With a sputtering, slim victory over Torino to kickoff the season followed up by a six goal thriller last week against Atalanta, Roma’s early returns had run the gamut. Acts of brilliance from Edin Dzeko and Javier Pastore were countered by large swaths of uninspired and directionless play. If Roma weren’t busy conceding 16 shots in one half, they were dribbling themselves into a Garcia-esque corner. Point being, while Roma’s early opponents varied wildly in style and structure, the results in red and yellow were largely the same as last year; a completely punchless and uninspired attack that often provides too little too late.
In order to reverse recent history, Eusebio Di Francesco opted for a tactical 180, forgoing, if for only 45 minutes, his true love, the 4-3-3, in favor of the seldom seen three man backline. Only there was one gigantic problem he overlooked: Federico Fazio and Kostas Manolas have been far from sharp through the seasons first three weeks, and in many ways it was their substandard play that tanked Roma once again.
While Roma looked resplendent in their new yellow kits (for real, they are amazing), the promise of a new formation, one with Pastore slotted in his natural playmaking role, failed to bear fruit. To wit: Roma only managed six shots. Not six shots in the box. Not six shots in the half. Six shots in the entire goddamn game, only two of which were on target.
Still, one of those was a hell of an effort from Captain Caveman.
Federico Fazio: 58th Minute
Federico Fazio empató el partido 1 a 1 para la Roma ante el Milan. pic.twitter.com/cfp7Ba6qaD— Crackvideos (@Crackvideos1) August 31, 2018
Given what followed, we won’t devote too many words to this, but this was a sensational effort from Fazio. He restrained himself just enough, exerting the precise amount of force on the ball, to tuck it home. For much of the match, it seemed like Fazio’s strike would be a decent enough consolation prize. While Roma has dominated Milan in recent years, walking away from Milan, this early in the season no less, is a pretty solid result.
But that 1-1 draw in the making was threatened several times in the second half, with both sides having goals disallowed VAR; Milan’s would be match winner was, as it turned out, a touch offside, while Roma’s goal was negated thanks to an unavoidable handball on Steven Nzonzi, who quickly pounced on a loose ball in the area following a Roma corner.
Despite the vagaries of VAR, Roma repeated attempts to shoot themselves in the foot—forfeiting the midfield to MIlan, repeatedly getting stretched at the back and having virtually no attack themselves—went largely unnoticed by Milan until the 94th minute when Patrick Cutrone sent the San Siro into hysterics with his last gasp match winner.
Welp, this is what happens when you turnover nearly a dozen players in one summer, then switch to a largely untested formation at the San Siro, only to switch back after 45 minutes (don’t get me wrong, full marks to him for making a change, but stick with it for crying out loud). Couple that with their complete and utter lack of depth in defense, and it’s a wonder they only lost this match by one goal.
As the players adjust to one another, acclimate to the league and internalize EDF’s tactics, things will surely get better, but as it stands right now this team is in a world of trouble, and it’s a world entirely of their own creation. This is what happens when you constantly turn over your roster summer after summer, replacing key veterans with either kids or retreads; the new guys will get it right, but by that point the real treasure has already been lost.
Other than a massive restructuring of the club or an injection of billions of dollars, I’m not sure what can be done, but by now we’re at least familiar with the outcomes of these half measures: 4th place or bust.
That’s the best we can hope for, but the early results have been bitterly disappointing, putting that mediocre goal out of reach for the moment.