Don't let the midweek disappointment/fraudulent officiating job in Germany cloud your judgement; Roma are still riding high. After successfully shedding off the stink of a run of draws in early October, the Giallorossi ended the month on a high note, winning three straight league matches, toppling AC Milan, Udinese and Napoli in quick succession. By outscoring these opponents 8-2, Paulo Fonseca's vaunted attack seems to have resurrected itself, using the tireless play of Jordan Veretout and Nicolo Zaniolo's hot streak to lift Roma all the way to third place.
Yes, you read that correctly. Roma's battered and beleaguered roster is Italy's third best squad at the moment, holding a slim one point lead over fourth place Cagliari, who are perhaps the story of the season in their own right. The Sardinians have a tough home fixture against Fiorentina, while Lazio, who are also one point behind Roma, have a relative gimme at home against Lecce. Meanwhile. Italy's golden boys, Atalanta, are also stuck on 21 points and face lowly Sampdoria on the road.
Parma v. Roma; November 10th. 18:00 CET/12:00 EST. Stadio Tardini, Parma.
Point being, Roma won't receive much help from their colleagues this weekend, making a victory against Parma absolutely essential to keeping their Champions League hopes alive.
Since we discussed the lineups this morning, let's take a quick look at what Roma must correct and what they must continue doing in tomorrow's fixture against Parma.
What Roma Must Correct
True, the Giallorossi are riding a three-match domestic winning streak, but officials aside, Roma did hit a few stumbling blocks in their effort against Borussia MGB earlier this week, perhaps providing a path back to greater efficiency.
Tweak the Possession vs. Shots Ratio
Keeping the ball is a tricky thing. On the surface holding the ball would seem to correlate to success, but many outspoken and maverick managers would tell you otherwise. Possession in and of itself isn't the key, it's what one does with the ball while possessing it that determines the outcome of a match. Despite that, I think most pundits would agree that keeping the ball away from one's opponent is a shrewd move.
And in their past four matches, Roma have put this conventional wisdom to the test. In each of their past four matches (Milan, Udinese, Napoli and MGB), Roma have come up short in possession, holding an average of 43% possession. Yet, despite being on the losing end of that battle, Roma averaged nearly 14 shots per match, putting 39% of those attempts on target.
Not bad, right? The only drawback to that is simply that they've been conceding shots at nearly the same rate and with nearly the same accuracy. Roma have managed to walk this tightrope over the past few weeks, but this is hardly the picture of sustainability. Indeed, look no further than the Napoli match; Roma were a couple of struck posts away from losing that one.
Through 11 domestic matches, Roma have averaged 51% possession, which is top ten in the league, but if they continue to tempt the devil by dipping down into the low 40s, their luck may soon run out, particularly if their conceding shots in equal measure.
By contrast, Parma have held an average of 45% possession, the league's 17th best mark, while their shooting stats (gross and on-target) are in the lower half as well. Possession isn't the only key to success tomorrow, but Roma can make things markedly easier if they simply assert their dominance in midfield, dictating the pace and location of play.
What Roma Must Continue Doing
Take Quality Shots
Again, we're not shattering the mold here, but considering what we just discussed, Roma must continue taking quality shots. Simply ripping off attempts for the sake of it has never helped Roma in the past, but part of the beauty of Fonseca's approach is that attacking players naturally find their way to high percentage scoring areas.
Through 11 matches, Roma's 15.5 shots per match are sixth in the league, while their on-target attempts, in the box attempts, and penalty area attempts are each within the top four to eight range (those are per game figures). These figures are from WhoScored, who, unfortunately, don't allow you to adjust those numbers by date, but I'd suspect they've crept up a bit during Roma's winning streak.
If, however, we look at Roma's expected goal totals from their current streak (which we can consider, in part, a byproduct of their shot performance) things look better. Roma have amassed 7.16 xG since October 27th (when this streak began), which is the league's second best mark, and one they've actually out performed by 0.84.
Tying the two points together, if Roma hold a greater percentage of possession they afford themselves more room for shooting error, but if the trend of declining possession continues, they have virtually no margin for error, putting greater emphasis on each shot they do manage.
Roma and Parma have only played twice since the Crusaders came back to Serie A, but the capital club flat-out dominated those fixtures. In their two matches last season, Roma held an average of 61% possession and out shot Parma by a STAGGERING 52 to 20 margin, winning both matches by a 4-1 margin.
Indeed those numbers bear out what we just discussed: if Roma dominate possession, they win the shooting battle (in addition to allowing for a greater number of "bad” attempts) and, in turn, win the match. This doesn’t mean they can be lax in defense, but by focusing on these two essential and elementary tactical components, the results should follow the statistics tomorrow.