Yesterday's 4-1 victory over Fiorentina was yet another piece of evidence in Paulo Fonseca's rapidly expanding managerial portfolio. With his side initially struggling against the Viola's midfield blockade, it looked like Roma were destined for a frustrating, rain-soaked draw in Firenze, but thanks to a quick turnaround in the 19th minute, Roma set the stages for an eventual 4-1 victory.
With three impressive goals in the run of play, which exhibited not only exquisite individual efforts, but precision passing, spacing, and link up play, particularly the capper to the match—a three pass counter attack finished by Nicolo Zaniolo—Roma had the look of a well-oiled machine, finely tuned and carefully attended to by a master craftsman.
There were always bound to be some rough patches installing a new tactical system, but the pace with which Roma has absorbed and applied his philosophies has been truly astounding, and yesterday's victory over Fiorentina showed how those tactics can turn an otherwise frustrating match into a masterclass.
So much so that our traditional day after Sinners & Saints review is without a single sinner.
Edin Dzeko and Nicolo Zaniolo
We'll lump The Kid and The Bosnian Batistuta together because, quite frankly, their effect on yesterday's match was nearly identical. Zaniolo and Dzeko each had three shots on goal and three key passes. They each won two aerials. They each played at least two long balls. They each assisted a goal, and perhaps most impressive (seriously) they combined to draw 11 fouls, many of which halted Fiorentina momentum at crucial moments.
We expect these sort of passive-but-effective performances from Dzeko, but to see Zaniolo impacting the match directly and indirectly like this is incredibly impressive. He's always had the physique, skill and strength to be a success, but matches like these show the gains he's making in the more subtle and psychological facets of football—he was frustrating Fiorentina all evening simply by shielding the ball, slowing the pace of play and playing the angle game on the endlines to win corners and/or throw ins.
You'll have to pardon my French, but this kid is going to be so fucking good when it all well and truly comes together.
I suppose it's fitting that, in a week in which we reflected on Alisson Becker's excellence and the manner in which it changed our perceptions of keepers, Pau Lopez stepped up to the plate today. He's not Alisson's equal by any means, but his lateral movement and reflexes rival the Brazilian Don Draper's, while his timing and aggression stand in stark contrast to Robin Olsen, the man unfortunate enough to fill Alisson's shoes last season.
In addition to that double save, Lopez snuffed out two or three other clear cut chances with his speed, timing and aggression. Roma may have won 4-1, but the xG difference in this match was only three-tenths, and were it not for Lopez's reading of the game, Roma may have dropped two points.
Kolarov, Roma's oldest player, continues to emerge victorious in his battle against father time, playing EVERY SINGLE SERIE A MINUTE thus far. That alone is incredible, but Kolarov has been pretty consistent this season, throwing up five goals and two assists in 17 matches.
In addition to his 21st minute goal yesterday, Kolarov completed 83% of his passes, won three aerials, three tackles, two interceptions and four clearances. At some point, he'll need a rest, but one gets the feeling he'll be dragged out of the lineup kicking and streaming.
After being robbed of his first strike last week via an own goal, Pellegrini found the back of the net on Friday, beating Bart Dragowski in the 73rd minute with a tight, near post effort. In addition to his goal, Pellegrini had two successful dribbles, drew two fouls and hit on five of eight long balls.
Pellegrini has been perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Fonseca football, using his new found freedom in attack to emerge as arguably the best playmaker in the league.
Paulo Fonseca's Fashion Sense
Not many men can pull off the newsie-style cap, but then again not many men are Paulo Fonseca.