Roma took a point from their match with first-place Inter, on the road, with more than a few players sidelined by injuries. Although you’d always prefer a win to a draw, at least drawing this match allows Roma to keep pace with the other clubs vying for a spot in the Champions League. With matches against Wolfsberg, SPAL, and a stuttering Fiorentina on the horizon, the Giallorossi showed that they were working on the same level as the Nerazzurri. We can only hope that Fonseca’s Roma will continue to push back against the easy stereotype of most Roma squads by not playing down to their opponent’s quality.
Cengiz Ünder’s Continued Disappearing Act
Where oh where is Cengiz Ünder? The man who was once thought of as the crown jewel of Roma’s youth movement seems as if he’s been nearly frozen out by Paulo Fonseca, and although he’s the young player I would least mind losing out of Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Kluivert, and himself, it’s becoming incredibly odd that that the Turk is out of favor with Fonseca. The conventional wisdom heading into this season was that Ünder would be a key part of the forward rotation, most likely resulting in a big-money move to Bayern Münich or the Premier League. It’s only December, but his disappearing act to date makes that kind of move seem unlikely. Regardless of whether or not he moves on in the near future, Ünder needs to be included in Fonseca’s plans on a match-to-match basis. He’s simply too good at what he does to be ignored like this.
Roma’s Fullback Depth (Or Lack Thereof)
Aleksandar Kolarov, Alessandro Florenzi, Davide Santon, Leonardo Spinazzola, and Davide Zappacosta on crutches are Roma’s options at fullback. Florenzi seems to be out of favor with Fonseca; Santon is simply not up to snuff; Spinazzola has moments of brilliance, then moments of stupidity. Roma has had a difficult time at fullback positions recently; hell, that’s half the reason Alessandro Florenzi is a fullback to begin with. But coming into the winter mercato, it’s obvious that a fullback needs to be the top priority for Gianluca Petrachi. It would border on malpractice for the DS to ignore the lack of depth Roma has at leftback and rightback.
Gianluca Mancini’s Continued Defensive Excellence
Roma may be weak at the fullback positions, but thankfully the centerbacks have put in otherworldly performances to provide some semblance of defensive balance. Today’s defensive hero was certainly Gianluca Mancini, who blocked Lautaro Martinez’s near-certain goal and provided calm at the back with Pau Lopez out due to injury. His adjustments during the game were a sight to behold, and Mancini’s ability to balance his physical prowess with technical defending work left Inter’s attackers flummoxed. The only response Inter seemed to have to Mancini was to try to get him sent off; the fact that he avoided this is another good point for the Italian.
We’ve seen excellent performances this season from Chris Smalling and Federico Fazio, too, but don’t forget that Mancini is quickly becoming one of Roma’s best players.
Amadou Diawara’s Man Of The Match Performance
Mancini was certainly not the only impressive player on the field for Roma today; in fact, Amadou Diawara positively outshone everyone else. He showed Romanisti how he could be a key cog in Roma’s midfield for the very long term, with multiple won balls, near-perfect timing, and providing a calming presence in a squad that was experiencing quite a bit of turnover for various reasons. When you have a 22-year-old midfielder who can close down passing lanes in a way that isn’t too dissimilar to Daniele De Rossi, you keep a hold on him if you can.
Zaniolo’s Promise As A Forward
We’ve been banging on the Nicolo-Zaniolo-Can-Be-A-Forward drum for a while now. Although today’s match didn’t see The Kid become a world class forward instantaneously, it’s obvious the tools are there for him to be a forward if Roma needs him to be one. He made mistakes, sure, but he’s not familiar with the position just yet, and he gave Inter’s defense headaches on a minute-by-minute basis. Being as strong on the ball as Zaniolo is almost begs for him to become a player who can play as a forward if needed, and with Edin Džeko not getting any younger, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Roma continue to develop the Italy international as a striker.