Yesterday’s 2-2 draw against Inter Milan was one of the better performances we've seen from Roma this season, for, like, 95% of the match. With Roma clinging to a one-goal lead with less than five minutes remaining, a costly error from Leonardo Spinazzola, who drew out a clearance and wound up fouling Victor Moses in the box, was the difference between an upset victory over second place Inter and the ultimately disappointing draw. But prior to that, Roma actually held Antonio Conte's side in check, matching them stride for stride and touch for touch.
By dropping two points yesterday, Roma squandered an opportunity to put further distance between themselves and AC Milan and Napoli, their closest competitors for Italy's Europa League spots next season. After 34 rounds of play, Roma hold a slim two point lead over Milan and Napoli, both of whom won over the weekend.
The sinners and saints in this match weren't as clear cut as they always were, but we have set a precedent in which a player who was otherwise solid for 89 minutes but screws the pooch in the end makes the sinners list.
Sorry, Spinazzola fans.
There can be little doubt that Spinazzola has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of Roma's recent tactical switch. By deploying him at wingback, Paulo Fonseca has unlocked the player Roma thought they signed in the summer: a quick, decisive and dangerous outlet on the wings.
Which he was for almost 89 of his 90 minutes yesterday, until this happened:
It was a costly error and, when combined with his 17 losses of possession, stand as the lone black eye on an otherwise solid performance.
Pellegrini is a talented young player, one the club values highly and intend on keeping around if you believe last week's contract extension rumors, but right now there's no debate: he's hit a rough patch. In 82 minutes yesterday, Pellegrini lost possession 18 times (a match high) and had a woeful time crossing the ball (1 for 9). He had one key pass and completed 87% of all his passes, but that was about it—he just seems lost in this new formation, uncertain when the ball is coming and where it's meant to go next.
I love watching the kid play and hope he figures it out soon, but he's struggling at the moment. The only real positive is that Roma have nothing of great importance to play for, so he's at least learning his new role in a relatively low pressure environment.
If it's good enough for Spinazzola, it's good enough for Mancini. No matter what else he achieved yesterday, blowing that free header was a pivotal moment in the match. If he hit it with the sweet spot and everything else unfolded exactly the same, Roma were 3-2 winners. Center-backs aren't supposed to provide a wellspring of goals, but it's reasonable to expect better results than that, especially from a kid who scored five goals last season, three of which came off set-pieces.
Outside of that miss-hit, in his 90 minute shift yesterday Mancini had four tackles, two aerials won, lost possession seven times and committed six fouls. Much like Pellegrini, he'll have better days but he's also in a bit of a slump at the moment.
Which is definitely exacerbated by the rise of...
Young Ibañez continued his Roma ascent yesterday, clocking an impressive 73 minute run against Inter. Ibañez completed 93% of his passes while clearing three balls, intercepting three more, winning four of five ground duels and blocking two shots.
What more can we say? He's arguably been Roma's best player during the restart but the skeptics among us could have pointed to the level of competition, but against the league's second best side, Ibañez was as active, efficient and effective as he's been all summer.
Roma really got one here, huh?
Talk about running out of superlatives. Mkhitaryan was sensational once again yesterday, turning in a man of the match-level performance with a goal (which was almost an assist), one accurate long ball, two shots on goal, two interceptions, two fouls drawn and four of five ground duels won.
It wasn't his most overwhelming statistical performance, but he definitely passed the eye test. Mkhitaryan brings a level of intelligence, poise and vision we haven't seen in a Roma shirt in several years now—you just get the feeling that good things will happen whenever he's on the ball. At this point, Fonseca really has to monitor his minutes and keep him fresh for the Europa League in August and 2020-2021 training not long after.
I'll likely always have gripes with Dzeko as a captain, but he continued his role as Roma's Mr. Everything yesterday, though with a notable twist. Usually Roma's offense is Dzeko or bust, with the Bosnian Batistuta dominating possession in the box and serving as the club's sole target man, but Dzeko was more facilitator than finisher yesterday.
In 90 minutes, Dzeko took only 32 touches (fewest among all starting outfield players) and didn't have a single shot on goal. What he did have, however, was three key passes and two assists, pushing his season line to an impressive 15 goals and 7 assists in league play.
It's not likely what Fonseca envisioned prior to the match, but Dzeko was essentially a giant and slow moving false nine yesterday...and it worked.