The date is 21 February 2016, it's a cold winter’s night in Rome and Maurizio Zamparini‘s Palermo are visiting an expectant Stadio Olimpico hoping to see Roma’s front line fire off more goals than Zamparini would managers that year. A classic Maicon right flank forage lands him on the byline and he squares the ball to Edin Dzeko with all the defenders and the goalkeeper beat. As the stadium announcer clears his throat in anticipation, the stadium drummers shrug their shoulders ready to bang their customary celebration cue, Dzeko expertly misses an empty net from a yard out sparking confusion and anger across the stadium. His ensuing attempt to hide from Maicon and the crowd was almost as comical as preceding impersonation of a professional footballer. A year later FBI Director Jim Comey would credit 6 foot 4 Dzeko with inspiring his flawless plan to hide his 6 foot 8 frame from the President by blending into the Oval Office curtains.
Unbeknown to everyone in attendance that day, this was beginning of the first chapter to the greatest goal scoring season in Roma’s history. Our protagonist had hit rock bottom, his mighty foe (an empty net) had bested him once more, his confidence was shot and his own supporters turned on him. Despite going on to nab two goals and two assists in that game, he was soon out of the team and seemingly on his way out of Roma. Dzeko’s arrival in Rome was meant to be a landmark moment heralding the arrival of a truly world class goalscorer in the city for the first time since Gabriel Batistuta led us to our last Scudetto. At that moment in time though all it had brought was diminished minutes for the club’s greatest player. Hated by his own fans and ridiculed by the notoriously friendly Roman media, a career rival here appeared less likely than Monchi or Spalletti securing a Head and Shoulders Shampoo endorsement deal.
Like every good sports story however, the Bosnian Rocky knuckled down and fought his way through the summer and was ready to go another round in Serie A with very few people having any confidence in him. At the start of the 2016/2017 season, Luciano Spalletti made Dzeko the focal point of the attack and built his attacking system around his vast skillset. The result was remarkable.
He finished the season as Capocannoniere with 29 goals, tied with Rodolfo Volk for the most ever for AS Roma in a single season. He also finished as the top scorer in the Europa League with eight strikes and added two more goals in the Coppa Italia to end the season with 39 goals for Roma all competitions. The manner of his goals was quite varied as well. Breaking down the league goals specifically, he scored two headers and seven goals with his left foot. He also scored four of his goals from outside the 18 yard box and 10 from inside the five yard box. four of his assists came from clever knock downs with his head.
Breaking his return down further, he scored against every top 10 team except for Juventus and Lazio this season ( he missed the return leg with Juventus ). He did score against both those teams in his first season highlighting his skillset is varied enough to be effective against any opponent.
So what made him so effective?
The numbers clearly show he is a complete striker able to threaten defenses in multiple areas. His most important assets are his movement and often ridiculous first touch. Despite being viewed comically as a lamppost by a section of the Giallorossi contingent, he regularly found himself in behind defenses using a combination of clever movement, a surprisingly quick burst of pace and strength to get ahead of centre backs.
Though he only had two headed goals in the league, he was still an extremely effective box threat from crosses often choosing to bring the ball down with his chest whilst holding off grown men who suddenly mirrored Kevin Hart trying to guard against an NBA center. The combination of this size, burst and perfect technique made him near unplayable and were it not for his ability to miss sitters we could have easily been looking at Golden Boot numbers. There probably isn't another striker able to get himself into goal scoring positions so regularly and so easily (he finished with the most shots on target in Europe’s top leagues seemingly without breaking sweat in a single game). There certainly isn't anyone quite so efficient at missing clear cut chances.
In truth, Dzeko’s remarkable season was not a result of him overcoming the flaws in his game and recreating himself into a more polished player. He had as many “What The Pallotta!!!” moments this season as he did last year. The big difference was that he seemed to embrace the hostile environment around him and didn't let the dumbfounding moments and ensuring criticism affect him as it so visibly did last year. This in turn led to Spalletti keeping faith in him and ensuring the gameplan revolved around him all season long. As we head to into the Monchi era we all hope his confidence remains as unshakable as Gonzalo Higuain’s commitment to his belly.
Rate Dzeko’s Season
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Best I have seen from a Roma Striker
I only remember Totti’s final game from this season
Borriello scored more