The Roma revelation of January is Rick Karsdorp showing his stuff in back-to-back games against Entella and Torino. Despite the positives Karsdorp shows on the ball, there’s still some way to go in recovering his condition and confidence, but at least he’s no longer looking like a footnote in Roma’s history similar to how Winston Bogarde was at Chelsea.
After his move to Rome, Rick became a husband and expecting father to his part-Sicilian wife. He provided for these major life-changing events by doing no more than turning up to a gym for rehab each day. To make matters worse, the only teammate who’d showed up to his wedding - Radja Nainggolan - was told to pack his bags last summer. It’s hard to find the motivation to get back to actually kicking a ball around for 90 minutes, three times a week, unless you can find some semblance of what you love within the game itself.
What Karsdorp loves to do on the pitch makes him the perfect fit for EDF’s ideal game. By next season, EDF will be in his third year in charge of the club and he’s going to need to move back to his ideal team shape and identity.
Karsdorp loves the first-time passing from deep to put Roma’s entire attack on the front foot and catch the opposition defence cold. This isn’t always good from Rick’s position at full back, if he lacks the legs to back it up with supporting the man he’s just passed to.
When Karsdorp was struggling for fitness, he let the ball to do most of the work where his legs would not, and this was fatal to Roma’s attack left stranded in the away game against Milan. But with match fitness has come to other major asset that Dutch Cafu brings to the game.
Karsdorp’s top speed was recorded at just over 20 mph in both games this month. When Roma keep a high line with their backline sat just on the halfway line in posession, that leaves just under 40 yards of green for Karsdorp to run down the Olimpico right flank. Rick can cover that distance in 4 seconds.
Dutch Cafu’s express-train runs down the wing give the guy on the ball further upfield (whether it be Cengiz, Kluivert or others) enough time to spare in the hole. Since stats analysis became the fashion in football, we’ve been told the guy moving into the hole wants to spend no more than 8 seconds there before a goal opportunity is lost or greatly reduced.
To put it short and sweet: Karsdorp passing and overlapping runs give Roma’s offence the ability to inflict damage on opponents at will. This is the very basis behind Karsdorp being signed (and long-coveted) for and by Eusebio Di Francesco.
The Dutch trequartista-converted-to-right-back had the entire pre-season to train for the backline’s defensive duties but, like Hector Moreno before him, EDF has openly commented on the team’s need for Karsdorp to lose the habit of closing down man-for-man inherited from playing in the Dutch league. Karsdorp has shown he’s going to need more gametime to adapt his instincts to Roma’s backline.
It was on the subject of more gametime that Karsdorp spoke with Roma Radio today.
RR: How are you?
Karsdorp: “I’ve just played two straight games after so much time and a serious injury. It’s a great feeling and I feel good.”
RR: The fans were awaiting your return and it almost seems like nothing has affected you. There’s a train coming down the wing at the Olimpico...
Karsdorp: “I’ve shown something but there remains a lot of things to improve. The rest wasn’t easy to do after not having played ninety minutes for two years. I’ve shown a glimpse of what I can do, especially on the attacking end. I am originally an attacking midfielder so I know what I can do with the ball at my feet. It’s been a good boost of confidence so far, and I hope to have more chances to show I can improve in defence.”
RR: How difficult was it in the last two years to watch others play? And what was the hardest part to get through?
Karsdorp: “It’s been complicated. Especially because, in Holland, I was used to playing ninety minutes every three days. Then I signed for a big club like Rome through through a knee injury, and picked up another knee injury on my debut and received plenty of messages from the fans. I didn’t know what to say as it’d been the first time in my career that I’d been injured for such a long time. I was as disappointed as anyone. Now it’s just a case of keeping on with it. The fans are asking me to improve as a defender, and I know with more chances to play I’ll be able to do that.”
RR: In what shape are you right now? Because we looked at you and thought you look like you’re at 100 hundred percent and finally we’ve returned to the point where we’re seeing a beautiful game from the team...
Karsdorp: “(laughs) Before the game against Torino I would have said I’m at one hundred percent, now I’m not so sure. It had been so long since I’d play two games straight, and it showed in the second half when my legs felt heavy but that’s normal. I feel good in training, I feel like I can do everything and I can always do better. If I managed to play games for both Feyenoord and the Dutch team in the same week, then I can do it here.
As far as the team goes, we showed character in the last game. Before going up 2-0, we’ve given up two goals leads before. This time we came back to win a game that just a few weeks ago we might have drawn.”
RR: How much are you bursting to play in the Champions League?
Karsdorp: “Well, yes, playing in the Champions League is a fantastic feeling. I came off the bench against Real Madrid in my debut. Obviously I hope to play again in the two Champions League games we have coming up. But it’s up to me to show that I’m worth a shot in the league, as Europe is a step to another level.”