At the risk of sounding repetitive, Roma once again find themselves with their backs against the wall in an early season fixture. After missing several chances to put away Fiorentina over the weekend, only to lose 1-0, the Giallorossi wasted a golden opportunity to go top of table, or at least join with Napoli. As it stands, Spalletti’s men sit in sixth, three points off the title pace.
And while that’s not a dire circumstance in which to find one’s self so early in the season, it is yet further testament to Roma’s inability to rise to the occasion when it matters most. As we’ve seen so often over the years, the margins between the Champions League and the Europa League are razor thin, often decided on matches where missed shots and foolish penalties wind up costing millions.
Looking to get back up on the horse, Roma welcomes a previously unseen opponent to the Olimpico, Serie A newcomers Crotone, who are currently wallowing in 20th place after garnering only one point through their first four matches. However, lest we overlook such a small opponent, let’s remember what happened the last time Roma faced an opponent for the first time ever…all the way back on September 9th when the blew a one goal lead to Viktoria Plzen. Fun times.
Crotone, as one would imagine given the size of their payroll, has a relatively young roster, filled with mostly young 20 somethings, highlighted thus far by 23-year-old forward Marcello Trotta, who has one of Crotone’s four goals this season while also averaging two shots per match. Beyond Trotta, Serie A fans will no doubt recognize Raffaele Palladino, Crotone’s resident grampa, who is one of only five players on the roster over the age of 30. Roma fans will also rejoice at the sight of Adrian Stoian, the Romanian forward who sort of played for Roma but never really did.
So that’s Crotone, they’re not much to write home about, as far as Roma is concerned, it’s all about who starts up top. Through the season’s first month or so, Spalletti seems to have settled into a pattern wherein one of Edin Dzeko or Stephan El Shaarawy starts alongside Mohamed Salah and Diego Perotti, with one inevitably being subbed off for the other around the hour mark.
While this change of pace seems good on paper, it hasn’t borne much fruit over the past couple of matches, with El Shaarawy looking hesitant and Dzeko looking, well, like Dzeko. All of this is of course compounded by the fact that the club has no creative spark outside of Perotti, who has had his own struggles this season.
The good news is that Spalletti and the powers that be have finally woken to the fact that Juan Jesus is a terrible football player, one who should rightly sit behind Federico Fazio and never even see the pitch once Thomas Vermaelen returns from injury (I know, try and curtail your laughter).
The problem with this—because their always is one with this club—is that it forces Spalletti to use Bruno Peres and Alessandro Florenzi as his fullback pairing, leaving Peres woefully out of position on the left flank, where the extra steps he has to take to cut in leaves him susceptible to defenders.
So as we approach this match, very little has changed for Roma, the same concerns that were there in August remain. And yes, we can blame injuries for forcing Spalletti’s hand so early in the year, but you know what they say about excuses and assholes, don’t you?
Roma v. Crotone
September 21st, 20:45 CET, 14:45 EDT
Stadio Olimpico, Roma