By virtue of finishing in fourth place while maintaining the league's fourth-best goal differential, it's safe to say that Betty Bavagnoli's Roma were among the most balanced sides in the league. While there were certainly some ups and downs, as there are in any season in any sport, so much of Roma's success in their inaugural season was due to the stellar play from the women in the middle of the pitch.
Call it the engine room, the brain, or the heart, Roma's midfield was so very often the bright spot this season.
Style of Play
For the most part, Bavagnoli relied on a base 4-3-3, with a nominal starting trio of Giada Greggi, Vanessa Bernauer and Claudia Ciccotti, though Flaminia Simonetti saw a tremendous share of minutes when Ciccotti went down with a knee injury midway through the season. With Bernauer serving as the number ten, usually flanked by Greggi on the left and Ciccotti on the right, Roma's midfield was fast and difficult to dispossess.
Without the benefit of detailed stats or analytics, we have to rely largely on the eye test, but Roma was (generally speaking) an uptempo, aggressive team, getting up the pitch as quickly as possible using as few touches as possible. Thanks to Greggi's speed and Bernauer's incisive passing, Roma were very much a north-south team, though that's not to say they didn't use wider, more intricate passing networks.
Very often Greggi would jump start the attack, either pushing forward herself of shuttling it off to Bernauer in the middle, who would link up with Agnese Bonfantini or Annamaria Serturini, with Simonetti and Ciccotti left to do the dirty work. And once the ball reached the attacking third, in combination with the fullbacks, Roma were able to switch play in an instant, keeping defense off balance and exposing gaps in the back.
At it's very best, Roma's midfield was fast and direct and operated with an extreme economy of movement; nothing was wasted and everything had a purpose. It was very simple: Greggi to Bernauer to the forwards, with sufficient space and balance to whip the ball back around and start all over. Thanks to the former's speed and the latter's passing, Roma's midfield was incredibly difficult to slow down for large swaths of the season.
Greggi's Growing Game | Simonetti's Versatility
Well, we sort of just hinted at it in the prior section, but it bears repeating. One simply cannot say enough about the maturation of Greggi, Roma's 19-year-old star in the making, and also a Roman FYI. Greggi's end-to-end pace is incredibly impressive and when coupled with her low center of gravity makes her a) incredibly hard to contain and b) incredibly difficult to dispossess. And to top it all off, she can pick out a final pass and even managed a pair of goals herself. It wasn't a stretch to say that as Greggi went, so went Roma; she was that crucial to their attacking setup.
And if all of that weren't enough to make you love her, she lists chicken breast and french fries as her favorite food while her professional ambitions are to become a world famous footballer and win as many trophies as possible with Roma...AND she listed Francesco Totti as the person she'd most like to meet.
Hey, speaking of Roman's, Flaminia Simonetti, another Totti-phile, was perhaps the biggest surprise of the season. Starting the season on the outside looking in, Simonetti didn't really begin to make an impact on the pitch until the middle of October. However, once Ciccotti went down with a knee injury, Simonetti really took off.
Filling in all over the midfield, as well as a few spot appearances at forward, Simonetti was a jack of all trades kind of player—winning balls, cycling possession and getting stuck into tackles, but once she found her groove, she became an even bigger part of Roma's offense, finishing the season with five goals, second only to Serturini.
Room for Improvement
While we were obviously quite impressed with the midfield this season, it doesn't mean they were above reproach. The most immediate concern one has is simply the lack of experienced depth; Bavagnoli pretty much ran four-deep all season, and you could tell the legs got a bit heavy towards the end of the season, which necessarily impacted the product on the pitch.
Whether it was solely down to fatigue or not I can't say, but at times, particularly in the waning weeks of the season, that once efficient Greggi to Bernauer assembly line became disjointed, made worse by the lack of a true deep-lying playmaker to take the pressure off Greggi. To combat this, Greggi was pushed up the pitch, which in turn left the middle of defense somewhat exposed.
Again, these are small and fixable problems and really only seemed to haunt them against the Milan, Juve. Fiorentina set, but they are areas that need to be addressed nonetheless.
Final Marks: A-
Despite the club's late season swoon, Roma's midfield was the real source of inspiration for the squad this season. At only 19-years-old, Greggi already plays like a veteran and seems a good bet to reach those lofty ambitions of hers, while Bernauer provides poise and intelligence. As with every other facet of this team, we will have to wait and see the extent to which Roma invests in the squad next season.
Roma are on the precipice of competing for titles, and when they finally land one, you can rest assured the midfield will play a large role.