If you’ve been following Roma for any length of time, you undoubtedly have certain associations for certain coaches. For Claudio Ranieri it was his professorial look—the glasses, the clean cut jackets—Luciano Spalletti had the shiny dome, and during his second stint his...um...flavor savor, and for Zeman it was obviously the chain smoking and the wild results. No matter the case, Roma managers become connected with not only their personal style, but their pattern of results.
While I’m not sure Eusebio Di Francesco has one “thing” yet, we may very well look back on his tenure as one of extreme fluctuations: how this man can get so overwhelmed by SPAL at home yet decimate CSKA Moscow in the Champions League remains a mystery, but it may be his lasting legacy when all is said and done.
Napoli v. Roma: October 28th. 20:30 CET/3:30 EDT. Stadio San Paolo. Napoli.
We mention that simply because, well, because we’re back to the domestic side of that equation, only Roma won’t have SPAL staring them back in the face. Nope, this weekend’s opponent is decided tougher—second place Napoli.
While there was reason to doubt if Napoli could conjure the same magic they had under Maurizio Sarri, Carlo Ancelotti has erased those concerns. WIth 18 goals forced and 21 points through nine matches, Napoli are as impressive as ever, and were it not for Juventus, Napoli may have very well rewritten the record books over the past decade.
Despite that change in manager, it’s the same old song and dance for Napoli—they’re fucking good at football. With the Neapolitan Totti, Lorenzo Insigne, leading the way, the Partenopei attack is as good as ever. Napoli’s 159 attempts on goal are good for third most in the league, their 47 on target attempts are tied for fourth, while their 11.3% conversion rate is good for fourth in the league, trailing league leading...you ready for this...Sampdoria. Thanks a lot, Gregoire.
Between Insigne, Dries Mertens and the Polish pair of Piotr Zieliński and Arkadiusz Milik, Napoli’s 18 goals are second only to Juventus. While Insigne has a third of those, Ancelotti’s attack is pretty evenly distributed, as a full five players are averaging over two shots per match, including the would be Roma player, Fabian Ruiz. Point being, there is no one, single way to slow this team down.
Fortunately for Roma, Napoli’s defensive record isn’t quite as sterling; it’s roughly on par with Roma’s. Take that as you will. One thing that is conspicuously different about Napoli, though, is the complete and utter decay of Marek Hamsik, who has zero goals and zero assists through five matches. So, for our sake, let’s hope that trend continues tomorrow.
Speaking of Roma, not much has changed since last week’s, shall we say, uneven results. EDF will still be down Diego Perotti (no big deal), Javier Pastore (someone look up his warranty), Justin Kluivert (just biding his time) and Rick Karsdorp (someone find him an apartment back in Feyenoord), meaning we’ll probably see the same starting eleven, or close to it as last week, though god willing Ivan Marcano will remain firmly planted on the bench.
And that’s really the salient point; how will Roma’s defense respond to such a free-wheeling, multi-pronged attack? Can the central quartet of Daniele De Rossi, Steven Nzonzi, Kostas Manolas and Federico Fazio keep their heads with Insigne and company whizzing around them?
Believe it or not, Roma have won three of their past five matches against Napoli, including the most recent fixture, a 4-2 beatdown last March at the Stadio San Paolo. Di Francesco will have to conjure all his Champions League magic to recreate that scoreline, but if Roma are looking to make a statement, even a slim 1-0 victory would go a long way towards lifting the Giallorossi back into the European equation for next season.