The obvious angle to any Roma preview lately (or story for that matter) is the future of Roma’s sometimes bespectacled manager, Eusebio Di Francesco. The man named after one of the greatest footballers of his generation recently received the dreaded vote of confidence from club President James Pallotta, only to see his job remain unharmed. Despite a run of five straight matches without a victory, a stretch in which the players have begun to question their collective mentality, EDF remains gainfully employed by Roma.
Now, the reasons for this range from Monchi’s supposed ‘fire him and I’ll walk’ ultimatum to a simple lack of legitimate options currently on the coaching market. Whatever the case may be, Roma is once again heading for choppy waters, with their only lifeline being the poor form of the teams just above them on the table. After Roma wasted away against Cagliari last week, they had to good fortune of seeing Parma, Torino and Lazio each drop points, keeping Roma’s shot a fourth place on life support for one more week.
Roma v. Genoa: December 16th. 20:30 CET/2:30 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
Those sorry circumstances aren’t exactly a resume buffer for anyone associated with the club, but let’s face facts: Roma are only five points out of fourth place with many, many months left to play. However, as we so often point out, when it comes to EDF and his impact on Roma, take the long view into account: has anything this team has accomplished over the past several months given you any faith they’re on the right track? That’s not to say they’re beyond repair, but EDF hasn’t looked like a capable craftsmen lately.
Di Francesco can’t be blamed for missed sitters and poor challenges, but his feet should be held to the fire for the broader trends—the collapses, the lack of a killer edge and the players openly questioning, for lack of a better term, their balls. Those may not be tangible problems, but they’re problems nonetheless.
Of course, all of this sets an oh so typical Roma backdrop for this weekend’s match, a home tilt against the Genoa Cricket and Football Club. The Griffins, losers of four of their past six, are mired in 14th place and would seem like an ideal foil for Roma’s bounce back, except, well, read all the paragraphs above this one.
Nothing in Roma’s recent form suggests this will be a walkover, not least of all their record against (bear with me) “inferior” opponents. Just close your eyes, do a quick body scan, feel the weight of your feet and your back, take a deep breath and imagine where Roma would be had they not dropped points to Chievo, Bologna, SPAL 2013, Udinese and Cagliari. Shit, had they just beaten SPAL and not surrendered that equalizer last week they’d be in fourth place and we wouldn't be in this mess.
Making matters worse, the same injury crisis that’s plagued Roma for the past month remains in full effect. With Daniele De Rossi, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Edin Dzeko and Stephan El Shaarawy all potentially out of this one, Roma will be dealing from an already short deck. While Nicolo Zaniolo has done a fine job filling the gaps in midfield, without Dzeko up front, Roma’s attack has had no anchor and no direction, as Patrik Schick has struggled to, well, to play football. Barring that slick almost assist to Alessandro Florenzi a couple weeks back, Schick has barely made waves in Roma’s attack.
So, let’s run that back, shall we?
Roma are in a free fall, their manager is clinging to life and several of their top players are hurt. And on top of all that, they’re facing a supposedly inferior (there’s that word again) team tomorrow, one that just happens to feature the league’s leading goal scorer, Krzysztof Piatek—it’s almost as if this match is tailor made to break our hearts.
Genoa may not be much to look at, but Piatek is simply scorching right now. With four goals in his past five matches (all comps), Piatek has recovered from a mini swoon in which he failed to find the back of the net for nearly a month. So, if ever there were a player capable (in this current moment) of destroying Roma and sending EDF to the unemployment line all on his own, surely it’s the 23-year-old future Juventus player (you know it’s happening, deal with it).
Eusebio Di Francesco’s career as Roma manager hasn’t been blessed with consistency, but if he’s proven anything in his 18 months at the helm, it’s an ability to show grace under pressure.
Genoa may not feature the likes of Lionel Messi, but it may take a Manolas Miracle-level, well, miracle to save his hide this time.