The worst part about this particular incarnation of Juventus vs. Roma was that Juventus received their ninth-straight Scudetto after the match. Fortunately, I turned off my broadcast before that, so in my mind, this was a glorious win against Juventus, capping an up-and-down Serie A season on a positive note. Yes, it was essentially B-team versus B-team, but it was still Roma’s first victory at Allianz Stadium since it was built, and their first away win against The Old Lady since 2011. Because of that, we’re only handing out sainthoods today.
If this was Diego Perotti’s last Serie A match for the Giallorossi, the Master of the Ill-Advised Neck Tattoo ended his fifth and final season with Roma memorably. The pair of goals from the Argentinian winger put Roma ahead of Juventus and guaranteed the win. Although we could dock him points for the corner kick that led to Riccardo Calafiori’s debut goal-that-should-have-been going out of bounds, the work Perotti put in definitively makes up for that disappointment.
If you want to sum up Perotti’s time with the Giallorossi, his second goal of the match does it quite well. Perotti’s pace, timing, and angle on his run with Nicolò Zaniolo to score that goal were as close to perfect as you can see in football, and although he will most likely never crack double-digit scoring with the Giallorossi, his value as a consistent option on the wing who never folded under pressure can’t be understated. Personally, I hope he gets to finish off his career with Boca Juniors, but until we know where he’s off to, the least I can do is hand him one more Sainthood.
Due to Manchester United being downright annoying during permanent transfer negotiations, Juventus vs. Roma was also likely Chris Smalling’s last match with the Giallorossi. There wasn’t anything particularly spectacular about Smalling’s performance last night (he received a 6.8 rating from WhoScored), but it should go without saying that Smalling was one of Roma’s best players this past season, and he’ll definitely be missed. So one last Sainthood for you, too, Chris, and in bocca al lupo.
While Diego Perotti and Chris Smalling’s time at the Olimpico may soon be drawing to a close, matches like this show why Gonzalo Villar’s time with Roma is probably just beginning. The Spanish midfielder didn’t get on the goalscorer’s sheet today, but he put in a Man of the Match-level performance regardless. Playing the full ninety, Villar basically never put in a bad pass, ending with a 96.7% pass completion rate. Villar’s performance didn’t go unnoticed at the club, with Andrine Hegerberg giving him high praise following the match:
I had assumed that Villar would be loaned out next season to a mid-tier Serie A club so he could truly grow into his own, but his play against Juventus indicates he may be a valuable member of the midfield rotation soon, if not now. We’ll need to see him further against clubs that are truly giving their 100% against the Giallorossi, but with performances like this, Villar may just become one more sign that Roma should have tried to keep Gianluca Petrachi around for longer.
It’s pretty commonplace at this point for Nicolò Zaniolo to end up in the Saints tally for a match, but it has to be said that the Italian international just continues to show why he’s the most intriguing young player in Serie A. The lead-up to Perotti’s second goal was reminiscent of Kaka, Zaniolo’s childhood idol, as he sneaked his way through Juventus defender after Juventus defender, and to put it simply, Zaniolo’s presence on the field quite obviously makes every other Roma player better.
The image of Zaniolo performing a similar slalom before tearing his ACL in January will be seared into my brain for quite some time, but its that kind of slalom that makes The Kid so special. As Roma shifts over to the Europa League full-time, it’s critical that Zaniolo seems to be reaching new levels of excellence at just the right time. Even with Chris Smalling heading back to Manchester, having a player like Zaniolo putting in the work makes lifting at least one real trophy during the Pallotta era seem slightly more probable.
It’s a fool’s errand to expect young defenders to make an impact during their first appearance at a big club in Serie A. It’s a hard league to understand defensively, and there are attackers who will hone in on you and make you eat your shorts for breakfast if you make one mistake. That makes Calafiori’s first start for the Giallorossi that much more special. The eighteen-year-old Roman took fifteen minutes or so to shake off the understandable nerves and then showed just why he’s one of the most hyped youth players Roma currently have on contract.
il gol annullato di Calafiori pic.twitter.com/JbKEY1jJ3p— RomaPress Goals (@asrgoals1) August 1, 2020
Calafiori’s annulled goal would have been impressive coming from anyone, let alone a teenage defender making his first appearance for his hometown club. Add in a pretty solid defensive performance and his work in creating a penalty against Danilo, and it’s obvious that Calafiori is ready for Serie A football. There have been rumors that the Giallorossi and Calafiori have been struggling to find an agreement for a new deal to extend his contract beyond 2022, but you have to assume that a first senior performance like this will make it far easier for Franco Baldini to bite the bullet and hand the Roman a raise. If he doesn’t, and Calafiori ends up setting the world on fire at Manchester United, or Liverpool, or one of the many many other major clubs interested in his services, it’ll be a damn shame.
Well, there you have it, our last Sinners & Saints of the Serie A season. We’ll have an article coming in the near future analyzing the most saintly and most sinful players of the season, but until then, let us know who you felt shone against Juventus! What should the Giallorossi do about Riccardo Calafiori? Do you think Zaniolo is ready to be starting matches again in the Europa League?