When Roma hired Paulo Fonseca this past summer, you were probably imagining lots of evenings like this one, matches where Roma would blow their opponents off the pitch in an orgiastic display of attacking football. However, as we've mentioned many times over the past few weeks, Fonseca Football has proven to be so much more. With depth for days, a well-organized defense, and a steely resolve, Fonseca's Roma has proven they can win in the mud.
Winning dirty is one thing, but it's awfully fun to watch a thoroughbred breaking free down the home-stretch, isn't?
Well, football's version of this is the total football attack: a seamless end-to-end run of play in which nearly the entire team is involved, pinging passes back and forth, cutting diagonals and making that final killer pass before scoring the goal. It's part of why they call it the beautiful game after all, and with an attack minded coach in town it was supposed to be a regular occurrence this year.
While we've seen glimpses of that throughout the season, Roma's third goal today—Justin Kluivert's 54th minute flourish—was Fonseca Football incarnate. Kluivert's clever cutback was the capper on a six-pass move that ran the length of the entire pitch in maybe 15 seconds, with nary a Udinese defender getting in the way.
Perhaps it's a sign of their growing appreciation of Fonseca Football, but Roma's reaction to being pinned deep in their own end here shows remarkable poise and tactical growth. Rather than simply hoofing the ball out of pounds, Gianluca Mancini's seemingly benign pass to Aleksandar Kolarov kick started a flawless counter attacking goal.
Watch as Mancini continues his forward run, providing an outlet for Kolarov in the process, and then finds Edin Dzeko up the left flank. Dzeko then throws his own magic into the fray, pirouetting while switching the ball from his left to right foot (with two men closing down on him), finding Javier Pastore with acres of space through the middle. Dzeko's nimbleness almost defies the laws of physics sometimes—a man that large shouldn't be that deft.
El Flaco wastes no time charging through the middle, and thanks to the positioning of Kluivert and Zaniolo, Pastore has two options as Roma enters the area, but check this out...he chose the harder one!
When viewed from this angle, it certainly appears as though Zaniolo is the smarter and easier option since the path for the pass is free and clear (it was), but when you slow down the video you gain a greater appreciation for Pastore's precision—he put that ball in the only space in which it couldn't have conceivably been blocked or intercepted.
Rather than lobbing it over the three defenders on the left to find Kluivert, or sliding it off to the right towards Zaniolo, Pastore split the first two defenders with a pass that somehow started to break left on it's own, almost as if he was reading the 18th green at Augusta, giving Kluivert far more space to make a play than he appeared to initially have.
If he chips it to Kluivert, any number of things could go wrong: a poor first touch, too much air, the keeper could have come out, etc. If he slides it over to Zaniolo that final defender might have had enough time and space to close him out, killing the chance.
But by splitting the two defenders closest to him, Pastore played right into Kluivert's peeling run, finding the Dutchmen in the perfect spot to shake the defenders and make a play.
Now, there's no way to actually tell what would have happened had he chose those other options, but even with a high degree of difficulty, Pastore's pass was inch-perfect and helped set-up Kluivert's magnificent finish.
To truly appreciate the beauty and orchestration of this full piece, you have to watch the end-to-end camera.
I want you to imagine what Fonseca can do when he truly has the full team at his disposal; moments like these could become common place. Roma have successfully ridden the injury wave this fall, showing more depth (and depth of character) than we've seen in years. which will bode well over the long haul.
Don't get me wrong, that's great and everything, but got dang that goal was fun to watch. More of those, please.