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October in Review: Injuries, Absurd Calls & Great Goals

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Volume II, Issue I takes a look at a busy and, at times, controversial month for Roma.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-ROMA-NAPOLI Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we're already well in to fall by the time October rolls around, but the tenth month of the year is truly a transitional month: the weather finally starts to get crisp, leaves are falling and your summer body is buried in roll after roll of disgusting and useless fat. October is also a time of change and transition for our favorite football club. Paulo Fonseca's men shifted from a healthy squad to a mobile triage unit, while Betty Bavagnoli's crew shook off the early season rust and started to climb the league table.

It was a busy and controversial 31 days, so let's take a look back at all the highs and lows of October.


Story of the Month: Mancini Seamlessly Steps into the Midfield

AS Roma v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There were plenty of other candidates for this honor, namely the controversial refereeing and injury crisis, but we decided to go with the more feel good story. Enough praise can’t be heaped on Mancini’s shoulders. Early in the month, he formed a solid partnership with Chris Smalling in the heart of the defense, then injuries decimated nearly the entire Giallorossi midfield. It looked like Armageddon for Roma’s season until Mancini stepped into that gaping midfield void, excelling in three October appearances in the holding midfield role.

He turned in man of the match performances against Gladbach, Milan and Udinese, and also started a match for the Azzurri; Mancini’s star continues to grow and a move that drew some scrutiny this summer is beginning to pay huge dividends.


High Point of the Month: Roma’s Victory Over Milan

ITA: AS Roma v AC Milan - Serie A Photo by Silvia Lore/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Draws can kill a season before you know it. They don’t grab headlines like losing a game will do, and the alarm bells don’t ring as loud even when you’re losing points all the same. Before you know it, you’ve drifted well off course and pushing past the point of no return.

Before the win against Milan, Roma had gone the entire month of October without a win. They had come close in the Europa League game against ‘Gladbach but were pegged back to yet another draw at the death. So Paulo Fonseca really needed a win against a “direct rival” for top 4 when Stefano Piolo’s makeshift AC Milan came to town. To top it off, Fonseca had to name his own makeshift eleven. Disaster waiting to happen? Far from it.

The Milan win was Gianluca Mancini’s debut in midfield, and Roma’s #23 gave the team a pillar of balance between defense and attack that looked like eluding Roma all season. Mancini’s stellar performance was equaled only by the rejuvenated play-making of Javier Pastore further ahead of him in the hole. Truthfully, Roma got some lucky breaks in the Milan win but this starting lineup was the blueprint for the Giallorossi’s newfound momentum headed into November.

The next round’s 4-0 drubbing of Udinese was confirmation that the light at the end of the tunnel in the Milan game wasn’t just a fluke. Roma was now a full-steam-ahead train. Remember that the end of October could have gone very differently, and people would have been calling for Paulo Fonseca’s head saying he’s out of his depth. Instead, necessity through injury has proven the mother of all invention and Fonseca is rightfully praised for honing his Serie A craft in the month gone by.


Low Point of the Month: The Smalling “Handball”

There are horseshit calls, then there's this: in the 95th minute, Chris Smalling defied the laws of physics and everything mankind knows about anatomy by drawing a handball with his face. Smalling is a hell of a player, but who knew he had those kind of superpowers?

While this egregious error didn't ultimately cost Roma the top spot in Group J, stripping Roma of two points has made things tighter than they otherwise would have been. Fortunately, things have gone well for the club since then because a call that bad can sometimes halt any and all momentum.


Goal of the Month: Manuela Giugliano vs. Verona

We already covered Justin Kluivert's goal against Udinese at length, so let's turn our attention to Manuela Giugliano's golazo against Verona from October 24th—at the 30 second mark in that clip.

The Giallorosse put four past lowly Verona in this match, but Giugliano's 25+ yard strike takes the cake. Credit Giugliano with three things here: excellent positioning and reflexes to pounce on the poor clearance and, well, the skill and audacity to even attempt that shot from that distance with two defenders closing down on her.

We heralded Giugliano as the signing of the summer, and goals like that are exactly why—she is a game changer in every sense of the word.


Heroes of the Month: Nicolo Zaniolo & Paulo Fonseca

AS Roma Press Conference Photo by Silvia Lore/NurPhoto via Getty Images

When you score four goals in four matches, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up getting our Hero of the Month award. Nicolo Zaniolo did this, and as a result, well, he’s a hero. You can pin some of this on his move out to the right flank, but it’s important to remember that he’s found different types of success in different positions throughout his time at Roma. When Cengiz Under returns to full health, it’ll be interesting to see how Paulo Fonseca makes the rotations work, or if Zaniolo will simply be put into a central attacking midfielder role. Regardless, Zaniolo gave us a hint of his potential this month. If he can even put up half of this ability in the long-term, it’s not too crazy to think about him becoming one of the best players in the world.

As for Paulo Fonseca, it’s incredible what the tactician has been able to do with so many injuries hitting his side at once. Despite injuries to many vital players, Fonseca worked with what he had and didn’t complain (unlike a certain nearly-bald tactician plying his wares for Inter Milan). His decision to move Gianluca Mancini to the midfield was inspired; similarly, he has to get at least half the credit for Javier Pastore’s recent resurgence. We can’t expect Roma to do as well as they did in October every month, but the fact that Roma found this gear while down to skin and bones in the depth department signals that Fonseca has found success at the Olimpico. Hopefully that success can continue for quite a while.


Goat of the Month: Massimiliano Irrati

{Editor's Note: By goat, we mean scapegoat, not Greatest Of All Time}

For years, I’ve wondered what would happen to Fazio’s career if UEFA officials had a meeting and decided to call fouls on Fazio’s particular brand of defending. His is a game purely based on timing and Fazio’ing - or cutting off - an attacker’s run to goal before the opponent can pick up the pace. In real-time, I thought that’s exactly what had happened in the Udinese game. Except it wasn’t.

Fazio barely touched Okaka, and the Argentine wall put no weight into the move. The action had barely even begun before Irrati blew the whistle and pulled out a red card with utter conviction in his own decision. It was bizarre.

Roma TV’s Ruggiero Rizzitelli finally lost his cool on camera at the end of the game, after previously walking out on an earlier October post-match coverage segment and having to be talked back into the studio. This time, despite Roma winning on the day, Rizzitelli didn’t even bother to threaten to leave the studio. He just hurled expletives at referee Irrati’s performance on live television.

And you know what? I don’t blame Rizzitelli one bit. Since then, Irrati has served out a one-game suspension from refereeing Serie A matches.


Unexpected Nostalgia of the Month: Radja's Return

AS Roma v Cagliari - Serie A Photo by Federica Roselli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

October was special for Nainggolan because he visited the Stadio Olimpico on match-day seven, applauded by the fans when the speaker announced his name during the warm up. The same crowd that saw so many similar goals like the SPAL one from Radja. Whatever happens, he’ll always have a special place in our hearts and clearly the Olimpico hasn’t forgotten him.

Thanks to Radja’s spectacular strike and three goals of Joao Pedro, Cagliari Calcio were surprisingly seventh in Serie A by the end of October, sitting only one point behind Roma and on par with Lazio and Napoli. Who knows, maybe the Sardinians can challenge for the European spots if they can keep this up. They do have one advantage over the others: Il Ninja.


Out of Context CdT Tweet of the Month

The man was a model in a former life, I swear. From his white-zinfandel-on-a-yacht look to start the season to his crisp, dark suits and unflappable hair, Fonseca sure looks the part of a slick Serie A manager, doesn't he?

With a slate of fixtures that could have defined their seasons already, October was a crucial month for both Roma senior sides. And now that the women ran the table and the men rebounded from a string of draws to end on a high note, we can safely say October was also a successful month.

With an enormous six pointer against Juventus coming up for the women and two crucial European fixtures for the men, November looks equally daunting. Let us hope it's equally successful.

Until then, Forza Roma!

Poll

What was your Roma story of the month?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Zaniolo's Goal Streak
    (62 votes)
  • 41%
    Chris Smalling's excellent play
    (90 votes)
  • 18%
    The officiating
    (39 votes)
  • 1%
    The women's perfect month
    (3 votes)
  • 10%
    Other
    (22 votes)
216 votes total Vote Now