Any of you who have been on a small island for too long may be familiar with the term island fever. Basically, it’s a feeling of claustrophobia derived from one being isolated on an island. On the westernmost shore of the United States, I felt this phenomena, watching Roma put in another ghastly performance. Despite the lush backdrop of Kauai beaming with green promise, and the vigor of having been recently married, I wanted to blast off on a rocketship far, far away. Away from the woe of being a Roma fan.
Sulking aside, we are blessed with a week to reflect on what EDF and company need to accomplish to right Roma’s ship. While it is easy to admonish the team for their collective shortcomings, it is harder to provide solutions, especially when there are so many problems to fix. Some of these may be as clear as Nainggolan’s bong (too soon?), others may be way out in right field, but one thing is certain, changes need to be made. Doing our best impression of Groundhog’s Day, reliving the Rudi Garcia era, is a mistake that Roma cannot afford. Although EDF finished the first half of the season above universal expectations, the team’s current form has placed him where most thought he would be: among a tier of mediocre coaches. That said, perhaps he can prove us wrong... again.
What EDF Needs to Do
Change the formation
No-brainer, right? Wrong. What the hell is the fascination with the 4-3-3, anyway? When has it ever worked for Roma? Teams always learn how to stifle the trident attack by parking the bus and countering. I mean, Palotta fired Rudi Garcia for his failure to tinker. Sure, perhaps a more tenured coach could find efficiency with our wingers, but with the players we have other options must be considered. It’s not my job to figure it out, but, damn, why not try a 4-3-1-2 with Nainggolan in the slot. Or, maybe a 3-4-1-2, we have a plethora of CBs anyway. Or maybe... you get the idea. Just try something else. Our ball movement has been like molasses and currently the players have no outlet other than Kolorov, which, by the way, EDF, everyone has figured out. Surprise! If our most attacking player is our LB there is a problem.
This goes with what was said above. EDF will need to place the Belgian in his rightful place behind the attackers. Last year under Spalletti, Radja netted 11 goals and 5 assists. With 2 goals it is clear that Nainggolan is playing too deep. The lack of goals comes from a systematic issue where the midfielders can’t work together to move the ball forward. C’mon, Kolorov can’t do everything!
Less Crosses, Improve on Shooting
Roma’s play is as predictable as the coming hour. Push the ball to the left and have Kolorov cross, or Perotti attempt a dribble. It’s getting old, fast. The opposition knows it, we know it, and now it is time for EDF to realize it. In addition, Roma’s attacking front should focus on shooting during training. According to Squawka’s comparison matrix, Roma has about 10% less shot accuracy compared to the teams above them on the table, except Inter, who we all know is going through a crisis of their own.
Play Cengiz Ünder or Gerson
If EDF is set on using a 4-3-3 then he needs to deploy a true RW. While Ünder is no Salah, not even by a mile, he has shown the bursts of speed and creativity needed to be dangerous in that position. Also, he is the only true left-footed winger we have. Giving him ten minutes here or there, usually when trailing, isn’t the best way to raise the young Turk's confidence. Arguably, he feels compelled to make something out of nothing with the limited time. El Shaarawy and Perotti are both left-wingers, and while they have been serviceable, they haven’t provided the dynamic necessary to help the attack. If for not anything else Totti said to Under, “I have faith in you, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.” EDF, show him the faith.
Gerson is another option at RW. He isn’t the paciest of wingers, but he has looked better with the ball at his feet, and if the game against Fiorentina showed us anything, the Brazilian can shoot. I’m not sure if anyone knows whether Gerson is a winger or a midfielder, but he could offer Roma a boost of creativity.
What Monchi Needs to Do
Purchase a true Right Winger
Again, seeing as though the 4-3-3 will probably stay, Monchi will need to roll up his sleeves, and quick. Purchasing Schick as a future prospect is all well and good, but losing out on Mahrez and all the other RW targets is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Roma is in a mire. Whether or not EDF is willing to give Ünder the time, Monchi needs to fill this position. Truth be told, in Monchi I trust, but right now his signings aren’t directly helping the team. Find Roma a suitable RW, no matter the cost.
Buy a creative-midfielder
I feel like Roma fans have been calling for a creative midfielder ever since Pjanic left. The midfield, as of late, has been bereft of ideas. In order for this Roma side to click, someone needs to be pulling the strings. Nainggolan and Pelligrini are box-to-box midfielders, Gonalons and DDR are defensive midfielders, and Strootman is, well, a hybrid of the two, I guess. And I need to make a declaration that Strootman is no longer a must start. I love Stroots, but his urgency is frustrating. Perhaps it is EDF’s system, but every time the Dutchman gets the ball the attack is stilted. He slows the play down and allows the opposition to get into position. Roma needs someone to deliver a deft pass, not someone who can slow possession.
I know what you’re thinking, boy Remus, how many mai-tais did you drink over there? This may be an unpopular idea, and an unrealistic one to boot, but other than being a backup to Dzeko, Schick has no place on the squad at the moment. He is not a RW and his chemistry with Dzeko has looked atrocious. I recall them literally running into each other going for a shot... yikes. Of course, Schick has the physicality and dribbling skills to be a great striker, but he is not what Roma needs to rebound. In fact, since he’s been fit it seems EDF has been confounded with where to tactically place him. Loan him out until someone knows what to do with him.
What Players Need to Step Up
As it stands right now Monsieur Defrel will be heading back to Sassuolo next summer. Yes, he’s been dealing with injuries, but even when he was fit he seemed lost out there. This could be due to EDF’s inability to play him in his natural position, but either way the Frenchman will need to step up this year.
Once the commander of the defense, Federico has looked a shadow of his former self. Lately, he’s been giving attackers too much space, and his lack of speed has been challenged. One could say he is EDF’s scapegoat, the player most exploited by other teams discovering EDF’s tactical weaknesses. In the Atalanta match, quick counters made Fazio look like his legs were made of Jenga blocks. Hopefully, he can rediscover his strengths in the second half of the season. With Moreno and Juan Jesus starving for minutes, Fazio’s place could be up for grabs.
I don’t think anyone expected Dzeko to repeat his stellar form from last year, but the big Bosnian surely could step up his play . At 9 goals, he isn’t exactly doing poorly in front of goal. What’s alarming is the way Edin has been disappearing from games. The hold up play, the aggression, and the ability to get the wingers into goal scoring position has been lost as of late. Surely, Salah’s departure was a blow to Dzeko’s goal tally, but it isn’t as though he’s been starving for chances. He’s actually out-shot his competitors.
There is much to be done with this club in a week’s time, and sadly that isn’t enough to address all the issues. Roma is definitely going through an identity crisis, one of which EDF is fully responsible for mending. Changing the formation will be key to Roma’s success in the second half of the season. If Eusebio can’t find a way to tinker then Roma is lost. The jig is up and the 4-3-3 is done. With Schick as the future prize pony, Dzeko will need to find himself again, as this could be his last season, and Roma’s youngsters, Pelligrini, Under, and Gerson will need a chance to show their worth.