Both Roma and Sampdoria pressed ahead with their youth programs. Roma’s starting lineup averaged 26 years old, while Sampdoria’s lineup held an average 24 years of age. A young Blucerchiati side struggling for form were there for the taking, but it took using their aggression against them to win this one.
Roma confirmed their home scoring as the best in the league right now - 16 Serie A goals - and every player on the 4-1 scoresheet was a Roma player (cough).
So is every Lupo now swimming in the same direction?
Everything’s All Right for Kluivert (and Cristante)
Sampdoria’s early pressing high in Roma’s half saw the Giallorossi defence getting cut off from their front 4; Roma were too cute in playing it out from the back. It was enough for EDF to shout from the touchline: “Don’t embarrass yourselves! Just find the striker!”
A more direct passing game began to write the story for the rest of the match. Kolarov and Florenzo ran away with the long ball stats (12 long balls from Florenzi and 16 from Aleksandar Kolarov). The initial idea was just to shift the balance of play away from Roma’s defence to its more capable ball-players up front, and Kolarov - like he did against CSKA in Garrett’s fanpost midweek - searched for the shortest guy in the squad in Justin Kluivert.
But the decision wasn’t as counter-intuitive as it was in Moscow, because Kluivert - unlike in Moscow on the left - was on Sampdoria’s weak side whenever Kolarov was in possession. Switching play to the opposing flank let Roma use Samp’s aggressive defending against them.
Despite Kluivert being in acres of space, both fullbacks’ accuracy with the long ball was less than stellar. Yet it didn’t need to be thanks to Bryan Cristante.
Cristante would either win the second ball or intercept to win back possession, then feeding Kluivert the ammo himself. It led to 44% of Roma’s attacks coming down the right wing by final whistle.
EDF - post-match - chose to highlight this game as the one where Kluivert “stopped joking around” on the ball, using it effectively to “hurt opponents” right from the very kick off.
The Roma coach insists he’s not swimming in options on the right wing, and so Kluivert will be the man to step in there for the foreseeable future.
SES Takes Charge of His Make-Or-Break Season
SES is featured on CdT today, so we’ll leave it in there. There was very little difference between him and Kluivert’s performance against Sampdoria. That can only be good news for Roma controlling both flanks in games, yet keeps the questions over SES’ future in the spotlight.
SES’ defensive game ranked on a par with Kluivert (1 interception each) while his attacking game was very similar to the Dutchman (3 successful dribbles completed each, 2 key passes from Kluivert compared to 1 key pass from SES).
The difference between both wide men was simply SES finding the ball - and the goal - more. SES scored with both of his shots on target from a total 3 attempts, while Kluivert took only one shot on goal and hitting the post.
Given that Kluivert is already finding the level that SES has laboured to reach in his own time at Roma, does SES need a 15-to-20 goal haul to keep making the left wing his starting spot? After all, EDF won’t go every summer with Monchi coming up short on right-wing transfer targets.
As far as SES’s international career, Roberto Mancini declared today: “If [El Shaarawy] keeps playing like this, he will definitely be called up [to the next Italy squad]”.
From Pellegrini to Schick - The Difference A Goal Makes
If Patrik Schick still needs proof as to how much a goal can change a player’s season, look no further than Lorenzo Pellegrini’s form. The Roma number 7 has upgraded from bit-part player to Roma puppet-master, in a midfield showing more motivation than last season’s engine room.
Not only is Steven Nzonzi running 0.1km more per game than Roma’s best man for pitch coverage last year - Kevin Strootman - but Lorenzo Pellegrini is covering 0.4km more per game than last season’s Radja Nainggolan.
Just take a look at any heatmap of this weekend’s game to see Pellegrini’s touches of the ball all over it.
When Kolarov and SES were stuck deep in Roma’s half trying to find ways to get the team upfield, Pellegrini slotted himself higher up on the left wing to receive the ball over the top and help both men out. Just seconds later, Pellegrini would pop up on the right side of the pitch to help Kluivert in a 2-man press. If that wasn’t enough, Lorenzo Pellegrini did the wide men’s crossing for them. His 8 crosses over 90 minutes was more than double any other Roma player.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the confidence scale, Patrik Schick was doing this...
Schick’s own account of his performance, after the game, was honest: yesterday wasn’t about the finer points of centre-forward play. It was purely about finding confidence to keep going. And in the crowd’s eyes - as SES can attest to - that boils down to scoring goals.
Shick can take heart from Pellegrini becoming the all-round midfielder - his performances showing more motivation and influence than just a tactical switch to trequartista can account for - and it’s all flowing from that backheel goal in the derby for Lorenzo.
Hopefully Schick hearing his name bellowed over the megaphone - and through the ranks of the Olimpico crowd - will work similar results for the Czech prodigy’s motivation.
But the short-term reality dawning here for not just Schick but Kluivert, SES and Perotti (among others) is that, as long as Lorenzo is playing like this, whoever strikes up the best balance with Roma’s number 7 effectively guarantees their place in the side.
Pellegrini holds their Roma careers on his puppet-strings.
In Other News
Robin Olsen is favourite to win the Swedish Ballon D’Or today. He will be in Sweden to attend the ceremony in person, before linking up for international duty.
Update: The Swedish Golden Ball went to Manchester United’s Victor Lindelof in the end. Though, for the third year running, Robin Olsen won Sweden’s Goalkeeper of the Year.