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Are Tactics to Blame for Schick’s Roma Struggles?

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Deciphering the poor form of Roma’s young Czech striker may be easier said than done.

Udinese v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

When Patrik Schick was signed on August 20, 2017, expectations were incredibly high. The Czech forward’s 2016-2017 season at Sampdoria was a masterpiece, with thirteen goals scored, five goals assisted, and a finishing rate to rival Mauro Icardi, Edin Džeko, and Andrea Belotti. Although Džeko was certainly still the out-and-out starter up front, many predicted that Schick would break his way into the first team in no time.

Suffice it to say, that hasn’t exactly happened yet. Since his €42 million record-breaking transfer to the Giallorossi, Schick has scored four goals, less than half his total from his breakout season at Sampdoria. Eusebio Di Francesco and Monchi have been quick to defend their young striker, with Monchi going as far as saying that we all just have to wait a little bit longer for Schick to bloom in the Capitoline City: “It’s true he lacks consistency, but he has so much quality and will very soon become an important player for Roma.”

It is certainly true that one of the biggest knocks against Schick to date has been his luck; I can quickly count up at least five chances in the past two matches where Patrik just missed a goal, and dozens more since his transfer to Roma. Yet I would also argue that one of the main problems afflicting Schick is Eusebio Di Francesco’s tactical choice to treat the 6’1” Czech as a younger clone of Roma’s 6’4” Bosnian, when their styles of play are quite different.

During his best moments for La Samp, Schick finished well, yes, but he also gave defenders nightmares even when he didn’t score. He weaved his way through fullbacks and centerbacks on his way towards his shot; it’s no coincidence that he has performed well in a deep-lying, second striker position in the past. When compared Džeko’s technically lacking but still-impressive target man style of play, it’s plain to see that despite their similar looks, Schick and Džeko should be treated very differently on the pitch.

Unfortunately, Roma fans continue to be put through the same old routine: Aleksandar Kolarov and others feed the ball to Patrik Schick as if he’s just a younger, slightly shorter Džeko. His time at Sampdoria would indicate that he’s much better when he can play with the ball at his feet for longer periods, and we have yet to see Roma even attempt to use him in this way for extended periods of time. Naturally, Schick is playing against more compact defenses at Roma than while he was at Samp, but the technical ability Schick showed for I Blucerchiati can’t have disappeared entirely. If Di Francesco altered his tactics and played a two-striker system with Schick behind Džeko (as he did at times during preseason), Roma could finally see some returns on its largest-ever investment.

Let’s hope that Schick can find that form again, and that Di Francesco can figure out how to use Schick better. Edin Džeko is only going to get older, and Schick will have to take the reins from the Bosnian sooner rather than later.