Despite Roma’s travails in the Czech Republic earlier in the week, things on the domestic side of the equation aren’t actually that bleak. After three weeks of play, the table looks exactly like it did in last May: Juventus, Napoli, Roma, and chances are that’s how it will look eight months from now, though we’re obviously hoping for a flip flop of the second and third spots in that order.
The next step in that quest is a trip to Firenze to take on the purple people eaters of Fiorentina. With the Viola mired in 15th place, this might seem like a rather easy away fixture, but, well, you know, you’re not new here.
First Look at Fiorentina
Thanks to their rain sodden match against Genoa, Fiorentina only has two actual matches in the books, a 2-1 loss to the Old Lady and a one-nil victory over Chievo, both of which were expected results, so there isn’t a ton of material on which to evaluate this current crop of Fiorentina players.
Through those two matches, the Viola have managed only two goals, both of which have come via the set piece, while they’ve managed to maintain slightly more than 50% of possession while averaging 8.5 shots per match; so the early returns haven’t been entirely promising, but again, we’re talking about 180 minutes of football here, 90 of which were against Juventus.
Despite those bleak returns, Viola manager Paulo Sousa seems confident ahead of tomorrow’s match, seeing the week four fixture as a chance to boost his club’s collective esprit de corps:
Victories bring enthusiasm and confidence. There’s still a long way to go and winning certain games can give us the right push to reach the next level...If we manage to beat Roma convincingly, as we did at times last season, then that’ll be even better for our collective self-esteem
Well, seeing as how Roma beat Fiorentina by a collective scoreline of 6-2 last season, I’m not quite sure what he’s referring to, especially since the Viola haven’t beaten Roma in league play since round 33 of the 2011-2012 season, though they have toppled us in other competitions.
Fiorentina aren’t the most lethal threat on paper, but they’re a side desperately seeking an identity, so a home match against Roma could be just what the doctor ordered.
Roma: First Things First
One of the principle tenets of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is putting first things first. In other words, set your priorities, what matters most, what will enable you to achieve your larger goals? For Roma and Luciano Spalletti, their first priority seems to be making the simple pass.
Sometimes we go a little too deep, because we struggle to ‘fill’ the field with our individual performances. We struggle to complete easy passes that would allow us to control a match. Perhaps it’s because our players consider them banal and too easy, so try to do something else, but that web of passes is what becomes fundamental.
That was one of our keys last season and so far we haven’t replicated it. That is the principle thing we need to focus on now.
Sometimes we go a little too deep (TWSS)...sorry, had to get that out of the way.
Sophomoric jokes aside, Spalletti may be onto something here. There is no doubting that this squad is an impressive collection of individual talent. Between Radja Nainggolan, Mohamed Salah, Diego Perotti, Kostas Manolas and Francesco Totti among others, Roma may have seven to eight of the league’s top 20 players.
The problem, as Spalletti alludes to, has been their inability to coalesce that talent into a cohesive mass. Last spring, Spalletti’s attack was quick, decisive and seamless; everyone knew their role and the goals flowed like fine wine at an Andrea Pirlo dinner party, but that selfless synchronicity has gone missing this fall.
Although he didn’t directly mention it, one would imagine the inability or lack of simple passes stems from frustration. When you have such an enormous collection of talent and things aren’t going your way, they tend to revert to more selfish tendencies, preferring and thinking that they must take over the match to overcome their club’s stagnant ways. It’s innocent and unintentional, but this shift towards the individual over the collective, when compounded minute by minute and week by week, can bring the whole machine to a screeching halt, which is precisely what we’ve seen over the past few matches.
Spalletti took it a step further and hypothesized that this crisis of fundamentals was responsible for Juan Jesus’ lackluster play against Plzen. While I appreciate his thought process, Rrruan just isn’t that good, and we all knew that going in, but the broader psychosis that is currently enveloping the team is quite concerning simply because it doesn’t seem to be relenting; quite the opposite actually.
Roma runs on emotion, both positive and negative, and over the past seven months we’ve seen both ends of that spectrum. So, as much as Sousa thinks a victory for his side will put their mind at ease, is there a club on earth in as dire need of a mental reprieve than Roma?
This is a winnable match for sure, but in order for Roma to win they need to take Johnny Rotten’s advice: Never Mind the Bollocks.
Just get out there and play fast and loose, leave the Viola choking on your dust.
Fiorentina v. Roma
September 18th, 20:45 CET/14:45 EDT
How to Watch
TV: beIN Sports Connect, RAI International, BT Sport 2
Online: beIN Sports Connect via Fubo TV