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Sinners & Saints: Roma vs. Sampdoria

When teams win like this, we call it a disciplined performance. Yup.

AS Roma v UC Sampdoria - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I didn’t have access to a full-match replay of Roma’s home win against Sampdoria, so this entry of Sinners and Saints only has the Whoscored Chalkboard to keep me honest. Roma went into this game with an aggressive back-line and a clear intent to dominate the game from the get-go.

They left this match with a win, 62% possession and only having had to watch Sampdoria briefly gain momentum through two small spells; one of those spells was expected as it came in the dying moments with Samp a goal down, while the other is a moment to re-visit in our Sinners debate.

The Sinners

Amadou Diawara

AS Roma v Torino FC - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Diawara’s performance was where Roma’s football went to die yesterday. He had one brief moment where he tee’d up a nice cross to find Henrikh Mkhitaryan free in the box, but the rest was all redundant.

Most uncharacteristic of him was that Diawara paid almost no mind to the space between him and opponents on the pitch. There was no looking over his shoulder to scan for danger before receiving the ball, just nothing trademark about Diawara at all. He looked like he was just trying to make it through the dead evening heat of a Rome summer but, even allowing for that much, the absentee nature of his outing was not good to watch.

From the 21st to 29th minute of the game, Sampdoria enjoyed their only spell of possession while ahead on the scoreline. That spell was almost entirely made up of Diawara giving away the ball and dribbling into opponents. And all of this without even touching on the obvious short pass that gifted Sampdoria their goal early in the game.

Hopefully Diawara recovers his fitness soon, but there’s a worrying note here: He has to be mindful that he’s had back-to-back seasons like this in Napoli. Great form, injury, indifferent form, bench. And repeat.

Roma fans will claim Diawara is a genius who’ll come good again before long, and I certainly believe it as I love everything about his game (except for the growing refusal to take any shots on goal).

But Napoli fans have seen enough, in years gone by, to claim otherwise.

Bruno Peres

AS Roma v UC Sampdoria - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

The one positive difference Peres made was feeding Mkhitaryan with a pass early in the game. The rest was pedestrian, and that’s something Roma can ill-afford now that Aleksandar Kolarov is more focused on being economical with his own attacking game.

Bruno Peres is nervous under pressure on the ball, gets dribbled past, and has yet to play a game this season where he has used the ball more often than he’s lost it.

We’ve been supportive of Peres and will keep on supporting him as long as he’s a Roma player. We even put him in the Saints list last game when he was culpable for two of goals conceded.

With games coming thick and fast, Peres will definitely get more chances in this team by default. But in a game where his side saw the lion’s share of possession, he offered next to nothing.

The Saints

Roma’s Discipline Up Front

AS Roma v UC Sampdoria - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Roma looked like a completely different team in the final third yesterday. The circumstances were unusual; it was akin to a pre-season friendly with league points to be won. But even so, Roma took 20 shots from open play, and 14 of those were taken inside the penalty area. The rest were largely made up of young gun Carles Peres trying his luck (4 times) from outside the box, as well as solitary efforts from Jordan Veretout (exquisitely on target but disallowed) and Aleksandar Kolarov.

Could this be the value of fielding experience up front? Roma not panicking with no stadium crowd to whistle them for being down on the scoreline? Or is it down to Paulo Fonseca getting more uninterrupted training sessions with the squad?

Maybe a little of all three.

But from a goal down for a large part of the game, this was a disciplined and patient performance from the Giallorossi. You can afford to label it by those pretty words when you win the game.

If Roma had lost, Twitter would falling over itself to label the performance as gutless.

Chris Smalling (and Ibañez and Jordan Veretout)

Chris Smalling of AS Roma in action during the Serie A... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/LightRocket via Getty Images

On first viewing, Roma had one centre-back looking like he was blocking Sampdoria all by himself. Chris Smalling’s ability to anticipate danger is second-to-none.

On viewing the chalkboard, however, the performance would have looked a lot less effective if it hadn’t been for Ibañez playing his own part. Only 66% of Smalling’s passes were forward, and Antonio Mirante’s own conservative use of the ball is far from what Roma have become accustomed to with Pau Lopez.

That left a big responsibility on Ibañez’s debutant shoulders. Let alone the fact that the Brazilian hadn’t seen Serie A action since 2018.

Ibañez looked a little shaky for the goal conceded, but all he was doing was opening up in the middle of the pitch to give Mirante an out-ball. He could have anticipated Diawara’s pass being short instead of trying to think two moves ahead. And he’ll also rightfully get heat for thinking that Gabbiadini’s shot was going across the face of the goal, rather than ending up where it did.

But that moment aside, much like Gianluca Mancini before him, Ibañez shows the ability to press on through lapses of judgement and grow into the responsibility of the game.

The Roma debutant made an impressive 82% of passes forward yesterday, with 66% of his total passes being made into either the middle or final third or the pitch. Only Jordan Veretout and Chris Smalling saw more of the ball than the Brazilian centre-back, with all three men making an effective troika to cover for Diawara’s AWOL performance.

It was also a great show of belief from his teammates, when Roma shifted to letting Ibañez playing through the middle of the pitch after half-time, allowing the Brazilian to get on top of the game.

To top it off, Ibañez didn’t (officially, as far as WhoScored is concerned) give away possession one single time. You want a ball-player from the back that will keep your team on the front foot? Ibañez is it.

It looks like Gianluca Petrachi has gone 3-for-3 on his January signings.

Edin Dzeko

AS Roma v UC Sampdoria - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

All of the Saintly chemistry above would count for little if Dzeko hadn’t turned up to put an emphatic finish on the cake.

What more is there to say about a player who can let a long ball drop out the air, over his shoulder, into a perfect full-volley goal, on both his left AND right foot?

I’m genuinely asking: What do you even write about a player like that?

Overall, it’s looking like Paulo Fonseca has successfully used the last few weeks as a mini-pre season training camp, while we watch Roma visibly gets closer to his over-arching aims.

But does that necessarily mean 1-goal, possession-heavy wins are to everyone’s taste? Let us know your take on yesterday’s action.