Without a doubt April was the busiest month of the season for our dear old AS Roma. In addition to some of the most exciting Champions League football the competition has seen in recent years, Roma won four out of five domestic contests and...and....at long lost landed a sponsor for their long dormant kits, netting a three year €40 million deal with Qatar Airways.
Considering all those headlines, it was hard to distill the past 30 days, so we had to cut some corners in our attempt to keep it brief, but here it is, your April month in review!
Story of the month: Roma’s Romantada
I wonder if we’ll ever get tired of writing (or reading) about the day Roma came back against Barcelona to reach a Champions League semi-final but, for now, there’s no contest in terms of high point of this past April. If there’s one thing we haven’t talked about previously on that Barca game, it was the stunning Olimpico atmosphere. To see the old stadium be filled to somewhere nearing full capacity, and the all-consuming sound of a crowd beginning the believe in a fairytale night from the moment Dzeko scored… it was sorely needed in Serie A. Crowds have been steadily rebuilding in numbers around the league, but it’s been a while since the Roma atmosphere even turned BT Sport’s Peter Drury into a poetic Roma fan for the night.
Hero of the Month: Di Francesco Against Barcelona
Facing a three-nil deficit against FC Barcelona as they headed into the second leg of the Quarterfinals of the Champions League, Roma’s duck seemed cooked. There was simply no way Roma could a) contain Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez and and b) score three goals against the jewel of beIN’s eye. No way, wasn’t happening.
But it did, and the architect of that upset was none other than Eusebio Di Francesco. By playing a highline, pressing Barca anywhere and everywhere and putting the pedal to the metal when they had the ball--Roma outshot and out created Barca despite having less possession--and sure, they needed a penalty and a miraculous header from Kostas Manolas to pull this one off, but EDF read Barca’s game plan and concocted the perfect foil to Valverde’s tactics.
While EDF has had his ups and downs this year (like any manager), his performance against Barcelona over both legs should given even the most ardent critic hope for the future.
Goat of the Month: Di Francesco Against Liverpool (First Leg)
Let’s take a page out of Joker’s playbook from Full Metal Jacket and talk about the duality of man, the Jungian theory on the difference between the Collective Unconscious (the primordial urges resting within all of us) and the Personal Unconscious (one’s repressed thoughts and desires). Where Jung’s theories dealt with the manner in which humans wrapped those urges in meaning through various experiences, we’re simply talking about how the same football manager got things so right against one opponent (Barcelona) and so wrong against another (Liverpool).
Di Francesco’s tactics against Barcelona were so ballsy and so effective that, not only did he render one of the world’s great clubs impotent, but he suddenly became connected to some rather lucrative job openings. The world, it seemed, had turned upside down. But then came Roma’s trip to Anfield, one in which EDF’s tactics seemed tailor made to bring out the best in Liverpool. The highline that was so effective against Messi and Suarez was suicide against a team as fast as Liverpool, with Mohamed Salah embarrassing his former team almost single handedly.
Fortunately, Di Francesco did much better in the second leg, but he wore the dunce cap on this particular evening.
High Point of the Month: Roma’s Matchday Attitude
We were waiting for a climbdown after Champions League nights that never came. People can point to the loss against Fiorentina as evidence that Roma always do badly after European nights but, in every way except the scoreboard, Roma hammered the Viola. It happens. After a historic win to reach the semis and a game against Liverpool at Anfield in the offing, surely Roma would take it easy against SPAL? Not so, the “backups” of the squad came together to dispatch the relegation strugglers as needed. A week later, a near exact same banana skin was waiting at home to Chievo. This time, Roma managed to show that Schick and Dzeko could co-exist brilliantly in a 4-3-3 and El Shaarawy couldn’t be ruled out of playing a big part yet. Even Bruno Peres is tracking back to recover lost balls. Confidence and self-belief have a gone a long way to providing this squad with, for lack of a better expression, an embarrassment of riches to close out the domestic season.
Low Point of the Month: Liverpool First Leg....Again
A total shitshow until the 80th minute. I think we can all agree on that; Roma were a disaster during the first 80 minutes of the match, looking second-best in pretty much every aspect and exposing themselves to Liverpool’s rapid-fire of an attack, led by our former Egyptian star, Salah. Not only that, but it was the first European match that showcased Di Francesco’s flaws as a manager during his tenure at Roma and a reminder that he still has a lot to learn, great tactics and setups against Chelsea and Barcelona notwithstanding. The former Sassuolo manager played a back-three that left Roma pretty much exposed to the likes of Mané, Firmino and the aforementioned Salah, getting pummeled in the process in every sense of the word.
It wasn’t until they took a particularly awful Jesus and switched to a back-four that Roma showed some mettle in the match and managed to snatch two goals to make the result a little less embarrassing and still have a chance to pull off another miracle, regardless of how difficult it looks at this moment. An awful result in the least desirable of stages.
Goal of the Month: The Manolas Miracle
MAMMA MIA!— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) April 11, 2018
This is how Kostas Manolas' tie-winning goal against Barcelona sounded over AS Roma radio. Epic! pic.twitter.com/7ucWYATjvq
I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of Chiesa’ regular users, both writers and readers, have been watching Roma for many years now. Well, if you have been watching Roma and supporting the damn team for many years now, you know this was way more than a mere goal; it was a reward for an endless amount of ordeals.
From purely technical point of view, it was a great goal: Ünder did a fantastic cross and Manolas attacked that football like the Greek warrior that he is, beating his mark in the process and crossing the ball so that Ter Stegen couldn’t do a thing to avoid it. But it’s not only the quality of the goal, obviously; it was the moment, it was the rival and it was the stage–the grandest of them all, being the Champions League.
After years and years of getting overpowered by the giants of Europe, Roma finally got their great European night and proved their worth before the entirety of the football spectrum and the best player in the world, Lionel Messi. A monumental and historical comeback that became a glorious reality thanks to Manolas and this fucking beauty of a header.
And yes, I punched the shit out of my couch with that goal.
Alisson Moment of the Month: Touchdown Pass to Dzeko
Alisson's world-class distribution's sets up Dzeko's fantastic long-range strike pic.twitter.com/9uFo0a4pOF— Serie A News (@TransfersCalcio) April 28, 2018
We could have gone with his stellar stretched save against Mohamed Salah in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final, but that would have been too obvious. For as lauded as Alisson is for his work in between the sticks, his distribution isn’t exactly second class, and while we’ve seen Alisson deliver some slick passes with his feet, this throw was legit—he probably would have been taken ahead of Baker Mayfield a couple weeks ago had he been born at a different time and place. In case it didn’t sink in by now, Alisson is more than just a goalkeeper; he’s a weapon.
Out of Context CdT Tweet of the Month
Jesus looks pissed. Old testament pissed— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) April 28, 2018
Roma’s Top Five Rated Players (Per Squawka, Serie A Only)
- Stephan El Shaarawy
- Maxime Gonalons (yes, really)
- Federico Fazio
- Kostas Manolas
Facts & Figures
- Won five of eight matches (all comps)
- 15 GF, 12 GA
- One new sponsor
- €100 million in reported Champions League revenue
April was a crazy month by all accounts—the weather, the results, the news in general—but Roma came out the better and look to have an interesting and exciting summer ahead of them.