Perhaps Tallarita and others were right: the ‘true’ derby game against Lazio did turn out to be less insightful about Roma’s application as a team than the win over Frosinone.
On a hot Saturday afternoon in late September, few patterns were sustained throughout the 90 minutes and it was very much a game where key events decided the teams’ constantly changing mindset for them. So, a typical derby then. Only with very soft yellow cards to boot.
Roma’s Negative Start - Conservative Olsen
“It was a game where we more relieved not to lose it than win,” Daniele De Rossi said in the mixed media zone after the game. A fearful Roma from the outset saw over twice as much of the ball in their defensive third, against Lazio, than they had in any domestic game all of September.
At times, Roma were willing to commit 5 or more men forward and keep the defensive line high, but never for any great sustained period of play in the first or second halves. Santon, Nzonzi and De Rossi were instrumental in covering ground whenever Roma were caught out for taking risks in committing men forward. Thanks largely to those three names, Lazio were contained to blocked shots on goal for the opening 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Roma weren’t having much luck with their over-reliance on passing back to Olsen - who chose to stay deep inside his area this game, not offering support to the defensive line that he had in mid-week.
Roma TV called out EDF’s side on this very point after the game, to which the coach conceeded that his side often chose backpasses to Olsen over better passing options up the field.
Before Roma changed their mindset to drop deeper as a team, disaster could have easily struck on 22 minutes when Luis Alberto found himself completely free in the box. Only the Spaniard’s rock-bottom form for Lazio this season can explain him completely screwing up the chance to even get off a shot at Olsen.
By rights, Lazio should have been 1-0 up but chances were kept at a premium for them. Only Immobile making the most of Fazio’s mistake in the second half would be the other clear (and taken) chance on goal.
Discord With Dzeko - Roma’s Frontline Still Not Firing
The Lupi didn’t do much in the derby to turn the page on their lack of clinical finishing from the front, even if this was the second successive game where they finally scored more goals than expected goals (xG 2.46 goals for Roma against Lazio over 90 minutes). But that probably would not have been the case if Florenzi and SES had managed to take their chances on goal - both failing to get a shots off that would have pushed Roma’s expected goals much higher.
No sooner was the 22nd minute Lazio chance on Roma’s goal a thing of the past, than Dzeko would work himself through into a one-on-one against Strakosha right up the other end (pictured above). Lazio’s keeper saved but, in the subsequent 9 minutes, Roma worked good chances for Javier Pastore, Alessandro Florenzi, Daniele De Rossi and Stephan El Shaarawy.
By the 32nd minute, Roma should have scored at least two if not three goals.
The lack of killer chemistry in the frontline came the fore in the second half: Dzeko openly took issue with SES not putting him through on goal before the Bosnian number 9 would go on to ignore several chances to pass SES into goal, himself.
Post-match, EDF seemed to take Dzeko’s side in the matter and appease the striker’s frustrations, saying he would keep Dzeko close by offering a word in the Bosnian’s ear not to let frustration get the better of him by looking for individual glory when he’s put in so many shifts for the team.
Whether or not any of that is code for Dzeko seeing gametime or the bench on Tuesday evening’s Champions’ League game... well your guess is as good as mine.
Lorenzo Pellegrini Announces Himself as Vice-Pastore
If Dzeko and SES weren’t getting along for nearly half the game, they didn’t need to. Pellegrini was defending right at the tip of the spear in spells of Lazio possession, leading a 2-man press with Dzeko and blocking the passing lanes against Lazio’s backline exploiting any chances for direct play. Pellegrini would even take a professional yellow card for the team in the second half when both Kolarov and Nzonzi were caught out deep into Lazio’s half. This was the kind of defensive cynicism needed from Pellegrini and lacking from Pastore’s performances so far.
But we all know the cherry on top was what Lorenzo did with the ball at his feet. The Roman number 7 scored a backheel goal from Dzeko’s flick-on, won a free-kick for the second goal, and then sent in a sumptious outswinging curler of set-piece for Fazio to score Roma’s third. He took pretty much all of the headlines, after the game was done.
You’re unlikely to see Lorenzo Pellegrini and Javier Pastore announced in the same starting lineup too many times, as both players don’t exactly make holding onto the ball a priority of their game. But, regardless of whether one or the other gets most of the starts in the hole for Roma, what a prospect Pellegrini can be if he’s mentored by Pastore at Trigoria for the next couple of seasons.
Alexander Gol-arov Makes Derby History
Not only did De Rossi let it drop that Kolarov played this week with a fractured left-foot pinky - the same left foot with which he slammed in two goals in the last two games - but the Serbian’s decision to keep playing landed him in the history books of Rome.
Kolarov now becomes only the second player in Roma-Lazio derby history to score for both sides, 60 years on from Swedish striker Arne Selmosson first pulling off the feat by scoring for Roma in 1958, in the season immediately after transferring from Lazio.
EDF’s Path From System-Coach to Gestitore
We mentioned, before the season began, the conditions EDF would have to fulfill to keep his job this season. One of them would be that he’d learn to see the need for change ahead of time - what some would consider a basic trait of a competence from any football manager. Not that I’d know, since I’ve never been one.
Gladly, he’s done this with Javier Pastore and many players in the team so far.
“I know with Pastore working to regain his condition that playing him at mezzala would be asking too much right now,” EDF said after the game to Sky. Rather than running El Flaco into the ground, the Abruzzese coach has taken the initiative by playing both the Argentine and Pellegrini at trequartista early in the season, claiming that Pellegrini can also “be more lucid when pushed 25 metres further up the pitch and less defensive duties on his shoulders.”
But don’t figure on this being the ‘All-EDF-Wrote’ moment for 4-3-3.
While Florenzi only went off with cramp, De Rossi confessed after the game that “a long-term knee problem” has resurfaced from him “playing several games in the same week”. Then there was the loss of Pastore to injury in the first half, in itself.
All of this led to a positive appearance from the bench for Bryan Cristante, who may have to adapt to a deeper role if EDF is to keep juggling formations.
Roma played 3 different formations in the course of steering the ship to a derby victory, including 4-3-3 for 10 minutes of the second half when ahead 2-1 and looking to exploit Lazio’s own 4-2-3-1 by hitting an overly-committed Lazio on the wings. Once Lazio switched to a flat 4-4-2 by bringing on Caicedo, EDF then brought on Juan Jesus to play 3 at the back. This is the kind of in-game gestitore style of management that earned Allegri his bread and butter at Juventus.
If the in-game changes hadn’t worked, you can be sure EDF would be facing the continued accusations of indecision with this new Roma side. However, in a sport where we really only care about winning, this weekend’s victory makes his in-game management come across in a different light and possibly a refreshing new page for the future.