Roma weren't exactly an unstoppable juggernaut yesterday, but in their 2-1 victory over Parma, the Giallorossi played with a greater sense of purpose and harmony than we've seen since the restart began in late June. While Roma found the back of the net twice yesterday, their 3.3 expected goals was actually their highest mark since they played Lecce in late February and marked only the fifth time this season they've registered an xG mark of three or higher.
So, whether you rely on advanced statistics or simply the eye test, the increased efficiency and fluidity in Roma's attack was hard to miss yesterday. The level of the opponent was a factor (indeed, all their matches with >3 xG came against Lecce (twice), SPAL, Udinese and Parma) but for a team reeling on the table and seemingly bereft of ideas on the pitch, yesterday's performance was just what the doctor ordered and likely spared Paulo Fonseca's job for at least one week.
With that in mind, let’s pass out some halos and/or pitchforks.
We're throwing an asterisk on this one because he was played remarkably out of position. I'm not sure Cristante has ever played his natural position with Roma, and whether you think he's a holding midfielder, an attacking midfielder or something in between, one thing is for sure: he's definitely not a defender.
Working as a makeshift center-back in Fonseca's three-man back-line yesterday, Cristante's defensive shortcomings were on full display. In 90 minutes, Cristante completed only one successful tackle, lost possession nine times and committed one hugely consequential foul on Andreas Cornelius. The penalty call itself may have been misguided, but he certainly didn't himself any favors in his angle of pursuit or the timing of his challenge.
One can't help but shake the feeling that Cristante will never self-actualize in the capital, but forcing him to play center-back is just a bad idea all around.
There were a few other dour performances yesterday, but none quite as egregious Roma's miscast center-back, so let's get to the saints.
I'm not sure what else needs to be said at this point, but loans seldom work out better than this; Mkhitaryan has been a godsend for Roma. In 89 minutes yesterday, Mkhitaryan turned in a man of the match performance, scoring one goal and setting up another. Micki also had six tackles, five key passes and was a menace in the final third, particularly in the second half:
Roma really took control of the match in the second half, and one look at that heat-map shows you whose foot was on the gas—at this point, as Mkhitaryan goes, so goes Roma.
The stats were very kind to Veretout yesterday—92% passing, two key passes, 40% cross completion, 100% on long-balls, and 11.2 km covered—but all you need to know about his run against Parma was this:
You can't really sense the distance or power of the shot based on that clip, but it does shows the exquisite technique required to plonk that ball down in the lower right hand corner, just past the outstretched hands of the keeper.
There have been many Nainggolan-esque flashes from Veretout this season, but yesterday was a vintage Radja-like performance from the 27-year-old Frenchman.
After being dropped completely against Napoli on Sunday, Peres turned in one of his best performances ever in a Roma shirt. In only 66 minutes yesterday, Peres took 72 touches, rattled off five shots, completed 98% of his passes, set up Mkhitaryan's first half goal and hit on five of eight crosses.
At this stage in his career, Peres is very much a boom or bust player, so the odds of him repeating this performance each and every week are incredibly slim, but against Parma he was as effective as he’s ever been during his tumultuous time with Roma.
The Giallorossi also received impressive performances from Gianluca Mancini, Leonardo Spinazzola, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Roger Ibañez against Parma, but for the sake of brevity we'll end it here.
Until next time!