Before you go freaking out about the latest Patrik Schick rumors (we’ll get to them later today) or burn your retinas looking at the eclipse, I thought we’d take another look at yesterday’s 1-0 victory over Atalanta. With that in mind, I assembled the crew for a crowdsourced-style review.
1) Three sentences or less, what was your initial impression of Roma’s first match under Eusebio Di Francesco?
Bren: I’ll say it was a bit of a mixed bag. They were far from clinical, but the second half performance gave me hope they’ll at least look somewhat dangerous this season, but they were extremely lucky the levee didn’t break in the second 45 minutes, particularly during that late barrage.
Jimmy Miotto: It’s really important to remember how much of a pain Atalanta has been to Roma over the course of the past couple years. The last time Roma won at Atalanta was in 2014, when Adem Ljajic was thought of as the future of Roma’s attack (I still miss you, Nutella). Given that, and given that it was the first match of the season, I was reasonably happy with the result. There were certainly some head-scratching moments, and I’m a little worried by Di Francesco’s Spalletti-like late substitutions, but a win is a win.
Sam: Both sides were pretty ordinary. I think comparing this years Atalanta to last years is absolutely absurd given the pillaging that took place on their roster, so while it is nice to take home the points, the performance was borderline garbage. This is something we are just going to have to deal with, there is no short term solution, it will take a couple of months before the team will be playing anything close to the football EDF wants them to. Square pegs, round holes.
AsRemus: While I was very worried about what EDF’s Roma would look like I forgot one major thing: the desire of our players. This was an “ugly win,” but man, did our players grind out the win. DDR, Radja, Dzeko, Kolarov, and Juan Jesus were warriors despite an obvious weakness in a tactical system.
JonAS: I’ll start off by saying I didn’t watch the game (yeah, so much for being a ‘huge fan’), so pardon my less detailed assessment. Roma did win a very tricky trip to Atalanta, something they have failed to do last season. Nota bene a season in which they gathered a record total of points. So yeah, at least the result is promising.
2) Okay, give us one positive of EDFs debut match?
Bren: I don’t know what he said or did to Juan Jesus, but that may have been the best the guy has ever played for Roma, or in all of Serie A for that matter. A lot of us have been worried about Federico Fazio’s transition to a 4-3-3 and, well, Hector Moreno’s place in the team at all, but if JJ can do that, oof, we might be alright.
Jimmy: Beyond Juan Jesus’ frankly shockingly good performance, I was very happy with Alisson’s performance. Roma’s defensive integrity wasn’t exactly top-notch this match, but whenever called upon Alisson delivered. He’ll need to replicate that type of performance consistently over the course of the season if Roma wants to meet expectations.
Sam: Clean sheet despite essentially every statistic pointing to otherwise.
AsRemus: The team is behind EDF. They didn’t give up and they fought hard. Let’s just hope they can start stringing together meaningful passes.
JonAS: Jesus got the nod over Moreno and Fazio and that was a masterstroke. Let’s just hope the suits don’t see this as a cheap excuse to not buy another CB. Fazio in a 4-3-3 is a disaster while Moreno is good enough for mid table teams, but against Icardi, Higuain or Dybala? Right now Jesus seems our best alternative alongside Manolas. I can’t believe I just said that but the Atalanta game doesn’t lie.
3) One negative, or the thing that concerns you most about this season?
Bren: For my money, I saw WAY, WAY, WAY too many subtle reminders of Rudi Garcia. From the backwards passes to the near collapse at the end, I felt like it was the winter of 2015 again. So I’ll be watching quite keenly to see to what extent he adapts on the fly, both week to week and within a match, but there was far too much banging their heads against the wall for my taste, so to speak.
Jimmy: I’m rather worried by Roma’s lack of offensive character in this match. Defrel is quite plainly not supposed to be a starting right winger for a club of Roma’s caliber, and I’m not convinced that Perotti should be starting long-term either. Hopefully Stephan El Shaarawy can force his way into the starting lineup, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Di Francesco use Patrik Schick as a right winger if that transfer rumor turns into an actual move.
Sam: The hardest thing is going to be finding a way to get the best out of our midfielders, especially in attack. Defrel still looks like Defrel, 20M unbelievable.
AsRemus: Horrendous passing. I can’t believe how many misplaced passes there were. Inter will rip Roma apart if they give the ball away in the midfield.
JonAS: Like I said, I didn’t see the game so I won’t speak about the overall quality of the team. But judging from the stats, it looked like Roma was too quiet in the offensive department. Last season they scored a ton load of goals and now they barely had a shot on goal. Salah is sorely missed, but we still have Dzeko, Defrel, SES, Perotti and even Radja. Grinding out 1-0 wins every now and then is nice and Juve did it for years now, but some free-flowing attacks like in the good old Spalletti, Zeman or Garcia days would be a warm welcome.
4) Which player looked the most-suited to EDFs tactics?
Bren: I suppose the easy answer is Aleksandar Kolarov, but it’s probably also the correct one, if I do say so myself! He took to this setup like a duck to water; he was the best player on Sunday without a doubt. His size, strength and crossing are exactly what EDF needs on that left flank; he can be a perfect foil for Edin Dzeko and even Stephan El Shaarawy.
Jimmy: Since Bren already took Kolarov, I have to go with Juan Jesus, which is still very odd for me to write. The Brazilian looked comfortable as a centerback and quite frankly made Manolas look quite unimpressive. Time will tell if this was simply a one-off performance or if Juan can turn this year into a comeback year of sorts, but the building blocks for a mid-career renaissance are there.
AsRemus: DDR. Holding midfielder in a 4-3-3 is our captain’s bread and butter. He had some nice over-the-top balls to Defrel… but they were to Defrel… man, we need a right-winger.
JonAS: Kolarov, Dani and Jesus got good grades so they are easy answers. But Radja, Strootman, Perotti are all talented and flexible enough to adjust and feel good in EDF’s fomation as well. Time will tell.
5) Which player looked the least suited to EDFs tactics?
Bren: Hmm, tough to tell at first blush, but I’m concerned with how Nainggolan will fare under EDF. Of course, with someone of his caliber we’re splitting hairs, but he was virtually unstoppable under Luciano Spalletti last year, so I worry if he’s given more defensive responsibilities, his overall effectiveness will suffer, not that he’s not a capable defender, just that Roma won’t maximize his abilities if he’s pulled from the attack too often.
Jimmy: Some of this may be that I’m missing Antonio Rüdiger’s social media prowess and some of this may be that Juan Jesus was simply fantastic today, but I was rather concerned by Kostas Manolas’ performance. He didn’t put in the type of play that I’ve grown to expect of him, and considering that the tail end of his 2016/17 season was equally unimpressive I’m beginning to worry that a hiccup in form is turning into a decline in ability. Prove me wrong, Kostas. Prove me wrong.
Sam: I think Nainggolan was the most obvious given his awesome form last year. Strootman also seemed to be struggling to get into a groove. DDR played well so I’m not worried too much about him.
AsRemus: Fazio. I fear he should have been sold when the getting was good. Although it was only a brief cameo from the Argentine, it is becoming evident that his pace is going to be an issue in EDF’s fast pace tactics. It seems that EDF pushes his midfield too high, which leaves the defense exposed on quick counters. Fazio will not be able to position himself properly at unexpected dispossessions.
JonAS: If he doesn’t score in the next 2-3 games, I fear Dzeko might struggle with himself once again and be relegated to the bench. Defrel is Eusebio’s favorite and he’s a lot better in a central role. And when that right winger finally arrives, there’s no space for Defrel, …. for now. So 1+1=2 I guess. But let’s not put too much pressure on Edin just yet.
6) Radja Nainggolan was markedly better in the second half, to what do you attribute this change?
Bren: Well, I sort of just hinted at it, but he was just charging forward a lot more in the second half, like, into some wide open channels. So I guess it depends on what sort of middle ground they find for him. He’s easily one of the five best midfielders on the planet, but it behooves EDF to put him in a place to succeed. Just look at how much better he was under Spalletti than Rudi Garcia; he’s wasted in a pure 4-3-3, so color me concerned about the long-term utilization of Nainggolan.
Jimmy: I think that part of the reason that Nainggolan was tentative at best in the first half was the lackluster play from Kevin Strootman and Daniele De Rossi. He needs the entire midfield to act in an aggressive manner for him to properly assert his own style on the game. The midfield as a whole worked better in the second half, and that showed itself most prominently with Nainggolan’s improved performance. I hope Strootman, De Rossi, and Nainggolan can put forward performances more like that second half in the future. If they don’t, I’m sure that Gerson, Maxime Gonalons, and Lorenzo Pellegrini would be happy to steal some of their minutes.
Sam: I’m not too sure about this one. Given that it is the first game of the season I imagine EDF spent some time during the break telling him where he wanted him to move. I think the fact the wingers weren’t very dangerous affected the amount of space he had to move forward into.
AsRemus: I’m willing to guess that EDF told him to run like hell with the ball. Radja is a pretty fast dude, able to fill in gaps in the attacking field. He might be better suited for counter-attacking in EDF’s system. But, like others said, it is worrisome to think that EDF might not be able to utilize Nainggolan to his full potential.
JonAS: Maybe Eusebio threatened to permanently remove his tattoos with a laser if he didn’t improve his game?
7) Finally, channel your inner Joan Rivers, what did we make of EDFs sideline suit?
Bren: For those of you too young to remember, Joan Rivers used to have a fashion show of sorts on TV where she’d just shit on people’s outfits. Anyway, I thought he looked like a medium ranged high roller at a casino. Like a guy who knows what he’s doing, but not necessarily one who would topple the whole operation.
Jimmy: Are there people too young to remember Joan Rivers? Wow.
Bren: Hmm, excellent point, but I wonder if millennials are familiar with her...so we can rephrase that as, I don’t know, Tim Gunn?
Jimmy: When it comes to a club that has Philipp Plein as a fashion sponsor, I’ve learned to count my blessings. I didn’t find that all-black outfit that bad, but I expect more from EDF. Given that, I hope he goes back towards the style he had at Sassuolo: simple, elegant, and quite a bit like Luciano Spalletti if we’re being honest.
Sam: I’m a fan of the dark on dark but there is something odd about seeing EDF in it. Probably his glasses, anyway it made a nice chance from what I saw the Huddersfield manager was wearing during their EPL match this morning, a bit of class goes a long way.
AsRemus: What!? You fools be crazy! EDF looked snazzy as hell out there. Is it me or does he not look like Christopher Nolan’s Commissioner Gordon? You know, the one and only Gary Oldman. You decide:
JonAS: Well, Eusebio’s not James Bond or George Clooney, but he pulls it off nicely. Anyway, ff Roma’s footy is a sight to behold then I don’t care how he dresses. He can even show up in pink baggy trousers and a yellow stained tank top for all I care.