Two games gone and Roma are mired in 13th place, winless and having lost one match before they even stepped on the pitch. Yet that match was against Verona, and not the predicted drubbing that Juventus were meant to give Fonseca’s troops yesterday evening. By the end of last night’s 2-2 draw, you could have picked any set of statistics to paint two different stories.
For example, Juventus only forced Antonio Mirante into one save all match...while putting two goals past him all the same (and the one from open play was where Mirante, among others, could have done better). Roma failed to impose themselves physically in the midfield area with a very poor tackling success rate, and yet the heatmap showed the blocks and interceptions from the Giallorossi midfield undoubtedly forced Juventus into trying to find any joy out wide.
To top off the mish-mash nature of affairs, we’re actually going to crown more Sinners than we do Saints, from a game where we would have been happy to take a point before kick-off.
We may as well get the obvious out of the way and crown the man who scored Roma’s brace. Veretout played as more of a regista to shield the backline in this game, but the French dynamo still found time to join in attacks and score 2 out of his 3 total shots on goal.
If there’s one peculiar statistic from yesterday evening, it’s that Veretout didn’t make a single tackle all match, according to WhoScored. Not even a tackle attempted, nor won or failed.
Instead, most of his defensive actions were closing down the space in support of other Roma players trying to win the ball back. Veretout still hasn’t really found a midfield “partner” that he fully clicks with in Rome, which leaves Jordan still doing a little bit of everything. He really doesn’t have much of a fixed role in this team, and next week he could be asked to do a completely different job altogether.
Ibañez is not long for Rome with performances like this one. Quite frankly, the Brazilian is the perfect player in the making. His passing map is the most influential of three of Roma’s centre-halves yesterday, and his defensive shift was even better.
He was the only Roma centre-back to win 100% of his tackles (3 attempted) while racking up the most interceptions and joint-most clearances of all Roma’s defenders. You would almost have to add up both Kumbulla and Mancini’s defensive actions to equal Ibañez’s imposing defensive numbers yesterday.
When you consider how little experience the Brazilian has at this level (he still has less than even half a season of games in Italy) then Ibañez is a real talent; the best centre-half prospect Roma have signed since Marquinhos.
I’m as big a Mancini fan as anyone, but this is not good stuff.
He won only two tackle attempts (out of 5) all match, failed to cut out a Juventus pass all game (unless you count blocks - where he made three of them) and was suckered in to Pirlo’s self-confessed tactic of “trying to draw the Roma backline” out for most of the 90 minutes.
The Italian defender hasn’t shown a good defensive read of the game in his time playing for Roma, and it was down his flank that Roma failed to win the ball back many times, with Juve often finding the opening through Mancini to get in behind Roma. When Roma finally did recover the ball, it was often too late and too late to dry and counter up the pitch onto Juve’s end.
This is all without mentioning Mancini’s failure to contest the ball for Cristiano Ronaldo’s second equalizer. Thierry Henry once famously said Ledley King was the best defender he’d ever played against, because King “didn’t need to foul” even once to stay on top of affairs. Gianluca Mancini is on the opposite end of the spectrum, racking up the fouls late on in the game as the only way to make it stop.
If Roma do finally Chris Smalling, it’s hard to find a reason why Mancini should be in the first eleven based on a performance like this one.
Have Roma missed a trick by failing to move Dzeko on this mercato? Maybe, just maybe. And we’re not even talking about the goal-chances missed by Edin yesterday (those happen to everyone) but whether he can strike up the right chemistry with Pedro and Mkhitaryan, behind him, over a full season of “Last Vegas” football for all three men.
At a club where money is no object, the point is moot. But this is Roma, and Dzeko is the highest earner. Pedro and Mkhitaryan’s touch map showed good coverage all over the Juventus half, and made Dzeko’s habit of dropping deep to collect the ball look redundant.
Dropping so deep is one of the things that forces Edin to do stuff like clutch on Chiellini’s jersey and try to con the referee into thinking he’s been fouled as the last man. When the truth is Edin has left himself too much ground to run in on goal. And the referee knew it.
Dzeko has to either get used to staying up field and trust Pedro/Miki more, or it’s going to be long winter when all three men are running on empty by December. And Edin could also do with finishing his chances inside the box.
We don’t need Edin “the complete forward” Dzeko in this Roma starting lineup, but the 16/17 poacher-style Dzeko would be more than welcome.
Roma’s Fear of Losing to Juventus
This is the source of frustration for many a Roma vs Juventus game, so we may as well confront it.
It’s been a while since we saw defending as flat as this moment above. You’d likely have to go all the way back to the beginning of the 18/19 season, with a Roma back five collapsing on itself away to Milan and begging to get picked off by a run behind them; exactly what Cristiano Ronaldo did yesterday evening (and he wasn’t even really running).
No team needs five defenders standing in a straight line, defending less than 30 yards of width. The fact Roma were doing this spells one thing only: Fear of losing the result to a ten-man Juventus.
The biggest culprit is Leonardo Spinazzola straight out the gate, who should not only be wider but pushing up on Danilo. Spinazzola then makes his original error even worse by belatedly trying to catch up with Danilo (already well past him by that point) and becoming the only Roma man to play Cristiano Ronaldo onside.
That said, you could divide the rest of the responsibility between others.
Marash Kumbulla looks like a new Roma signing. Gianluca Mancini never even challenges for the ball in the air, ditto Antonio Mirante. Bruno Peres looks so focused on trying to stay in line with his teammates that he never really does anything else (though Bruno is always positioned exactly where he’s meant to be throughout the move).
And Roger Ibañez has his head in his hands, by the end of it all, realising he belongs at PSG.
Roma’s Marshmallow Physique in Midfield
We can’t help but shake the feeling this team is short on muscle, most notably at right-back, but in the midfield department too.
Yesterday’s game was decent enough when it came to blocks and pressure on the ball from Mkhitaryan and Pedro. But their tackling success rate, combined with Lorenzo Pellegrini, was the lowest that Roma will achieve all season long.
If it weren’t for one lonely successful tackle from Pellegrini out wide in the 6th minute of the match, all three midfield would have delivered a big fat zero percentage tackle success rate from a mammoth 11 combined tackles attempted. Plenty of effort, but plenty of getting brushed aside or giving the slip from Juve’s players when push came to shove.
All this being said, it could just be down to the experiment of Lorenzo Pellegrini in the midfield four - the results were neither good nor bad, but blatantly still in the embryonic stage.
Between Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan and Veretout, you have too many people trying to be the all-action number 10. Once Amadou Diawara came on and helped pin Juve back in their own half, there was a seismic shift in the possession and dispossession stats in favour of Roma (though Juventus still got off 2 shots to Roma’s 1 on goal), through the last 15 minutes of the game.
Will this be a problem in every Serie A game? Unlikely, but it’s one of those things that may just separate the Romas from the Juves and Inter Milans when the final table is tallied.