While we were all necessarily caught up in the Cengiz Ünder-fueled euphoria for the past few weeks, if you were really honest with yourself, you knew it could come crashing down at any minute. With victories against Verona, Benevento and Udinese paving the way, it’s not as if Roma was rolling over the 1927 Yankees out there (mixed metaphor, I know), and as we discussed yesterday after the match, Roma has managed only six victories since the start of December, with a 5-2 laugher over newly promoted and soon to be demoted Benevento being the best of the bunch.
Point being, while establishing momentum and belief certainly has value, Roma weren’t really forging themselves in the fire of Mt. Doom. So what, then, went wrong yesterday?
#1 The Miseducation of Patrik Schick
During the buildup to this match, much was made of a potentially seismic shift EDF had up his sleeve. The key to unlocking Roma’s dormant attack, so it was rumored, lied in the legs of Patrik Schick. While Edin Dzeko wasn’t exactly derelict in his duties as Roma’s center forward, he hadn’t really done enough to keep the calls for Schick at bay. Schick may not have Dzeko’s command of the area or his physical presence yet, but he brings a layer of creativity and athleticism that the Bosnian Batistuta does not, so the move was made...until it wasn’t.
Schick was out there, I saw him, he was wearing #14, but he wasn’t really out there. In 90 minutes on the pitch, Schick amassed...bear with me while I do the calculations...ZERO SHOTS. ZERO! Zip, nil, none. In fact, Schick touched the ball only 31 times, eight fewer than Alisson.
Making matters worse, EDF then decided to bring Dzeko on in the second half for Radja Nainggolan, running contrary to his midweek press conferences in which he said Schick and Dzeko haven’t jived together on the pitch. Suffice it to say, this switch to a two man strike force amounted to fuck all.
So while we can’t fault Di Francesco for making the switch, they made abhorrent use of Schick. Seriously, what was the point of that rotation if Schick was merely going to be a decoy for an hour, a placeholder until Dzeko suited up?
Schick’s first season with Roma has been a complete and utter waste thus far.
#2 Radja’s Incisor
Get it? His tooth, it was taken away..haha...okay, we’ll stop.
#3 Roma Got No Penetration
Here, allow me. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the real problem: Roma’s inability to penetrate Milan’s defense. While Roma managed to outshoot and create more chances than Milan, a large portion of those were from low percentage areas, far away from Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal. Of their 18 shots, 12 came from beyond the 18-yard-box, while seven of their eleven key passes came from outside of the area, with a full five coming from beyond 30ish-yards away.
So, once again, this was a lesson in production volume vs quality. While it’s all well and good that Roma were able to rip off 18 shots, when two-thirds of those come from beyond 18 yards out you’re really at the point of relying on miracles. Part and parcel of this is Roma’s persistent imbalance in attack, which was (once again) predominantly left leaning, with 44% of the attack coming down Kolarov’s flank.
While Radja Nainggolan’s tooth can be fixed with some relatively simple corrective dentistry, I’m not sure Roma’s tactical woes are so easily remedied. We see the same issues week after week and all EDF can muster are pathetic excuses about mentality, which are now tinged with comparisons to his masterstrokes with Sassuolo.
Oh, and we play Napoli this weekend. Gulp.