borriello at bay? Let’s take a look.
Roma: No Longer Seeing Red
Unlike their Champions League disaster, Roma should have all hands on deck tomorrow afternoon. You know, until Daniele De Rossi breaks someone’s lower extremities again. Disciplinary record aside, as I’m writing this on Friday morning, Kostas Manolas is listed as doubtful for this fixture, but beyond that, any and all Roma players with intact ACLs are available for this match.
Through three matches, two major storylines have emerged: the absence of any real threat or simple competence at left back and Edin Dzeko’s continued struggles, though it has to be said, he hasn’t gotten much service thus far.
So far the Juan Jesus at leftback experiment has been an unmitigated disaster, as he offers nothing going forward while the less said about his defense the better, but with Mario Rui on the mend and Lucas Digne loving life in Barcelona, he’s what we’re left with. While many have speculated about a Bruno Peres and Alessandro Florenzi fullback pairing, we’ve yet to see anything close to that, so Rrruan it remains...sigh.
As far as Dzeko is concerned, while he hasn’t had any spectacular flubs yet, Roma’s attack just looks slow and ineffective when he’s on the pitch. While his hold up play was beneficial during the Porto fixtures, as we saw during the Udinese match, Roma is at her best when Diego Perotti and Mohamed Salah are the primary targets, so don’t be surprised if the Perotti, Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy trio starts this match. And don’t even get me started on Spalletti’s sudden aversion towards SES; why he didn’t make an appearance against Porto in the second leg is beyond me, but I digress.
Now that the Champions League is an ugly memory, Roma should focus on the only hardware that matters, the Scudetto. As some of us mentioned during Part II of our season preview roundtable discussion, Roma has a chance, slim as it might be, to make this thing interesting. In order to do so, Roma MUST....let me repeat that, MUST....win matches like this. Dropping points in Sardinia will only make the Old Lady’s life easier.
And we hate her, so let’s not do that, eh Roma?