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Sinners & Saints: Roma vs. Bologna

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Roma's 2020 woes continued against mid-table Bologna yesterday.

AS Roma v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

I can't speak for the rest of you, but unlike downturns of the past, I'm trying to keep a more even keel in 2020. If I were writing this piece at any point in the past five years, I would be fit to be tied, pleading for Fonseca to be fired with anyone who'd listen. In his brief but injury plagued tenure in the capital, Fonseca has proven to be an adaptable and resilient man—traits any manager needs in spades to survive life in the City of Seven Hills—so I'm optimistic the Fonseca that so deftly managed the midfield crisis in the fall is still in there.

Having said that, Fonseca Football® is sputtering right now. With his squad hurling shots at the goal like so much spaghetti against the wall and his previously stout defense looking slow and confused, the man hailed as the next big thing in coaching suddenly has the eyes of Rome upon him.

Yesterday's performance against Bologna was par for the course for 2020: Roma held the lion's share of possession, pulled shots off at the hip, were (more or less) able to play the ball when and where they wanted to, they fell behind early, and looked more lively in the second half before ultimately coming up short. It's a pattern we've seen against in nearly every match over the past five weeks, but particularly their last four, a stretch in which they've only taken one point—the derby draw.

But we're not here to pour over Roma's larger problems again, so let's take a look at the highs and lows from yesterday's defeat to Bologna.

The Sinners

AS Roma v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

Chris Smalling

Statistically speaking, Smalldini had a solid match (two tackles, five interceptions, six clearances and 94% passing), but when you make as glaring an error as he did on Bologna’s first goal—letting an easily cleared ball run through—you make the list.

He’ll recover. He always does, but that one mistake/decision proved to be the difference yesterday.

Gianluca Mancini

See above. Mancini's run against Bologna meshed quite well with Smalling's; his numbers were solid (three tackles, four interceptions, three clearances and one blocked shot) but he was absolutely worked by Mussa Barrow in the 51st minute. In what proved to be the match winner, Mancini was completely turned around by Barrow, looking slow and hesitant as Barrow was driving past him

Bryan Cristante

To the extent we should pity a young millionaire, in some ways you have to feel a bit bad for Cristante. Following the 2017-2018 season, fresh off his 12 goal campaign for Atalanta, Cristante was hot shit, so much so that he secured a €30 million move to Roma. With his career sputtering in its earliest days, his move to the capital was meant to be a coronation, as he was seemingly tailor made for Eusebio Di Francesco's midfield.

And therein lies the heart of the problem: Cristante is not really a Fonseca midfielder, a fact that is becoming woefully apparent to anyone watching this club for even a minute, and yesterday against Bologna may have been his nadir.

In 90 minutes, Cristante took 74 touches (fourth most for Roma) and hit on three of seven long balls....annnddd that was about it. Lacking the speed of Veretout and the touch of Diawara, Cristante is just an awkward fit for the double pivot, throw in his straight red yesterday and we may have just seen the worst of Cristante.

Everyone associated with the club has sang his praises, so let's hope their faith bears fruit sooner rather than later because he's looked miscast and a step slow all season long.

The Saints

AS Roma v Bologna FC - Serie A Photo by MB Media/Getty Images

Aleksandar Kolarov

It looks like a mini-break worked wonders for the 34-year-old Kolarov, who returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Roma's Coppa Italia match against Juventus in late January. In 90 minutes against Bologna, Kolarov was active at both ends, attempting two shots on goal, dishing out four key passes, completing six of nine crosses and hitting on 43% of his long-ball attempts, while chipping in five tackles, three interceptions and five clearances on the defensive end.

At his age and with the amount of miles on his legs, this should be Roma's pattern going forward; load management. Think of Kolarov as Roma's Kawhi Leonard—give him a day off here and there and he'll reward you in the long-run.

Diego Perotti

If there's a more confounding player in recent Roma history, I can't name him. We all know Perotti is a streaky player but watch any given match and you're not likely to be blown away, but then you look at the numbers...annndd he looked kind of great. Yesterday was no exception to that strange rule.

In 90 minutes, Perotti was instrumental in whatever offense Roma could muster, contributing three key passes, pulling off eight successful dribbles, and drawing four fouls. Hell, he even had three tackles yesterday.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Mkhitaryan's return from a near month-long absence was a godsend for a Roma side suddenly struggling to find balance in attack. With Lorenzo Pellegrini suspended yesterday, Miki provided a near seamless transition for Fonseca, turning in a fine performance in 90 minutes yesterday, including Roma's only goal in the run of play.

Carles Perez

We'll save our last halo for Roma's newest weapon, 21-year-old Carles Perez, Roma's winter signing from Barcelona. In his first real run in Roma colors, Perez provided a much needed spark deep in the second half. In only 40 minutes yesterday, Perez was electric, firing off three shots and completing five successful dribbles.

Not an overwhelming performance in the box score, but if this is a glimpse of what this kid is capable of he's going to make the inevitable sale of Cengiz Ünder easier to swallow.