Since narrowly defeating Torino on opening day, and I mean narrowly (Edin Dzeko scored in the 89th minute), Roma have been reeling, dropping points in four successive matches, two draws and two losses; shit, they even lost to Benevento during an international break friendly. Suffice it to say, Roma are not in a good way right now. The players look tired, confused and, apart from the usual stalwarts, disinterested. It all points to one thing: trouble at the top, leading many to label this as a make or break match for Eusebio Di Francesco.
Now, whether or not EDF’s job security rests on tomorrow’s results is really only a matter for Monchi, but we know how it works in Roma: where there’s smoke, there is very often fire. Of course, the very reason many are calling for EDF’s head is the very thing that might ultimately grant him a reprieve: Roma has made an enormous investment over the past two summers, shaping and molding the team in his image, so to cast him aside and try and rejigger the squad with someone else at the helm may not be the most feasible option at the moment.
Speaking of tweaking the squad, EDF has done just that ahead of tomorrow’s match against Bologna. Di Francesco made the midweek surprise of slotting Nicolo Zaniolo into the starting lineup against Real Madrid, thanks in part to the absence of Javier Pastore, but with El Flaco back this week, the waters are a bit muddier in the middle of the park.
We know one thing for certain; last week’s cast away, Justin Kluivert, will earn the start against The Greyhounds, but the same cannot be said for his countryman, Rick Karsdorp. While Pretty Ricky has danced with the injury bug several times during his Roma career, his exclusion from tomorrow squad list is, to borrow an NBA acronym, a DNP:CD...did not play, coach’s decision. I’m not sure what this says about the state of Karsdorp’s health, but his Roma career appears on life support already.
While Alessandro Florenzi, fresh contract and all, is off to a hot start, his running mate, Aleksandar Kolarov, seems to be feeling the effects of a busy 2017-2018 cycle. Looking somewhat tired and not nearly as sharp as the start of last season, Kolarov may, if the rumors hold true, find himself on the bench tomorrow in favor of Luca Pellegrini. Under normal circumstances, one in which Roma had gotten off to a better start, this might be the ideal opportunity to get Pellegrini’s feet wet, but Roma are in a precarious spot, so don’t be shocked if Kolarov is out there from the first minute.
Outside of that, with Kluivert penciled in and Dzeko sure to start, the only remaining doubt is which one of Diego Perotti or Stephan El Shaarawy will start on the left flank. And really, with the way they’ve been playing, it’s really six of one half dozen of the other, so I’m not sure there’s an advantage either way.
In some senses, Roma’s woes aren’t tactical—they haven’t been that bad—but between the ears. Prior to the match EDF, among others, lamented about the clubs state of mind, claiming they’re a shadow of the side that finished last spring in the semifinals of the Champions League. However, without some sort of magic pill, rediscovering that joie de vivre is no small task. In some ways, one hand washes the other: if Roma can string together a 90 minute tactical masterclass, the confidence will begin to boil over and the Roma that mounted that epic comeback against Messi may soon reappear. If not, then, well, EDF may be out of a J-O-B.