Dealing again with some last minute injuries, Eusebio Di Francesco was forced once more to throw Edin “I might be going to Chelsea, I might not” Dzeko into the lineup as the €42 million man Patrik Schick was deemed unfit for service late in the week. Flanking Dzeko was Stephan El Shaarawy as usual, while Cengiz Under continued to cement his place in EDF’s plans, garnering his second start in a row. The inclusion of Juan Jesus over Federico Fazio rounded out the personnel changes ahead of this match.
So, would they provide the necessary spark for a club in dire need of a victory?
No, no they didn’t. In the first half, Roma managed a pitiful five shots on goal, despite holding 63% of the possession. To put those numbers in perspective, Sampdoria, who obviously had the ball the remaining 37% of the time, fired off 12 shots. It’s stupefying how a club with this much attacking talent has been effectively castrated by EDF’s tactics. There’s no creativity, no punch and seemingly no plan whatsoever.
Still, Roma had a chance to grab a lead late in the first half when Under’s volley struck Bartosz Bereszynski’s hand in the box, resulting in a yellow card and a penalty kick. It was a hell of an effort from Under, who in his brief time with Roma, has proven to be quite nimble and adept at picking the ball out of the air. He hasn’t exactly strung it together yet, but you have to like the looks of this kid; he could be a real keeper.
So, would Under’s athleticism be rewarded?
Rather than firing for a corner, Florenzi rather simply played it right at Viviano, who had to move all of a meter to stop this one. Had this been a more serious attempt, I suppose we should have been more upset, what with Roma’s history of making mediocre keepers look like a 27-year-old Buffon, but this was a piss poor effort from Florenzi, so it got what it deserved.
Viviano would strike again, denying El Shaarawy on a break with his outstretched leg, but that was all she wrote for the first half. Roma was absolutely pathetic in attack, showing no intent or purpose.
Alisson, as always, was at the ready, holding Roma back from the brink of disaster with a stellar sequence here late in the first half.
While Roma showed some signs of life in their midweek tilt against Sampdoria, I’m not sure we could have said the same about this first half; it was ugly. Rudi Garcia ugly.
To their credit, Roma came out in the second half with their foot on the gas, pressuring Viviano into two quick saves, one of which, was, umm, rather unique.
@EmilianoViviano with the Moustache save! Impressive.— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) January 28, 2018
Viviano literally stopped an El Shaarawy stunner with his face, then followed that up with a standard diving perry on a Lorenzo Pellegrini shot. Saves like these generally don’t bode well for Roma, so you would have been right to start biting your nails.
Nevertheless, the signs of intent from EDF’s men soldiered on, including perhaps the finest bit of build up play we’ve seen in months. With Florenzi charging out from the back, Roma worked a beautiful sequence involving Ale, El Shaarawy, Pellegrini and Dzeko. This one had it all—layoffs, give and goes and even a dummy—but it ultimately yielded little more than a feeble attempt from Dzeko, which was summarily saved by Viviano. Pellegrini had about 15 yards of empty space ahead of him and opted to play it inwards to Dzeko rather than unleashing himself—a frustrating ending, but the buildup was sublime.
So with Pellegrini and El Shaarawy providing a much needed spark, the obvious solution was to pull them off for the hapless Gregoire Defrel and Mirko Antonucci, right?
For some reason, EDF decided to shift formation just as Roma was establishing some attacking momentum, pulling Pellegrini for Defrel and pushing to a 4-2-4, then yanking of El Shaarawy for an adolescent, which yielded immediate results. Bad results.
Duvan Zupata: 80th Minute
This one isn’t exclusively on Antonucci, but as you can see, he missed a chance to snuff out the initial cross from Sampdoria, but after that, it was some high class, shambolic defending that enabled Zapata to score. Notice how he breezes past two three defenders to get on the end of this cross.
I’ll be curious to see the rationale behind those changes, because they had little to no effect on the match, and not only that, he robbed Roma of the only two players carrying their weight in attack.
But yeah, that was that. I suppose you can call my recap as lazy as Florenzi’s penalty attempt, but this was just a flatout disgrace. It’s hard to believe this is nearly the same team that set a club record for points last year.
Eusebio Di Francesco has dug himself a hole, and it doesn’t look like he has much of an exit plan. He’s turned Nainggolan into a eunuch and made Edin Dzeko into a lampost once more, effectively grounding one of the league’s best attacks. And in the process, he’s left Roma in a fraughtful position in which, barring a Champions League title, they’ll be relegated to the dregs of the Europa League, leading to yet another summer talent exodus.
The club was left in an untenable situation last spring with Luciano Spalletti pining to leave, but by hiring Eusebio Di Francesco and not giving him what he truly needs to succeed, they’ve somehow made the situation worse.
EDF is not an incapable coach, his time with Sassuolo proved that, but he’s the latest victim upon whom the ineptness of Roma’s ownership has been foisted, and for that, there is no tactical solution.
Roma will look to once more right the ship next Sunday when they travel to Verona.