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Sinners & Saints: Roma v. Wolfsberger

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A strange and uneven match produces a strange and uneven mixture of sinners and saints.

AS Roma v Wolfsberger AC: Group J - UEFA Europa League Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

In the wake of his side's 2-2 draw with Wolfsberger, one that still secured passage to the knockout rounds of the Europa League, Roma manager Paulo Fonseca could not mask his displeasure with his club's performance. Ever the perfectionist, Fonseca found Roma's yesterday's draw “hard to accept.

We achieved our objective, which is qualification. It would’ve been important to win, but we did not play with the right attitude...Evidently, we made the mistake of thinking the game was won before it even began, but Wolfsberg are a good team. We made a lot of mistakes, they pressed us and it’s normal after that many errors that we cannot get the result we want.

Borussia Monchengladbach went out, but it’s not easy for me to accept this result. Wolfsberg played without pressure on their shoulders, they had a great attitude and I did not like our performance.

Ouch. Given that Roma still advanced to the next round, we'll take a slightly less grave approach to our Sinners & Saints recap than Fonseca did in his post-match comments, but this was definitely an odd match. It was sort of a biscotto, but not really, and definitely not in the final 15 minutes, when Roma could have easily found themselves with nothing to show for their Europa League campaign.

It's always important to consider context, and even though there was always an odd temperature to this match, let's take a look at the highs and lows of this one.

The Sinners

Alessandro Florenzi

I'm perhaps the most ardent Florenzi defender in the Romaverse, but he did not strengthen his case for more minutes yesterday. With scrutiny raining down on him like never before in his career, the negatives, no matter how small, will always outweigh the positives, of which there were a few yesterday: three key passes, two interceptions, two clearances and a 50% success rate on crosses and long balls....

Buuuutttt, there was that own goal, and while it wasn't the most egregious one we've ever seen (maybe if he didn't slide, he could have still gotten to it?), it will be Florenzi's lasting image from this match.

It's not fair in the slightest, but Florenzi has to be damn near perfect any time he steps on the pitch to reclaim his job. Take away that own goal, and this was a perfectly serviceable performance—he outperformed Spinazzola in virtually every category—but unfortunately that's all people will remember.

Leonardo Spinazzola

Leo's evening at the Olimpico was like Florenzi's minus the own goal. In 90 minutes, Spinazzola took a match high 105 touches and didn't produce a single key pass and only hit on two crosses and four of twelve long-balls. In fairness, he did have three clearances and two tackles and beat three defenders off the dribble, but as the weeks roll on, Roma's substantial investment in Spinazzola—sacrificing Luca Pellegrini for him and nearly doubling his Juve salary—isn't looking quite as sweet as it did over the summer.

It wasn't a horrific performance by any means, but Roma's woes at the position look set to extend into this new decade as well.

Fonseca was correct, Roma were not at their best yesterday, so the following halos were somewhat dimmed.

The Saints

Diego Perotti

At this stage in the game, Perotti is best used sparingly, sort of like the most delicious parts of the food pyramid. In short doses, Perotti provides nearly unparalleled passing and playmaking, using his stellar dribbling and close control to create opportunities throughout the final third.

In addition to his converted penalty, in 66 minutes Perotti contributed two key passes and one assist while completing 73% of his passes. His numbers didn't really blow you away, but Perotti's cool demeanor and ability to extend a play were on full display yesterday.

He's a good weapon to have, the trouble is figuring out how to maximize his spurts of brilliance.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Although his unforced error eventually led to Wolfsberger's equalizer, Miki was as advertised yesterday—a do it all attacking presence. In 90 minutes, Mkhitaryan completed 77% of his passes while stuffing the stat sheet with three key passes, three dribbles, three fouls drawn, three tackles, one interception, and two clearances.

Much has been made of Chris Smalling's rebirth in Roma, but before his injury, the clamor to make Miki a permanent member of the club was growing by the day. Yesterday was a reminder of what he brings to the table—an awful lot of the little things that win matches.

Roma did receive solid statistical performances from Edin Dzeko, Federico Fazio and even Cengiz Ünder, but we'll just leave it at that for this final Europa League group fixture.