Under normal circumstances, yesterday's 2-1 defeat would be chalked up as yet another in a long line of losses to Juventus, but thanks to Nicolo Zaniolo's torn ACL, Roma fans will have even more reason to rue January 12, 2020. Thanks to Atalanta sharing points with Inter Milan, the weekend wasn't a complete disaster, but it's going to be awful hard to mask the disappointment and heartache of yesterday's dismal display at the Olimpico. So, as hard as it might be, we'll have to mine the depths for some positives from yesterday's costly defeat to the Old Lady.
Prior to kickoff, there were rumors that multiple scouts from the Premier League were at the Olimpico to scout Roma's 22-year-old Guinean prodigy, and while it wasn't his most sterling match in the red and yellow, Diawara was one of the few bright spots yesterday.
In 90 minutes, Diawara, in addition to looking flawless in that blue shirt, played a match high 62 passes (hitting on nearly 96% of them), including a perfect six-for-six on long balls, while completing one tackle, intercepting two passes and putting one shot on target, all while covering 11.36 kilometers, third highest on the squad.
Diawara may not grab the headlines, but he is a special, special player.
We mentioned it last week, but it bears repeating: Diego Perotti is a streaky player. However, with his fourth goal in seven matches, we appear to be riding a cresting Perotti wave. It was fitting that in the same week he was labeled the league's most dangerous penalty taker by Samir Handanovic that Perotti would score Roma's lone goal from the spot. However, outside of his PK heroics he was perhaps Roma’s most effective attacker of the evening.
In 86 minutes, Perotti managed three shots, completed 96% of his passes, drew three fouls and made two recoveries. Much like Diawara, Roma's overall performance hindered his statistics, but Perotti was one of the few bright spots in attack.
Now, onto the not-so-nice aspects of yesterday's match.
Listen, take this one with a grain of salt because Veretout has been magnificent during his first season in the capital, but yesterday was not a banner day for the 26-year-old. In 65 minutes, Veretout was a perfect two-for-two in long ball attempts, but that was about the extent of his day—he just looked gassed. In fact, yesterday was only the fourth time in twenty-three appearances that Veretout didn't go the full 90 minutes.
Veretout's run against Juventus was far and away his lowest rated match of the season and was perhaps an indication that Fonseca needs to rotate his double pivot more frequently, something the return of Bryan Cristante should facilitate.
Pau Lopez...For This
I spent a large portion of my youth as a hockey goalie and in addition to learning how to close my five hole, one of the cardinal lessons I learned was to never clear the puck up the middle, especially not if you had other options; a sin Pau Lopez committed in the image above.
While there is certainly blame to share between he and Veretout, Lopez had better options than to play the ball so lazily up the middle: he could have booted it up the pitch or simply played it to Gianluca Mancini on the right (or even Smalling on the left), but he put Veretout in an extremely untenable situation.
As you can see, the minute Veretout receives the ball he is now caught in between three Juve defenders, and with no time to play it diagonally backwards towards Mancini, he's sort of at the mercy of Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Aaron Ramsey. Sure, he could have reacted a bit quicker, but Lopez's poor decision making was the real root cause here.
But...the penalty was bullshit.
I mean, if anything, it looks like Dybala is the one committing the penalty here as he impeded Veretout's progress. A slightly unjust call (unless we view the shirt tug as the sum total of the foul) but Roma would never have been in this situation were it not for Lopez's initial pass.
Well, there you have it. In a match as ugly as this, there wasn't much to speak of on either end of the Sinner-Saint spectrum. We can only hope Roma learn from this because with the Coppa Italia starting this week and the Europa League resuming next month, things will get start to get pretty hairy for Roma.