Roma's first victory of the new season wasn't one for the record books, nor was it a tactical masterpiece, but it was a victory nonetheless. With chances hard to come by and their shooting as erratic as ever, the Giallorossi certainly tempted fate against Udinese yesterday, but thanks to some practically flawless defending and one well-timed interception, Paulo Fonseca's crew emerged victorious last night at the Dacia Arena in Udine.
Despite the lack of chances and fluidity in attack, our post-match rundown will have far more saints than sinners, so let's dispense with the negatives first, shall we?
At this point, I feel like I should just copy and paste my usual preamble whenever we critique Roma's 34-year-old striker. Dzeko is the club's fourth all-time...yadda, yadda, yadda but...yadda, yadda, yadda. I don't mean to be glib towards Dzeko (or my writing, I guess) but what else can we say at this point? We know what Dzeko does well and we know where he struggles; nothing has changed nor will it.
Dzeko played all but one minute yesterday, and apart from creating one chance and doing well to settle Roger Ibañez long ball with his chest, he was pretty derelict in his duties. In 93 minutes, Dzeko was sloppy with his passes (only 60% completion), wasteful with his shots (two taken, none on target) and careless with the ball (seven unsustainable touches).
And then there's the facets of his game we can't measure with stats: the degree to which he slows down Roma's attack. With Pedro and Henrikh Mkhitaryan going full tilt the minute they touch the ball in the final third, Dzeko either looks a step too slow or unsure of how to work with his fellow forwards. He's like a Great Dane at a dog park surrounded by Pomeranians; it's funny to watch them chase the tennis ball together, but you can't help but think the Great Dane would be better off with dogs his own size.
Dzeko will have better days than this, there will be no shortage of moments when we sing his praises, but right now he seems out of sorts in Fonseca's attack.
Roma's 21-year-old center back was undoubtedly the best player on the pitch yesterday. In 90 minutes, the new Marquinhos was a one man wrecking crew for Roma, taking a match high 99 touches, completing 87% of his passes, creating one big chance (to Dzeko), and hitting on four of eight long-balls. Defensively speaking, Ibañez was equally impressive, clearing four balls, picking off six passes, completing five tackles (including one last-man tackle), winning eight of eleven ground duels and three of five aerial duels.
In a word, Ibañez was magnificent. His future is incredibly bright. Roma will likely struggle to keep him beyond this season.
While he wasn't quite as great as Ibañez last night, Roma's big summer acquisition was no slouch in his second Roma appearance. In 90 minutes, Kumbulla took 75 touches and completed 91% of his passes, including two of three long balls. He didn't match Ibañez's all around game yesterday, but he absolutely smothered Udinese's forwards last night, picking off three passes, clearing five balls and winning four aerials. Kumbulla was exactly as advertised against Udinese: smooth, intuitive and incredibly polished.
The eldest member of the Pau Patrol was pretty impressive in yesterday's 1-0 victory, completing 88% of his passes (including 3-5 on long-balls), clearing seven balls, intercepting two passes, blocking one shot and winning two aerial duels. He's likely in danger of being overshadowed by his two younger teammates, but Mancini was steady as she goes yesterday.
Roma's lone goal scorer covered 10 kilometers on the pitch last night, averaging a 7.6 km/h pace. In addition to covering all that ground, Pedro put two of three shots on target, completed 80% of his passes (including two long balls), set up one shot, pulled off two successful dribbles and drew four fouls in addition to his cracking goal in the second half. Roma's free agent signing is off to a hot start in his new home.
We'll end the list with Roma's surprise starter in goal. In his third consecutive start, Mirante turned in arguably his finest performance in a Roma shirt, completing 84% of his passes (including 62% of his long balls) while making four saves (including two in quick succession) and one successful run-out while keeping his first clean sheet of the season.
There have been whispers that Pau Lopez might resume his position after the break, so good on Mirante for turning in this performance before the international break; he should give Fonseca pause before entertaining another change in goal.
A win is a win and Roma had enough positive performances to head into the international break smiling.