Last week's 4-0 thrashing of Empoli, while exciting, was pretty much what we expected. Newly promoted sides often struggle early in the season, but Empoli are in the process of redefining the word pitiful. With only one goal forced and seven conceded through three matches, Empoli are well on their way to relegation and will probably see more than their fair share of three or four-nil blowouts. So, while we did pour over the ins and outs of that match, there's only so much one can glean from such a lopsided affair.
The tables weren't quite as tilted in today's fixture against sixth-place Verona. The Mastiffs likely won't contend for a top four spot, but through three matches they remained unbeaten, racking up five points through three matches, leaving them only one point behind the Giallorosse and Fiorentina.
At least on the surface, this seemed like it might be a tight affair, but that veneer was soon eroded as Elisa Bartoli broke open the match in only the third minute, bouncing on a loose ball in the box following an Annamaria Serturini corner. And just like they did last week against Empoli, Roma compounded their opponent’s misery, tacking on an additional three goals en route to a 4-0 cakewalk.
So, just as we did last week, let's examine what we learned from this match.
#1: Somehow Elisa Bartoli Remains Underrated
Whether it's due to the abundance of young and exciting talent Roma boasts, or simply her own reticence for self-promotion, Elisa Bartoli remains an under appreciated player, both in Roma circles and league-wide.
Throw out all her talent (which is enormous) and she still embodies everything we've always loved about Roma. Elisa Bartoli exudes Roma-ness every bit as much as Francesco Totti or Daniele De Rossi ever did. You can see it in the way she chases down every loose ball, how hard she charges into tackles and how exuberantly she celebrates Roma's success.
But Bartoli is more than sum parts of her birth certificate. Her tenacity, skill on the ball, crossing ability, remarkable close control, and surprising finishing ability (remember that bicycle kick last season?) has made her mainstay for both club and country, to the tune of six domestic trophies and rock solid spot in Milena Bertolini's Italy side.
She isn't quite as hyped as some of her younger teammates, nor does she receive as many plaudits as her Azzurre compatriots, but rest assured, Elisa Bartoli is an elite talent and the perfect person to carry the torch once held aloft by Totti and De Rossi.
#2: Say Hello to Tecla Pettenuzzo
In the wake of the summer captures of Manuela Giugliano, Andressa, and Andrine Hegerberg, the signing of Pettenuzzo sort of flew under the radar. The soon to be 20-year-old central defender was fresh off successful campaign with Sassuolo, one in which she played every single minute in all 22 league matches, so it wasn't as if she was an unknown quantity. However, with Allyson Swaby and Federica Di Criscio firmly entrenched ahead of her, Pettenuzzo seemed destined for a season on the bench, learning the craft alongside Heden Corrado and gobbling up minutes against lesser sides.
And, well, we can forget all that. The Swaby-Di Criscio partnership has all but disappeared after only four weeks, as Pettenuzzo has started three of Roma's four matches, teaming up with Di Criscio the past two weeks, seemingly surpassing the American in the pecking order.
She's not nearly as experienced as Di Criscio and lacks Swaby's strength, but she seems to have jettisoned whatever early season jitters she had, providing calm distribution from the back (particularly on long-balls) and showing surprising closing speed on the edges—she chased down a Verona winger in the 60th minute today, executing a perfect hook/slide tackle to break up an attack—kind of like another #44 Roma used to employ.
Pettenuzzo has certainly thrown a monkey-wrench into my preseason predictions, but she is a smooth, calm and efficient defender.
Roma are indeed an embarrassment of riches.
#3: Giugliano's Class is Starting to Show
If our experiences with Edin Dzeko were any guidepost, we know all too well that big summer signings can sometime stumble off the blocks. Given her sensational performance with Italy at the 2019 World Cup, not to mention her stellar season with AC Milan, expectations were sky high for Giugliano when she signed for Roma.
It's still early days of course, but Giugliano's first steps in a Roma shirt were solid but not spectacular. Against her former club in week one, she very nearly broke open the match with a first half free kick, but outside of that near miss, she was sort of absent from that match, a trend she has completely reversed the past two weeks.
With an absolutely gorgeous, dipping 20-yard effort today, Giugliano scored her first Roma goal, but her distribution was the real star of the show. From the opening whistle, Giugliano was instrumental in pushing Roma's attack forward, finding Serturini and Bonfantini with a series of pinpoint long passes, eviscerating the Verona defense in the process.
We've been treated to nearly the entire Giugliano experience the past two weeks: the Pirlo-esque distribution from deep, the pocket passes and through balls in the final third, the recycling of possession in the defensive third, and, at last, her nose for goal.
She was given the #10 for a reason, and it's starting to show.
#4: Andrine Hegerberg is Everywhere
A player like Andrine Hegerberg is always hard to qualify, but when you throw her famous last name into the equation, the task becomes even tougher. To the casual fan, seeing "Roma Signs Hegerberg” in the headlines probably brought visions of her sister Ada; goals, goals, goals and more goals.
While she won't equal her sister's scoring prowess, Andrine Hegerberg serves an even greater purpose for Roma; she's the linchpin. Everything Roma were able to do in attack the past few weeks falls down to Hegerbergs relentless legs: she wins last tackles in the defensive end, switches play effortlessly, forces turnovers in the final third, she can work in tight spaces, she can manipulate tactical space, and she can even threaten the goal.
Andrine Hegerberg is Roma's very own quantum particle—she's everywhere at once.
Roma now have nine points through four matches and sport a +7 goal differential, both the second best marks in the league (pending Juve's match later today). Things are definitely looking up, and if they can keep this momentum going and hope that Milan or Juve slip up, the Serie A race is going to be incredibly tight.
Who was your woman of the match?
This poll is closed