After blowing a 2-0 lead to lowly Cagliari, Roma had two weeks to sit and stew on the worst result of the Spalletti 2.0 era. After storming out to a two-nil advantage after only 46 minutes, Roma capitulated two second half goals to Marco Sau and Marco Borriello, and while we sort of predicted that result, insofar as they’d be the two to strike at Roma, it was nevertheless a stunning chain of events.
So here we are now, only two matches into the season, and we’re already rueing lost points and watching the table. And yes, it’s absurdly early to do the latter, but last season was nothing if not a lesson on the effect of wasted opportunities, so you’ll have to forgive our obsessiveness.
But that is prologue, what matters now is Roma’s match with Sampdoria, the club who simultaneously boasts one of the worst crests and the best kits in the league.
Roma: Looking for Resolve
it’s important to send the message that we leave behind everything that was before. Everyone was very disappointed by the result at Cagliari, but they know full well that resistance is crucial to get victories in certain situations.
Spalletti’s words, spoken ahead of tomorrow’s match but really more reflective of their Cagliari cock up, can be taken a number of ways. In the micro sense, we can assume he meant actual resistance—the ability to resist the advances of a side desperate for a second half equalizer—while in the broader, more macro sense, we can apply it to the week-to-week swings.
Much has been made of the Roman mentality over the past two weeks—is it too much of a hot house for a sane man to stand, can the club ever truly succeed amid such a hostile and easily swayed environment?—so in that sense, we can think of resistance as mental resolve. Do Spalletti’s men believe in themselves enough to weather such a horrific loss, or will they succumb to self doubt and let Marco Sau and Marco Borriello be the first step in their undoing?
Given how chaotic this club can be at times, it’s a fair question to ask, but lost among the hysteria of the Porto and Cagliari debacles was the complete reversal of fortunes Roma experienced under Spalletti last spring. That team has not changed much at all, in fact, one can argue it has gotten markedly better with the additions of Bruno Peres and Thomas Vermaelen, so I’d caution us all not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Keep in mind how wildly successful they were down the stretch and try and resist all the doom and gloom.
Having said that, their second half performance against Cagliari was inexcusable, those 30 some odd minutes of complacency, if repeated, could very well cost Roma millions of dollars. The challenge we have as Roma fans is to see this, to truly believe, that this was merely a blip on the radar rather than an approaching storm.
Xs & Os
Now that we’ve dispensed with the psychoanalysis, let’s move on to the actual football, shall we?
While Roma’s 4-0 undressing of Udinese and their 2-2 draw with Cagliari would seem like disparate results, unfortunately, in terms of tactics, there wasn’t a ton of difference. In each instance, Spalletti opted for the 4-3-3, the only difference being some minor lineup changes—Emerson at leftback swapped out for Alessandro Florenzi, while the rotating torn between Edin Dzeko and Stephan El Shaarawy kept churning—so there isn’t one glaring difference we can point to for the different results.
However, that didn’t stop Spalletti from dissecting his side’s minor imperfections:
We are struggling at the moment to be compact and have lost our spacing. Alessandro Florenzi can still play as a full-back, but when you make choices like that, you need to command the game. If you have two full-backs who push forward and defend well too, then there’s no point sitting back to wait for your opponents.
Therefore Florenzi and Bruno Peres can work together as full-backs, but we need to play on the attack. The width of the pitch is always going to be 60 metres, so we need to tighten the length from 110 metres to 55 by staying compact, and it’s something we haven’t mastered yet. The spacing of a team is fundamental, or it’s like wearing a shirt that’s the wrong size for you
Now, you can interpret this any number of ways. On the one hand, you can criticize him for that fullback play—there’s no need to keep attacking if you’re up 2-0 against an inferior side and both Peres and Florenzi are guilty of defensive mishaps—while on the other hand, this speaks to his resistance quote from above; Roma must resist complacency, they must stick to the script throughout the whole match and not let their opponent dictate their shape or the pace of play.
In many ways, this match mirrors the Cagliari fixture. By all accounts, Roma should win this match walking away, but there are enough wrinkles on the surface to make you worry.
Location: Stadio Olimpico, Roma
Kick-off time: 9 a.m. EDT, 15:00 CET
TV: beIN SPORTS USA/Canada, SKY Go Italia, Sky Calcio 2, Roma TV, Premium Calcio 1
Online: beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A., fuboTV (United States); beIN SPORTS CONNECT Canada, fuboTV Canada (Canada)