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Uninspired Roma Falls 1-0 to Napoli

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Not too many positives to draw from this one.

AS Roma v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

On the spectrum of Roma injury crises, missing Stephan El Shaarawy and Gregoire Defrel was relatively minor, more like a Three Mile Island vs a Chernobyl, but the absence of the former, and even the latter, was an issue in Roma’s eventual 1-0 loss to Napoli. By and large, Roma was lacking creativity, inspiration, and at times, simple energy this evening.

But the cupboard wasn’t exactly bare as Eusebio Di Francesco’s starting eleven wasn’t too different from the personnel choices we’ve seen this season. Edin Dzeko was still leading the line, and with the recent return of Alessandro Florenzi, the frontline appeared in decent shape, even without El Shaarawy’s athleticism.

Despite the final scoreline, it was Roma who came out guns blazing early in this half, pressing the issue deep in Napoli territory, missing a few headed chances early in the match. However, as is so, so, so often the case, points are won and lost on simple errors and random deflections.

And hey, look at that, Roma did a bit of both!

Lorenzo Insigne: 20th Minute

This was your typical back breaking goal allowed by Roma. Prior to this point, Roma was dictating terms—creating chances and winning the ball back—and even in the millisecond before Lorenzo Insigne scored, Daniele De Rossi actually intercepted the ball, which somehow turned into a virtual layoff for Insigne, giving Napoli a lead when Roma was arguably playing the superior football.

I really have no explanation for what the hell DDR was thinking right there, except maybe his momentum was carrying him away and all he could do was get an awkward leg on it, or perhaps he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and wasn’t expecting the ball to be on him that quick?

Ultimately. it’s an academic debate. Whether it was a mental lapse by De Rossi or simply a miscarriage of physics, this goal halted Roma in her tracks.

The remainder of the first half played on without incident. Roma didn’t really present any credible threat to the Napoli defense, who were retreating back in droves anytime Roma came close to an attacking area. At the other end, the defense did just enough not to break, while Alisson made a spectacular reflex save, parrying the ball right back into the thick of the fray, though it was fortunately cleared away by the Roma defense.

Roma matches like these usually go one of two ways: they either mount up the shots and fail to capitalize, ultimately dropping points, or they somehow punch above their weight, keeping themselves in a match in which they would otherwise have no hope.

The first half of this one was neither. They played reasonably well through the first 20 minutes, yet didn’t completely capitulate to Napoli for the remaining 25, but it was just that one error by De Rossi that spoiled the usual narrative.

Second Half

If you expected Roma to come out revitalized in the second half, hell bent on scoring a goal, I’ve got bad news for you. They didn’t.

I’m not sure why I didn’t put those two thoughts into a single Tweet, but they pretty much encapsulate Roma’s approach to this match. This was definitely an unchained melody. That’s not to say EDFs side didn’t create any chances, just that those chances, slim as they were, resulted from happenstance and/or Napoli mistakes, not genuine creative, pre-meditated attacking football.

Federico Fazio lashed onto one, forcing Pepe Reina into a save, which he actually parried into the post. Next, Edin Dzeko hit the woodwork off the corner, though it probably never stood a chance anyway as it hit the top part of the crossbar. Later on in the half, following a broken play in which Bruno Peres lost possession, Cengiz Under (who had come on for Florenzi), played a wonderful ball across the face of the goal only to find no one waiting on the far post. Under would also have the final chance of the match as well, getting on the end of a swooping switch of play from Aleksandar Kolarov, only to be found wanting.

And that was that, the five minutes of stoppage time were merely an imposition to a conclusion formed in the 20th minute.

Conclusion

What else needs to be said? This one was a stinker, an absolute masterclass of shoddy preparation and failure to make in match adaptations. There was absolutely no sense of cohesion in EDFs attack today. Roma attempted only six shots in the run of play to Napoli’s 14, and half of Roma’s 10 total shots came beyond the 18-yard-box. In sum, they accepted what Napoli gave them rather than trying to seize the initiative themselves.

And yes, they were missing a spark from SES and had to remove Kostas Manolas due to injury, and yes they hit the woodwork a couple of times, and yes Napoli only scored after a colossal mistake, and yes Napoli would have had at least three goals were it not for Alisson Becker, but....

And that’s the state of it, Billy Bob put it perfectly. How many times have we seen this same Roma? How many times have we seen them throw their hands up in frustration when things aren’t working? How many times have we cried about penalties or woodwork?

At the end of the day, they’re all just bullshit excuses. Roma were bad today, full stop, but with 15 points through seven matches, they’re still in decent shape. However, stacking up points against lousy teams and losing the ones that matter (Inter Milan and now Napoli) is a worrying trend.

With a trip to Stamford Bridge slated for Wednesday, we better hope Roma gets healthy, but this performance definitely won’t cut it against an Antonio Conte side.