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Seeking Dominant Performance, Roma May Make Tactical Tweaks Against Verona

Verona are tough to crack, but Roma's focus on direct play could win the day.


Leave it to Paulo Fonseca, a man most of us would call a perfectionist, to seek a dominant performance fresh off two straight three-nil victories. Maybe it's some latent frustration from Roma's 2-0 defeat at the hands of lowly Parma, but speaking ahead of tomorrow's match against eighth place Verona, Fonseca didn't mince words, saying he wants Roma to “dominate opponents.” While it may sound odd in the wake of Roma's recent turnaround, these comments are in line with Fonseca's overall ethos; winning isn't enough, you have to win the right way, with execution and precision.

And quite frankly, that's what you want from your manager, right? The season is a marathon not a sprint, so having hands that aren't easily impressed at the wheel is better for the long-term product on the pitch.

Hellas Verona vs. Roma: December 1st. 20:45 CET/2:45 EST. Stadio Bentegodi, Verona

At this particular mile marker Roma will encounter Hellas Verona, the league's second stingiest defense. Through 13 matches, Verona has conceded only 11 goals, a mark bested by only Juventus, but when you dig a bit deeper, the waters get muddier. Verona may not be conceding goals, but they're bleeding shots at an alarming rate; their 17.8 shots conceded per match is the second worst mark in the league, trailing only Lecce. Making matters worse (for them), they're taking only 11.3 shots per match themselves—so there's a bit of an imbalance, to say the least.

Verona may have benefited from a bit of shot-providence but their record in one-goal matches is the very definition of fair: four wins and four losses. Still, throw these facts and figures together and Verona defensive record looks a bit unsustainable. They're on the losing end of the shot equation and they've been involved in the third-most one-goal matches, winning and losing them in equal measure.

Something just doesn't add up, and indeed even the advanced stats bear this out—Verona are out performing their expected goals allowed by 7.7. In other words, they've conceded seven fewer goals than the metrics would otherwise suggest.

Still, the results are the results and Verona have been awfully tough to break down in the final third, a point not lost on Fonseca:

Istanbul is in the past and we have to focus on nothing but Verona now. It will be a difficult match against a very good team who are aggressive in defence and quick on the counter. They have the league’s second-best defence too, which is something we must bear in mind. It’s going to be tough

On his specific approach to unlocking Verona's man-marking:

It’s something we worked on in training today but I’m not going to discuss it here or Verona will know everything about us. In any case, we’ve prepared to face teams who man-mark.

I'm not enough of a tactician to infer exactly how Fonseca will counteract Verona's defensive rigidity, but his comments in an unrelated question do give us an idea of his broad strokes approach:

We’re quite solid defensively but I’d like to see us dominating opponents more. That’s not easy in Italy. If you look at the possession percentages, there’s not much difference between the two teams. I’d like us to keep the ball more and spend more time in the final third. We must improve our organised attacks.

Based on those comments alone, it sounds like Fonseca is stressing the importance of remaining committed to their approach; not abandoning their tactical approach the minute they become frustrated; to remain, as he says, organized.

To get an understanding of what he means, we needn't look any further than Thursday's match in Istanbul. The majority of Roma's chances and goals were the end result of proper spacing and quick passing, particularly Justin Kluivert's goal, which was a picture perfect counter attacking goal torn straight from the pages of any coaching manual; quick, succinct passes and movements capped off by a simple and direct shot from Kluivert. No wasted movements, no indecision, just a beautiful team movement that advanced nearly the full length of the pitch in only three moves.

That's Roma at her best, and in some ways that's football at its best. So if this is Fonseca's approach against Verona—focusing on spacing and vertical attacking play—you have to like their chances tomorrow afternoon.

Things really seem to be coming together for Roma at the moment, so the challenge for Fonseca will be maintaining his squad's focus and reintegrating some of his returning pieces.

Roma have the talent advantage in this matchup, and if their organization, patience and commitment to the cause are on point, three points should follow soon after.