As an adult, sometimes the week just gets the better of you; dishes pile up, dinner plans fall through and sleep becomes your white whale, and no matter how hard you resist, you simply cannot defeat this nameless foe. That was my week, how was yours? So with apologies, please accept this delayed Derby della Capitale preview, but hey, Roma won the minor derby on Wednesday, so things aren’t all that bad.
Speaking of which, while waxing Frosinone 4-0 isn’t exactly something to write home about, given Roma’s sorry state of affairs of late, Frosinone might as well have been Real Madrid and that midweek match might as well have been the Champions League final. The sense of urgency with which Roma approached that match, not to mention the effectiveness of EDF’s tactical changes, were just what the Giallorossi needed. They call them slumpbusters for a reason; humiliating a lesser opponent won’t cure all of Roma’s ails, but that quick injection of confidence and optimism arrived at precisely the right time.
Roma v. Lazio: September 29th, 15:00 CET/9:00 EDT. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
That rousing victory did, however, come at a cost. Thanks to an injury he suffered against Frosinone, Kostas Manolas will miss tomorrow’s derby, ditto for Diego Perotti. Now, given the latter’s tendency to ebb and flow, the loss of Manolas may be harder to bear, especially if, as rumored, Ivan Marcano takes his spot. Perotti, meanwhile, can easily be covered by either Cengiz Under or Stephan El Shaarawy, while Edin Dzeko should resume his starting role over the increasingly beleaguered Patrik Schick.
That is, of course, assuming Di Francesco sticks with the 4-2-3-1 that was so successful against Frosinone earlier this week. We give EDF an awful lot of flack for his slavish devotion to the 4-3-3, but it must be said, he does deviate when absolutely necessary, and in all honesty, part of the reason the 4-3-3 is so popular is due to its malleability; subtle tweaks in either of the ‘3s’ can have dramatic effects on the form and function of the team.
However, to those of us who worship at the altar of the 4-2-3-1 do so simply because it enables Roma to field most of her best players at the same time. The pivot of Daniele De Rossi and Steven Nzonzi is far and away Roma’s best midfield duo, while supporting Dzeko with darting runs from El Shaarawy or Under puts all three men in prime scoring positions, and all the better if they’re being fed by Javier Pastore. Granted, this sort of leaves Lorenzo Pellegrini and Bryan Cristante out in the cold, but neither DDR nor Nzonzi are exactly wet behind the ear, so there are minutes to go around.
Formations and tactics aside, there is another factor at play here, one not related to Lazio—who we have really even talked about to this point, my bad—the schedule. Viktoria Plzen aren’t likely to advance out of the Champions League group stage, but with Roma falling oh so flat against Madrid, they have no choice but to destroy the Czechs on Tuesday; to do otherwise might already doom them to the Europa League.
On the matter of Roma’s city rivals, let’s just say this: despite their four point advantage on the table, Rome’s uglier side aren’t that far ahead of us. After dropping their first two matches, Lazio have run off four wins in a row, which, while impressive, have come against Frosinone, Empoli, Genoa and Udinese. In essence, Lazio did what Roma must do; use Frosinone as a springboard back into the good graces of the top four.
Of course, this being the Derby della Capitale, table position and recent form mean fuck all; Roman teams seldom win the Scudetto, but humiliating your neighbors is quite the consolation prize. If Roma’s 4-2-3-1 can control SMS and Marco Parolo, and if the patchwork backline can just keep Ciro Immobile out of the area, they might be alright.
Wednesday’s victory over Frosinone wasn’t conclusive of anything, nor was it a permanent solution to all of their problems, but it was testament to one thing: this team has an awful, awful lot of talent, and taking it to Lazio tomorrow could be the perfect turning point for Roma’s autumn stumbles.