This post is a cheat. I skipped re-watching the match entirely with an overnight family emergency (of the best kind - not bad news at all). I’m at least glad not to rewatch the first 45 minutes of yesterday, since tactics had nothing to do with it. If you don’t have the ball, or treat it like a hot potato when you do, you can’t score goals or win football matches. Bologna were better for the first half, if not more.
The only 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation you could draw from this game was Roma’s walk from the Olimpico dressing room onto the pitch. Somewhere in that battle, at least 9 players were substituted from the pre-match lineup and replaced with... whoever those guys were out there. Bologna went the predictable route and targeted Alessandro Florenzi’s flank, but “predictable” looked like it might work for Bologna until Roma came out at half time and decided to have their say in the final score.
12 crosses came from Bologna’s left wing (against Florenzi) over 90 minutes, compared to just 2 crosses from Kolarov’s wing. Bologna’s centreback Danilo launched long ball after long ball out wide to Nicola Sansone, while Soriano and Pulgar did a good job controlling the midfield for Bologna. Only Lorenzo Pellegrini stemmed the Bologna tide in the middle, and we’ll back to that later. Every site, including us, reckoned Robin Olsen was match of the man from between the goalposts.
And that’s the story of this game in a nutshell, so let’s catch up with some post-match interviews instead.
“I Didn’t Score the Goals” - Robin Olsen
Olsen put in the kind of performance to snuff out debate over whether he or Antonio Mirante should be starting games for Roma. His last line of defence was faultless last night, even if you wonder why the defence doesn’t talk as much whenever both Olsen and Manolas are in the first eleven. The lack of communication all over the field was something you’d expect to see from a pre-season team full of new signings, and Olsen’s post-match interview typically dodged giving any real insight on that very issue.
It’s just talk of how they do not know what the problems are or why this up-and-down rollercoaster approach to Serie A games keeps happening. Every “up” performance is spoken of as “a new starting point” for the team, but that never lasts for long before another game like yesterday happens. Rinse, repeat.
Patrick Kluivert Skeptical Over DiFra
Yesterday, legendary striker Patrick Kluivert refused to give the vote of confidence to Eusebio Di Francesco’s tenure at the club even if Patrick was making no excuses for his son Justin.
Did you like Justin’s performance?
Patrick: “He made a few good moves, but he’s still young. He can play, he can play. He needs to get a better feel of when to do what.”
How is he adapting here in Rome?
Patrick: “A player like him wants to play every game, but that’s not possible. And he has to work to make the first eleven.”
Is Di Francesco the right coach for him?
Patrick: “(laughs) I won’t say anything in general on this. Di Francesco is working everyday with him and he knows his quality all the same.”
Do you still think Justin would have done better staying in Holland for another year?
Patrick: “I’ve said this before already. But when your son chooses a path, a father must always know when to [stand by him].”
And you’re following his every game?
Patrick: “Yes, we speak every day.”
It’s clear that EDF’s football isn’t to everyone’s liking and understandably so, as the great instinctive passes that Justin Kluivert has been making all season go to waste in EDF’s vision of football. I’m glad people are keeping it real about Di Francesco, even if it being Patrick Kluivert doing it from the sidelines isn’t going to make a bit of difference to those inside of the club.
I saw my feelings about DiFra summed up nicely in a comment on here last month - “I’ve begun to hate his (expletive) guts.”
That’s exactly how I’ve felt towards DiFra since January for his behaviour off the pitch, and I’m one of his biggest believers. His post-match comments toward the team after the Atalanta game can’t be excused, and that match had his biggest advocates in Rome all saying he needs to learn, get his act together, shut up and find that next level in character. He cannot go on being one-good-week-one-bad-week coach at this level.
I’ve never been in doubt DiFra is the best man for the job and potentially one of the greatest Roma coaches in the club’s history in the making. If anything, I’m glad we don’t have to pretend like tactical unicorns fly out of a Roma coach’s ass just to be able to accept him on the bench, like the lies of the Spalletti era.
Aleksandar Kolarov Applauded by Olimpico Crowd
While Florenzi still gets whistled, Kolarov won over the crowd. It was uncharacteristic of the Serbian to be a lot better off the ball than he was on it, but Kolarov kept Bologna’s Edera pegged back in their own half while also putting in a couple of perfectly timed interceptions and clearances to kill what little of Bologna’s attacks were seen down Kolarov’s flank. Then, of course, came the penalty to open the scoring.
Kolarov moves up to 11 goals scored in his Roma career, joint-level with John Arne Riise’s career record in the capital. Only Vincent Candela scored more in his time at the club (16 goals) and certainly not within the same one-and-a-half season timeframe as Kolarov. You’d probably have to go all the way back to Francesco Rocca’s injury free-seasons to witness a bigger impact on the club from left-back.
As ForzaRoma points out, Kolarov has already racked up more assists than both Candela and Riise (16 assists to Candela and Riise’s 12). Kolarov is also one of only two men in history to score for both Roma and Lazio in the Derby della Capitale. What to make of it all? It’s a case of Kolarov finding the right coach and team at the right time, as much as anything else. But the annals of history will have him marked as a contender for Roma’s greatest full back of all time.
Meanwhile, more of the Olimpico’s support in the final ten minutes of the game, where they drowned out Roma’s self-doubt with rising decibels of encouragement for the whole team, will be needed for the rest of this season’s campaign.
Lorenzo Pellegrini Still The Man
A final note on Lorenzo Pellegrini, racking up a lone match of the match award on Whoscored (pretty hard to do on that site when you’re neither a goalscorer or assist-maker on the day).
As far as outfield players go, Pellegrini’s continuity over 90 minutes is there game after game. 5 tackles, 3 interceptions (the only midfielder to rack up an interception all game), 3 dribbles and drawing 3 fouls from the opposition.
Pellegrini has either grown eyes in the back of his head Totti-style, or simply holds full belief in his teammates to be where they’re drilled to be. Following on from a sublime moment in the Porto game where Pellegrini drew 5 players onto him before making a blind pass to free Florenzi into space off-screen, there was another moment in the middle of this game where Pellegrini drew a Bologna crowd around him before swivelling and lobbing the ball into space for Stephan El Shaarawy who, incidentally, also showed a ton of confidence in the second half that helped bring momentum into Roma’s game from the bench.
Of all the key passes made by Roma, only two came from anywhere near the hole to penetrate Bologna through the middle of the pitch. Both of those key passes were made by El Shaarawy.
Next up for Roma is a derby away to Frosinone on Saturday. No less than four players are in card trouble before back-to-back derbies.
Alessandro Florenzi, Kostas Manolas, Federico Fazio and Nicolo Zaniolo are one yellow card from suspension, so resting them for Lazio may be DiFra’s next move, along with pumping in some Champions League music over the Frosinone public announce system before kick off.