In real life, I’m having a good (but intense) time of it going through moving house, relationship going smoother than it’s ever been (almost feels like a trap) - equal parts enjoyable but a lot of energy spent on keeping my head on shoulders. So I use this place to put that energy into something productive for me first, knowing I left it all out on the page.
That’s the furthest thing from the original point of the “Day After...” series - turning more anecdotal-first-stats-questions-last than it was meant to be, but it is what it is for now.
We quipped last week that Roma would need Champions’ League music blaring through the Frosinone PA system to win this game. As it so happens, Frosinone fans chanting expletives about Dzeko and his mother had as productive an effect as any Champions League strings could, and Roma were celebrating the 3 points at the end of this match as if they’d won Europe’s biggest trophy.
Roma’s Rollercoaster Still Good Enough For Top League Form
Though Saturday’s game took place under severely unique wind conditions, Roma would have expected to bring a better rhythm to Frosinone than last night’s performance. Once again, from the very beginning, Roma were outfought and unprepared to support-and-move for one another when faced with Frosinone’s pressing the Roma man on the ball all over the pitch.
Eusebio Di Francesco has mentioned, 2-3 times this week alone, that he knows what it means for small clubs to be battling against relegation and he expects Roma to understand how hard they’re willing to fight too. To put it into more quantifiable numbers, Bologna’s relegation-battling performances are as good an example as any since the Rossoblu - under Mihajlovic - both reduced Inter to a home loss and Roma to a bad performance (despite the Roma win) in February.
In the match at the San Siro, Bologna put together a total 117.79 kms covered. A mammoth effort that overwhelmed Inter on their own turf, to which Spalletti’s men had no response. Bologna were not able to reach those levels two weeks later against Roma, but they came pretty close; Bologna ran 107 kms in total at an average running speed of 6.8 kmph at the Olimpico. In response, Roma covered 101.77 km at an average speed of 6.6 kmph against Bologna.
Tactics-junkies will tell you running and pitch coverage isn’t much of the story in itself, which is true. It’s as much what you do with the ball that counts, as the Roma-Bologna final scoreline tells us. But if you’re not able to support your teammates in covering space, offering options to move the ball up the pitch or draw opposition players out of their own space, then you’re gonna have hard day at the office whether it’s Champions League lofthouse or the Serie A basement.
If I haven’t mentioned the kms ran against Frosinone last night, it’s because I don’t have them yet, but compare Roma’s form in the last two rounds of smash-and-grab wins to the imperious displays against Milan, Porto and Chievo before them.
Roma ran a total of 112.15 kms against AC Milan, 112.73 kms against Chievo and 113.21 kms against Porto, all in back-to-back fixtures where Roma overwhelmed Milan but couldn’t get the win, destroyed Chievo as Roma were expected to, and beat Porto at their own game in Europe. When EDF strings together performances like that, you understand why he’s rated as the 13th best manager in the world in FourFourTwo, and rated as the 10th best manager in the world in this year’s current Club World Ranking.
Then the performance drops off against Bologna and Frosinone, and you wonder where the hell does it all go to? Yes there are squad rotation problems, but Steven Nzonzi shouldn’t look so useless. And Daniele De Rossi put in one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen from him in a Roma shirt last night.
As much as we praise Daniele De Rossi’s return helping Roma’s form, maybe more credit should be given to Nicolò Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini for how they helped protect the Roma captain as much as the other way around. When De Rossi was in trouble last night, who did the coach turn to for a reliable hand from the bench? None other than Zaniolo subbing on for Nzonzi.
Despite the roller-coaster form and the obvious mental problems from Roma stewing in self-doubt and naval gazing after mid-match mistakes, the main chink of light this season is that Roma’s form and scorelines suggest they now spend less time dwelling and more time doing.
Papers talk about Milan’s scary league form, and it’s easy to forget Roma have matched them in the last 8 league games: 6 wins, 2 draws, 0 defeats. Ever since the defeat away to Juventus, Roma have not looked back. Both Milan and Roma are closing in on Inter in 3rd, who have gotten away with Serie C football this season, but can that really last on Inter’s end? There are only so many Icardis you can throw under the bus to galvanise your team with short-term trauma, and Spalletti has played his final hand for the season in February already.
Inter MIlan have completed 251 crosses from a 470 attempted total crosses. That is comfortably ahead of Juventus in 2nd place, with 215 completed crosses from a total of 362 attempted crosses. Inter Milan have played the ball from out wide over 100 times more than the nearest team to them in that category. And their completion rate from crosses is 53%, a less effective use of the ball from outwide than either Juventus or Roma’s 59% completion rate at crosses.
To really make an effective point here, you’d have to look at each game individually to see both where Inter are crossing from and where to and compare that against other Serie A sides. Nonetheless, if EDF is labelled a wide-play coach after 1 and a half seasons in Rome, Luciano Spalletti’s one and a half seasons in Milan has Inter struggling to play within the same galaxy as their opposition.
The race for third continues.