February was a time of mixed fortunes for Roma's senior sides, as the men began the shortest month of the year careening into a three-match losing skid only to turn it around as the calendar gave way to March, running off a four-match unbeaten streak topped off by a wild 4-3 victory over Cagliari on March 1st. The women, meanwhile, suffered no such ambiguity, running off five straight victories by a combined 19-2 scoreline. Much of that was padded by their 10-1 aggregate victory over the San Marino Academy in the Coppa Italia, but the ragazze steamrolled through February with very little resistance.
Come with us as we hit the highlights of the always odd 29-day February.
Story of the Month: Fonseca's Tactical Tweak Halts Losing Streak
In February, Roma’s Serie A opponents continued taking Roma’s greatest strength—composure on the ball—away from them. Defeats against Sassuolo, Bologna and Atalanta were all based on opponents putting the high press on Roma’s back four, forcing Giallorossi mistakes under pressure. To top it off, Fonseca tried to release that pressure valve by moving Gianluca Mancini further up field against Atalanta.
Makes sense right? Mancini is an excellent ball-player, and usually one of the most courageous in the entire Roma squad. And yet the young Italian’s timid performance at Bergamo—reluctant to even make himself open for passes from Roma teammates on the day—was just the latest in Fonseca’s Roma betraying herself this new year.
Now Fonseca has told Pau Lopez to take goal kicks longer (à la Olsen), relying on the aerial strength of Edin Dzeko and Bryan Cristante, and looking for ball-winners Veretout (a man who somehow manages to be at right-back and on the halfway line within the same second—is he Flash Gordon?) plus Mkhitaryan to get short-term results on the board.
Low Point of the Month: Pellegrini's Struggles
With Alessandro Florenzi fleeing to Spain on loan in January, Lorenzo Pellegrini became the most senior Roman currently playing for the Giallorossi. Weird to think about, right? Well, the Lorenzo of 2020 has unfortunately been a shadow of the star-level player we saw throughout 2019. When he played against Gent in Roma’s second leg Europa League match, he showed none of his ability as a roaming playmaker that we’ve grown used to seeing. His goal-scoring ability has gone quiet; so has his playmaking sense.
Roma has been lucky that Henrikh Mkhitaryan has found health and form these past few weeks, or i Lupi would be in far worse shape heading into March. Regardless, it’s crucial for Roma’s Champions League aspirations (and long-term aspirations as a club) that Pellegrini rediscovers what made him such an enticing prospect and such an enjoyable midfield star. Without the Pellegrini that we know is in there somewhere, the Roman light inside the club will dim just a little bit more.
High Point of the Month: Advancing to the Round of 16
February, much like January, was a slog for Roma in the league. However, the Giallorossi were able to find success in Europe. It may not have been the flashiest or best played two-legged affair on Roma’s part, but Fonseca’s men were able to get past Gent 2-1 on aggregate. Roma took the first leg 1-0 at the Olimpico powered by a Carles Perez goal. The win and clean sheet meant that a 1-1 draw in Belgium was enough to see the Giallorossi through.
Despite Roma’s struggles against Gent, it was an important bounce back from the Serie A struggles. It also put Roma one step closer to the first trophy of the American era. It remains to be seen if Roma are good enough to make a deep run in this competition. However, there will be added motivation after drawing Monchi’s Sevilla in the quarterfinals.
Goal of the Month: Mkhitaryan Sets ‘Em All Up
It’s hard to single out a goal on the men’s side, but it is simple to highlight the chief-architect among them—Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who served up identikit goals for Perez (vs. Gent first leg), Ünder (vs. Lecce) and Kluivert (vs. Gent second leg pictured above), all coming from Roma not just winning the ball back early and high up the pitch (where Miki had big help from Veretout and Cristante), but playing it fast.
You only get a few seconds, after catching your opponent on the back foot, to carve your route through to goal. Too often our young attackers—Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo et al—have dilly-dallied on the ball, making it look like they have to wrestle with more decisions than their opponents. That shouldn’t be the case, but it comes with confidence and the intelligence to apply game-experience to personal growth.
Roma have tried to bring model-experience in the shape of Javier Pastore, and largely failed. Maybe Premiership-loanee Henrikh Mkhitaryan can show the way forward from here.
Women's Recap: A 5-for-5 in February
As we mentioned at the outset, February was a clean sweep for the Giallorosse. With three league matches and a two-legged fixture in the Coppa Italia Quarterfinals, Betty Bavagnoli's crew put a checkered January behind them, burying their opponents in a blizzard of goals. Led by Agnese Bonfantini (more on her in a moment), Roma rediscovered their high-flying ways, keeping their slim hopes of capturing second place alive for the moment.
It'll take a damn near perfect sweep through March to keep the pressure on Milan and Fiorentina above them, but Roma did their part in February, shrinking the second place gap to one point (though Milan and Fiorentina have a match in hand).
Hero of the Month: Agnese Bonfantini
With five goals this past month, no Roma player was as hot as Agnese Bonfantini. Highlighted by her hat-trick against Verona, the first in club history, Bonfantini showed an almost unparalleled combination of strength, speed, technique and timing, beating defenders off the dribble, in the air and on the fast break, as seen in the clip above.
Bonfantini's scorching hot month not only helped Roma go a perfect five-for-five in February, but she set a new career mark with seven Serie A goals scored and vaulted herself into a tie for fourth in the Capocannoniere race.
Between Manuela Giguliano, Annamaria Serturini and Giada Greggi, Roma have arguably three of Italy's best up and coming talents (Giugliano was the 2019 player of the year and Greggi was the top U-21 player of the year) but I'm not sure any of them have the same ceiling as Bonfantini, both as a player and as a symbol.
If her February was a tiny portal into her future, then Agnese Bonfantini has every chance in the world to become Italy's Alex Morgan.
Out of Context CdT Tweet of the Month
When you try to pronounce the "GL" sound in Cagliari.pic.twitter.com/pePOmTk0f9— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) February 3, 2020
So that's it for February, what was your story or highlight of the month? Let us know below!
February's top story was...
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Agnese Bonfantini's five goals
Mkhitaryan's emergence as a play-maker
Roma advancing in the Europa League
Lorenzo Pellegrini's struggles