Shocking, eh? I mean this post’s sub-heading, not the game yesterday. I was just trying to blow the fuse in the wave of defeatism around here, so let’s get to the game and Bologna’s 2-0 very real defeat of Roma at the Dall’Ara. But first...
R.I.P. Giorgio Rossi
The second momentous passing in as many weeks in Rome came with the death of legendary club massage man Giorgio Rossi yesterday, who served A.S. Roma for over 55 years from 1957 to 2012.
While I won’t disrespect Rossi by pretending I knew absolutely everything about his time at the club, he did frequently give interviews on any worthwhile A.S. Roma DVD worth watching. The last one I remember seeing him in was a feature on Francesco Rocca a.k.a ‘Kawasaki’ here (I’m not sure if there are English subtitles or an English version).
Yesterday Totti, De Rossi, Tomassi and others paid their respects to a man who treated ‘the entire club of players like his sons.’
Giorgio Rossi’s memorial service will be held in Rome today, just 7 days after Maria Sensi’s own funeral.
No-Balls Roma Lose To No-Goals Bologna
Now onto yesterday’s game. I understand that few people want to hear it when it comes to stats over a loss, but it’s worth mentioning Roma didn’t lack for chance creation yesterday. Even at 0-0, Skorupski (remember him?) had to pull out some big saves to keep Bologna level.
Roma took 26 shots on Bologna’s goal. 8 of them were on target. If you’re thinking it was a case of half-chances throughout the game, well understat makes out that at least 3 of Roma’s attempts were clear-cut chances (Edin Dzeko in the 71st minute, Fazio in the 41st minute, Lorenzo Pellegrini in first-half stoppage time), while another 2 attempts from Fazio (rebound) and Justin Kluivert were rated wide open chances at xG 0.29.
Goals were there to be had, chances were gifted. Roma showed no will to score whatsoever.
Edin Dzeko’s miss from 2 yards out is probably the most disappointing - rated at xG 0.92 (in other words, even your grandmother could have put it away). Lorenzo Pellegrini’s skyball in front of an open goal wasn’t far behind on the scale of disbelief.
As for the shot-in-the-arm Roma handed to Bologna’s form, it was all summed up yesterday on CdT. Bologna hadn’t previously scored a Serie A goal this season, yet left Sunday with two of them buried in Roma’s net.
Skorupski’s work at one end setup the Rossoblu to eventually exploit Roma’s badly organised midfield shape off the ball. Once Bologna were ahead, Roma left themselves wide open to the counter attack and completed a familiar spiral.
EDF Laying Into Bryan Cristante Doesn’t Reap Reward
While we’re talking about Roma’s midfield, the poster boy for the club’s confusion over its own tactical shape yesterday was Bryan Cristante. Are Roma even sure they’ve signed the same player from Atalanta last year?
Pre-match, EDF actually spoke encouragingly on Steven Nzonzi. The coach insisted he would never instruct Nzonzi to run wide or ever try to make a mezzala out of the big Frenchman. Frankly, it’s gone largely under the radar (for obvious and more immediate reasons) that EDF’s assessment of his players in pressers this season shows he’s not the man fitting square pegs into round holes that some accused him to be. EDF is very much working on versatility in both midfield and attack. Yet ironically he’s now possibly left himself open to accusation of trying to switch up too much, too fast.
To throw everyone off the next day, there was no sign of Nzonzi while EDF fielded the young Italian duo of Pellegrini and Cristante in what everyone assumed would be a 4-3-3. However, Cristante spent most of the first half playing deep alongside De Rossi as if he were Nzonzi. This left Lorenzo Pellegrini shorthanded on the trequarti while Cristante did very little work either on the ball or defending it.
At 27 minutes into the game, a water-break came along with a rollocking from EDF to the ex-Atalanta man. Cristante looked even more confused as to why he was being singled out among Roma’s players on the sideline. Only Manolas received some more of the coach’s ire, reportedly for staying too deep when the defensive line should have pushed up. But most of the instruction was reserved for Cristante.
Clearly miffed with the coach from that point on, Cristante would spend the rest of the match hiding behind Bologna players and avoiding making himself open for the ball.
Roma Immediately Sent to Trigoria Ritiro After Game
Roma’s entire first team squad - with the exception of Edin Dzeko - were not allowed back home to their families on Sunday evening, locked in at Trigoria in ritiro until further notice.
Steven Nzonzi has already been abused by fans online, this morning, for his social media account showing activity while he’s meant to be on lockdown. Whether the post came directly from Nzonzi himself, or merely one of his entourage, it was quickly deleted. Meanwhile Dzeko took a car-ride from Bologna up to Milan for a Dolce & Gabbana sponsor party, before joining up with the team at Trigoria this morning. While Edin could have left himself open to criticism for such a move, it’s reported the ritiro was decided on the teambus mid-journey to Rome itself, long after Dzeko moved on schedule to Milan.
Ominously for Eusebio Di Francesco, the last time the club sent the first team squad into ritiro was under Rudi Garcia’s ultimate awful spell of form... not long before Rudi Garcia was fired weeks later. As we mentioned earlier, EDF’s last concern should be versatility right now. Frankly he needs to find an ‘A’ team of players who will back him asap and find a win.
Logically and strategically, the club may have no choice but to fire EDF soon if it becomes not just the cheapest and quickest, but the only way to turn around their season. Not qualifying for the Champions League would truly be a disaster for Roma.
That aside, sooner or later Roma will have to look at higher up the food chain as to whether it really has made any improvements as a ‘big club’ under Monchi - who left his seat before the final whistle of yesterday’s game. Big club culture asks its players to push themselves for the shirt, whether you believe in the coach today or tomorrow. You put in a performance simply because it’s a matter of pride.
Kolarov, Marcano, Nzonzi, Pastore - all experienced trophy-winners who’s character was meant to complement the pre-existing dressing room leaders like Dzeko, Fazio and the aformentioned De Rossi. Precious little character or leadership has been on display during games, besides De Rossi on the regular.
If EDF is fired and players suddenly start performing, that’s one thing. But it still leaves the glaring impression that Roma’s a small club with big delusions and only a handful of big characters to paper over the team’s character flaws; the same flaws waiting to be exposed in the team’s makeup at the pressure-end of every season.
A Word From Gervinho
Not match-related but Gervinho’s statements on his Roma years, this weekend, remind us of one of (if not THE) biggest character to grace the pitch in Giallorossi colours.
“At Roma I was very happy,” Gervinho said to Gazzetta dello Sport’s weekend edition, “and I played with the best player of the last thirty years: Totti. Francesco is a king who doesn’t conduct himself like one, which is the best thing about him. He doesn’t throw about his weight: he joked with everyone, he told jokes, he’d organize team dinners. He’s one of the greats.
“Playing with Totti was the easiest thing in the world,” Gervinho continued, “he’d put you through on goal with his eyes alone. He’d make you understand, with one look, where he was going to put the ball and all you had to do was run, run, run. Sounds easy, no? Garcia always told me: if Totti is here, you put yourself somewhere else and make a run towards the middle where, sooner or later, the ball will come to you. He was right.”