Roma’s creativity will inevitably come under scrutiny this summer, as it has done ever since the summer of 2016 when the club saw both Miralem Pjanic and Seydou Keita walk out the door, but this season’s top creators for the Lupi have reached their own personal milestones in the Giallorossi jersey.
Kolarov Sets Personal Record for Most Assists in One Season
Roma’s “regista da fascia” Aleksandar Kolarov has, depending on who you believe, either tied or broken his own personal record for most assists in a season with his performance against Chievo this past Saturday. ForzaRoma claims Kolarov’s personal assist tally stands at 9 in all competitions so far, while WhoScored has it at 10. Either way Kolarov’s personal best was previously 9 assists in the 2013/14 season for Manchester City in a year where City won the Premier League title through goals from Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko himself.
It’s been said before in many ways, but confirmed again: to go matching/beating your own personal record from a title-winning team speaks to how much of a bargain signing Kolarov has been for Roma this year.
The current team setup does put some playmaking responsibilities on the fullback by design - with Di Francesco choosing to steal Zeman’s system of letting the fullbacks decide which runs the midfield will make ahead of them by what foot they choose to receive the ball with when passed to - but the wide men were never meant to take on so much responsibility in the opposition’s half of the pitch. Instead, too often we’ve seen play through the middle be buried under the team taking the easy way out and passing the buck to the wide men. Kolarov has more than willingly shouldered that buck for this season.
But, speaking of play through the middle, it hasn’t all been barren.
Nainggolan Reaches 200 Appearances for Roma - Ties Doni
I would send a lot of plaudits Lorenzo Pellegrini’s way for the Chievo match this weekend, both for his runs of the ball freeing up the chemistry in midfield ahead of him and for his determination to move the ball up field with quick passing, but there is one man who continues to register the stats where it counts the most. Radja Nainggolan marked his 200th appearance in a Roma shirt with yet more currency in the assists column.
He goes on to tie Doni in the all-time appearances list and will surely surpass him on Wednesday.
Nainggolan’s overall effectiveness over 90 minutes has gone down this season but so has his game time on the pitch, and that relationship between effectiveness-game time is true for everyone else in the squad (for example both Perotti and El Shaarawy have seen their effectiveness increase but so has their minutes on the pitch).
Last year Radja held an expected goals + assists ratio per game of 0.40 and has seen that decrease to 0.33 this season, having played around 500 minutes less this season.
The general picture for Nainggolan is of a player who’s been used less, rotated more often and switched his game to becoming more of a passer than a shooter (2.65 shots per 90 minutes last season vs 2.15 this season and 2.03 key passes per 90 minutes last season vs 2.15 key passes per 90 minutes this season).
While the goals for Nainggolan haven’t threatened to come anywhere into double figures for this year, the quality of his 11 league goals last season was insanely hard on average, and possibly set himself up for failure if he created expectations of replicating that goalscoring form this season. It wasn’t like Radja of last year found himself on the end of simple tap-ins or team goals. He was rampaging up the pitch, eating yards with the ball on the counter and smashing in rockets. This year, those same rockets from the edge of the area just haven’t gone in as much - an inevitable return to something more average in terms of Radja’s finishing.
Where Radja has registered is with his 11 assists in all competitions, the most in the squad from a single player this season and the closest to tying a certain King of Egypt’s 12 seasonal assists of yesteryear.
If either Nainggolan or Kolarov felt to increase their assist (or goal) tally this Wednesday, that’d certainly be welcome.