The fine Billy Ocean once sang: When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Well, normally the first one to drag a team through the mud would be its captain. Il Capitano. The leader of the wolfpack. The guy who rallies the troops. AS Roma has been spoiled ever since 1998 with 19 seasons of Francesco Totti and two seasons of Daniele De Rossi as captains. Two passionate Roman born and bred players from their very own Primavera who understand the meaning and importance of the club and its fans.
After Totti and De Rossi’s tragic exits and Florenzi’s flight to Paris, Roma chose Edin Dzeko as the next capitano; the first foreigner since Balbo in 1998. Lorenzo Pellegrini was deemed not ready for the role and kids like Calafiori, Bove, Tripi or Ciervo still need to eat a lot of spinach before they can even think about wearing the armband one day.
It wasn’t that weird of a choice when you look at Dzeko’s international status and his 100+ goals for Roma. And during the first few months, it actually looked like a match and a blessing for the Bosnian diamond, with seven goals in 12 Serie A games. Roma parked itself in the top four and topped its group in the Europa League.
But in these past two games, Inter and Lazio, I’ve witnessed a totally different Dzeko. Suddenly, that armband looks like a burden on his shoulders. Like it’s made of iron. He just looked so static, so clueless, without any inspiration. We’ve often made fun of Dzeko as ‘lamp post’ but he always managed to shut his critics up in the past with goals, goals, goals.
However, in recent weeks, I didn’t see a Dzeko who wanted to prove his doubters wrong. Who wants to honor the armband. He doesn’t run as much, hustle as much, or kicks his teammates’ butt when things are going wrong. You know, cause some fireworks damnit. No, he just...stands there. How many touches did he have in both Inter and Lazio’s games? Ten in total?
What doesn’t help either is Fonseca’s reluctance (or is it ignorance?) to sub Edin off and give him a breather. Borja Mayoral scored twice vs Crotone and was on a hot streak but instead, he got benched for Dzeko against Inter. That’s a tough pill to swallow for the young Spaniard and although Dzeko has more experience in these kinds of games, we all saw Edin had trouble leaving his mark in that match.
Fonseca had to intervene quickly but he waited until minute 88 to sub Borja in. 88 minutes! What did he expect, Borja to score a hattrick in three minutes against one of Serie A’s best defenses? To make it even worse, after Inter Dzeko played a full 90 minutes against Lazio and disappointed again. His only real contribution was a shot between the sticks in minute 85.
Perhaps it’s time to make some changes. Either give the armband to Pellegrini, Veretout, Mancini, whoever feels like taking the responsibility. Then keep Dzeko on the pitch to see if he’s released from his ‘curse’, or take him off entirely and start Borja upfront from now on. Which could destabilize the squad and see Dzeko ultimately leave next summer (after being nearly sold in the previous one).
I know Fonseca doesn’t have many options right now. It’s either Dzeko or Borja. Paulo tried a strikerless formation in the first game vs Hellas and it didn’t work out. Pedro, Pellegrini, Mikhi or Perez are no strikers—we need at least one poacher who knows how to score goals. Stephan El Shaarawy would be welcome, remember he did just fine in 2016 alongside Salah and Perotti. He could repeat the same trick with Pedro and Mikhi.
Now, as long as Edin is still here I support him. The guy scored 100+ goals for Roma, he deserves some credit. But I also want what’s best for him and maybe he’s just not the same leader as Totti or De Rossi. Perhaps he feels freer without the responsibility so he can concentrate on the one thing he does best: scoring. Stripping him from the armband shouldn’t be seen as a punishment but as a liberation. For everyone’s sake. Dzeko’s and Roma’s.
Also, Fonseca should manage the Borja-Dzeko situation better and split their minutes. He should recognize that Dzeko’s not untouchable. No one is unless you’re called Francesco Totti (or Marco Borriello, I mean those looks, wow). We have two easy fixtures against Spezia coming up, so there’s room for some adjustments. It’s perfect timing. And please, bring in SES ASAP OMG, OK?
In the end, something needs to be done around this whole Dzeko situation and it’s gonna be a tough decision to make but you know what Billy once said: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Bonne courage, Paulo.