Tuesday was a day like no other in the Romaverse. While we warned of the possibility that Roma might fall to Spezia in the Coppa Italia for the second time in little more than five years, not even the most strident pessimists among us actually expected it to happen. Sure, Spezia were sitting pretty in 11th place during their first-ever taste of Serie A, but they were no match for Roma and their €112 million payroll.
Some of you were spared the shock-horror of Tuesday's 4-2 defeat to Spezia thanks to the timing of the match—smack-dab in the middle of a workday—but, in some ways, the nature of the defeat was more troubling than the defeat itself.
Roma vs. Spezia: January 23rd. 15:00 CET/9:00 EST. Stadio Olimpico, Roma.
With 120 minutes of mostly disjointed, sloppy, and frantic football, Spezia were hanging on by a thread and came by their two regular-time goals through luck more than skill: first through a penalty thanks to a clumsy challenge by Bryan Cristante and later when Marash Kumbulla miss-hit a clearance deep in Roma territory.
With every sloppy pass, every hastily orchestrated team movement, and every bit of harried possession, Spezia were doing their absolute best to invite Roma back into the match. But thanks to some horrific misses of their own, Paulo Fonseca's crew simply couldn't take advantage of a decidedly inferior opponent.
But it all came to a head in the 91st minute when Roma saw not one but two players sent off: Gianluca Mancini on accumulated yellows and Pau Lopez on a straight red for nearly kicking Roberto Piccoli in the face outside of the area.
And the rest is (very recent) history: Spezia finally flexed their two-man advantage and walked away 4-2 winners thanks to Daniele Verde's 107th-minute match-winner and added a Totti-esque chip from Riccardo Saponara for good measure.
In the days since that defeat, we've dealt with rumors of a rift between Fonseca and Edin Dzeko and Lorenzo Pellegrini, two Roma staffers were made sacrificial lambs—one of whom, team manager Gianluca Gomber, has received calls of support from several Roma players past and present—Dzeko may be back on the transfer market, and Fonseca has received the dreaded vote of confidence from the Friedkins, meaning his job is safe (wink, wink).
Now, take all that home, throw it in a pot, add some broth, a potato and you've got a stew going, baby; a chaotic and uncertain stew that's about to boil over and may precipitate yet another Roma reset.
We're almost 500 words into this preview and we've yet to discuss the actual match, but we're not alone in ignoring tomorrow's fixture. During his pre-match press conference, try as he might, Fonseca couldn't deflect questions about his job, his relationship with his players and club management, and even his grasp of the rules of the sport.
It's an unenviable position for a man who is generally well-liked, but, considering the circumstances, we can't really fault the Roma press for focusing on Tuesday's failures rather than looking ahead to Saturday's match, but what can one really say about tomorrow's fixture?
Tuesday showed us all we needed to know about Spezia: they're simply no match for a club as deep and as talented as Roma. So, if the weekend plays out the same way, the narrative will be more about Roma defeating herself again than Spezia pulling off some tactical miracle.
Of course, since this is Roma we're talking about, the uncertainty doesn't end with Fonseca's job prospects. The Man from Mozambique will be without Dzeko, who is dealing with a "knock” (such a strange term) and Pedro, who seems to be aging rapidly, and possibly Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who will be a game-time decision—it's uncertainty on top of uncertainty.
We can quibble about Fonseca's job security all day long, but if Borja Mayoral buried a few of those chances on Tuesday, this entire preview, and indeed this entire week, is markedly different. Considering the change in ownership, the increasingly bleak-looking financial future (at least in the short-term) of the club, and the pandemic, Fonseca has dealt with some pretty adverse circumstances in what is already an incredibly difficult and unique job in all of sport.
But logic and circumstance seldom rule the roost in Roma, especially not once the tide of negativity starts to turn. If Fonseca can't make quick work of Spezia tomorrow, well, he may be quickly out of work.
It may be unfair, but when it comes to Roma, the only certain thing is uncertainty.