It doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but it's always nice to head into an international break on a high note. And after yesterday's 3-1 victory over Genoa, Roma did just that, ripping off their third straight victory (and sixth in their past eight matches) in rousing fashion. Led by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Roma overcame some early inefficiencies en route to a resounding victory on the road.
Although the possession battle was nearly a 50/50 split, Roma won nearly every other major contest: shots, shots on target, passing accuracy, chances created, tackles, corners, you name it, they won it. The scoreline may not have been as eye popping as their routs of Cluj and Benevento earlier this fall, but Roma were no less dominant yesterday at the Marassi.
Considering all that, we're going full-Saints today. Borja Mayoral made one ghastly error on his errant shot late in the first half but put in an otherwise harmless shift, while Leonardo Spinazzola played only 13 minutes before leaving with an injury.
All right, let's pass out some halos. We'll start with the obvious one first.
In all my years here at CdT, I can only immediately recall one perfect 10 match rating: none other than Francesco Totti against Fiorentina on December 8, 2012. On that chilly evening, our namesake had three shots, two goals, one assist, three dribbles, four key passes and drew an incredible eight fouls—all at the tender age of 36.
Mkhitaryan can't hold a candle to Totti in any respect, but he turned in a similarly flawless evening yesterday. In addition to his hattrick of perfectly executed goals, Mkhitaryan put four of six shots on target, dished out five key passes, won three aerials and successfully completed three dribbles.
In 32 appearances for Roma, Mkhitaryan has 13 goals and 10 assists in all competitions, heights he hasn't reached since his days with Dortmund. He'll likely need more rest down the stretch, but right now he's Roma's Mr. Everything. They'd be lost without him.
Are you getting tired of seeing The Tilde on this list? Too bad, the new Marquinhos isn't showing many signs of slowing down. In 90 minutes yesterday, Ibañez had two clearances, one block, six interceptions, four tackles and won eight out of twelve duels. Offensively speaking, Ibañez completed 89% of his passes, including one key pass and three of four long balls.
He got beat on Pjaca's goal in the 50th minute, but apart from that, he was all aces.
Entering the match in only the 13th minute as a sub for the injured Spinazzola, Peres made the most of his unexpected match time. With three shots (all on target), three key passes, one assist and three successful long balls (out of five), Peres was an instant shot in the arm for Roma's misfiring attack. And he was no slouch behind the ball either, winning four of five duels, two tackles and one interception.
Whether he's starting on the right or making spot appearances on the left, it's safe to say that Bruno Peres has reclaimed his spot as one of the most effective attacking full-backs in Serie A.
Who would have imagined that a year ago?
Given his experienced and nearly unparalleled CV, I feel silly for ever doubting Roma's acquisition of Pedro. On an early podcast, I compared him to an aging point guard linking up with a young team for one last shot at a title. And I know that some people bristle when I compare footballers to basketball players, but Pedro is nothing if not the footballing version of latter day Steve Nash.
He isn't the fastest, strongest or most intense player, but his intellect, vision and anticipation make him an incredibly valuable asset. He's long since reached the age where the game has slowed down for him, and one look at how moves, how he manipulates space and how he sets up his teammates shows the value of acuity over athleticism.
In 90 minutes yesterday, Pedro completed 80% of his passes, set up two shots, assisted Mkhitaryan's third goal, completed 67% of his crosses, 67% of his long balls and had one shot on target. Much like Mkhitaryan, the key to sustaining this success over the length of the season (to say nothing of his contract) is dolling out these minutes wisely.
The Giallorossi were aided by exceptional performances from Jordan Veretout, Gianluca Mancini and Lorenzo Pellegrini yesterday, but none shone quite as bright as Mkhitaryan, Ibañez, Peres and Pedro.