After a rather lackluster start to the new season, the international break arrived as either a blessing or a curse. With a new manager, new tactics and several new faces in tow, a two week secession of action may not prove fruitful for Eusebio Di Francesco as he continues to try an instill his brand of attacking football in the eternal city. The flip side of the international break is simply that it gave Roma’s walking wounded a fortnight to recover, as evidenced by the returns of Bruno Peres and Rick Karsdorp to training this week.
The rubber will meet the road Saturday when Roma heads north to take on the suddenly Shick-less UC Sampdoria. Despite losing their prize cow, Samp is actually off to the better start in Serie A between these two sides, taking all six points while scoring four goals in the process.
Sampdoria v. Roma: September 9th, 20:45 CET/2:34 EDT. Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa.
With that mind, I offer you a truncated look at Saturday’s already crucial fixture.
Whose Roma is This?
Through the first two weeks, as well as the summer PR tour in the states, Roma looked very much like a Spalletti team jammed into an EDF bottle; the parts where the same, but the engine just wasn’t humming. Through the first 50 to 60 minutes of the Inter Milan fixture, it seemed as though EDF had already silenced his critics. With Diego Perotti taking creative control and Rajda Nainggolan bossing the midfield, Roma was swift and clinical, making mincemeat of Spalletti’s defence, dominating space and creating chances. The unfortunate part, you may recall, was those chances all hit the hard face of reality, a/k/a the woodwork.
If even one of those had found their way through, we’re looking at an entirely different match, and if Juan Jesus wasn’t woefully miscast as a rightback, Roma may not have been in a place to conceded to begin with. But that’s what happened. Deal with it.
All of that leaves EDF and Roma in a pretty precarious position heading into this match and the season in general. To date, EDFs Roma is far less than the sum of its parts, leaving many to question how long the former Giallorossi midfielder can withstand the crushing pressure of leading this team. However, as we just mentioned, we caught an extremely exciting glance of what might be two weeks ago against Inter, and now we can add Patrik Schick, as well as the healthy returns of Alessandro Florenzi, Peres and Karsdorp to the mix.
It’s been said that this Roma may be the deepest set we’ve seen in well over a decade, yet somehow, despite that depth, the starting XI isn’t quite as cutting as it was last season. Generally speaking, I’d agree with this opinion—Salah and Rudiger have proven remarkably hard to replace thus far—but the club’s lack of depth was ultimately their undoing last season.
So what’s the better hangover cure, Spalletti’s tall latte (lots of creamy and delicious foam at the top but not much of a kick underneath it) or EDFs cappuccino (well balanced throughout despite the lack of a showstopper on top)?
Personally, I love all espresso drinks, but Roma can’t afford to be indecisive. They need to find the proper balance between depth and delight.
As far as the actual match selections are concerned, it seems a safe bet EDF will continue with the same XI we saw on opening day, though it will be interesting to see how he utilizes Stephan El Shaarawy now that Shick is on board; who is Roma’s sixth man, so to speak?