The last 180 minutes of matchplay has seen 37% of possession inside the opponent’s final third with just 17% in Roma’s defensive third. So is there really anything to be learned from the last 2 games? One led to Roma looking like they didn’t even have the stomach for a relegation fight, where last night’s game looked very comfortable.
Let’s look at the variables from last weekend to last night.
Will EDF Fire Himself? 433 vs. 4231
Lorenzo Pellegrini. Bryan Cristante. Eusebio Di Francesco. Any enthusiast of EDF’s “underground” years at Sassuolo would think this trio assembled at Roma can be a modern calcio dream come true. At the very least, it was a chance to test the future of Italian grassroots football on a bigger stage. It’s failed in a very ugly way, so far.
The lack of trust between Cristante and EDF couldn’t have been more on show against Bologna, consequently leaving Lorenzo Pellegrini high and dry upfield. Last night it was the turn for another trio - less Italian, more experienced and not a mezzala in sight.
De Rossi, Nzonzi and Pastore look like the first choice midfield to work together, and not against one another, when the going gets tough. The only possible formation in which DDR and Nzonzi can play together is in last night’s 4-2-3-1.
So will EDF effectively fire himself and wave goodbye to 433 for the time being?
“The most important thing is finding balance,” EDF said post-match to Sky, “and we’ve struggled in a 4-3-3, even if it’s my preferred playing system. In the 4-2-3-1 we have players like Pastore and Zaniolo who can do very well. Maybe even because this way they do less work on the wings.”
He later told Roma TV: “Today I got really important answers from the team, knowing I can play them in a 4-2-3-1.”
A More Italian Roma Returning
Ok, so we said earlier that the ‘A’ team midfield may be less Italian. But yesterday three Italians made their Serie A debuts for Roma in one way or another. Of Roma’s 12 substitutes last night, 50% of the bench was Italian.
Factor in De Rossi and El Shaarawy in the starting lineup too, and Roma’s aim for homegrown talent to step back into a Roma shirt is slowly there in the background.
“I put these young players into some difficult challenges,” EDF responded to Sky when asked about Zaniolo and Luca Pellegrini. “When you see quality players, you have to play them. Luca Pellegrini has to work with humility, but he has a lot of quality. He could start games, but all in his own time.”
High praise indeed for the two.
Kolarov Retaking Lead Wing Role
Last night’s game was only the second all season where Roma attacked more down the left side than right - the other being away to Milan in a 2-1 loss. When Kolarov did re-assume the role of ‘regista di fascia’ last night, him seeing more of the ball in the opponent’s half also brought about mixed feelings over his crossing effectiveness.
One moment in the first half may be the key moving forward. When Kolarov finally received a quality lay-off from DDR that the Serbian fullback could both run onto and hit first time into the box, the results were there to see. Kolarov’s first-time cross was lethal and should have been buried by Roma’s attackers. He didn’t have to divide his time between finding both Roma’s creativity AND final product, because the passing to feed Kolarov was smarter, with far more intent from DDR.
It’s a long term problem from last season that could finally look like being solved with the new signings bringing the best out of De Rossi and, as a result, extending Kolarov’s career at Roma for another season.
The Right Man to Partner Kolarov
Ruggiero Rizzitelli put Davide Santon in his top 3 podium performers for yesterday’s game on Roma TV, and EDF more or less agreed post-match by stating Santon has the league experience to handle ‘delicate’ games - in order words games against mid to lower-table sides.
While Kolarov took a season-high 127 touches last night, Santon was the fourth highest involved man on the pitch with 100 touches of his own (Nzonzi and De Rossi coming in second and third behind Kolarov). The width support was fundamental to keep Frosinone’s defence guessing where the next attack would come from and never let them set.
What about the other RB options? So far Kolarov has been outshone by Florenzi’s regained form and leadership. Either the two have agreed to shift some of the attacking responsibility permanently to Florenzi this season, or it was just an early season case of differing fitness levels. We’ll see moving forward.
Meanwhile, wait to see if Karsdorp’s return from an ACL injury mirrors Florenzi’s curve last season - but Rick may not get the chance.
Roma’s Teamplay Awaits Bigger Test
When was the last time you saw uninterrupted Roma waves of attack from 0:48 to 1:34 in the highlights vid below? From the team working Schick into hitting the woodwork, to then feeding Pastore into his memorable goal. All of it in the same spell of play.
It was kind of a surreal blend of teamwork and individual talent. Surreal because we didn’t think we’d see it from this Roma side anytime soon.
The amount of chances spread around the team is as high as ever in the EDF era. Kolarov finished the match scoring his first ever Roma goal at the Stadio Olimpico and becomes the 9th different scorer in the squad this season. We’re still in September.
Last night’s game saw goal attempts from Kolarov, SES, Pastore, Zaniolo, Schick, Cengiz, Manolas and Nzonzi. Four different scorers on the night, two of them wingers and two playing from midfield at the time. All of this and Patrik Schick hit air when free inside the box, and saw his shot tipped onto the bar from a clear cut-chance (xG 0.62).
Realistically though, true answers of the Lupi will only be found this Saturday. Robin Olsen’s average position was the furthest out its been from goal since week 2 against Atalanta, and he’ll need more of that confidence to support the defensive line against Lazio’s counter-attacks.