When I was a precocious kid in middle school with a penchant for breaking things, you could imagine my delight when the tech teacher told us we were going to be designing, building, testing, and ultimately destroying popsicle stick bridges with a series of escalating weights. As much as I enjoyed breaking things as a youth, I was shocked to discover that this lesson wasn't designed solely to feed my appetite for destruction but was actually a really fun, clever, and engaging way to explore the basic tenets of engineering and physics.
Where am I going with this? Glad you asked...
Following last weekend's 1-0 defeat to Juventus, where Roma arguably outplayed the Old Lady everywhere but the scoreboard, our Sinners and Saints series took a unique turn: there were none. Given how close that match was, how controversial the result became, and how Roma neither overwhelmed nor underperformed, we had no choice but to cast everyone into our player rating purgatory, the dreaded Stuck In Between.
Here come the popsicle sticks again...
If our Sinners & Saints series was my prepubescent popsicle stick bridge, then last week's perplexing rendition produced the first cracks and moans in the structure, nearly buckling the entire span under the weight of ambiguity. However, despite the clear signs otherwise, the bridge remained intact. We may not be so lucky this time around.
After being pummeled by Bodø/Glimt in a 6-1 rout, the only time a José Mourinho-led club has conceded that many goals and perhaps one of the ugliest results in recent Roma memory, there's no chance in hell anyone is escaping the sinners' list.
Outside of Amadou Diawara's beautiful assist on the club's lone goal, Roma fans didn't have much to hang their hats on, so let's sift through the wreckage to find the worst of the worst.
The match got so far out of hand in the second half, it’s hard to recall any glaring errors from Patricio, but when you face 13 shots and let six slip past you, there’s no escaping it: you're a sinner—the major stat sights rated him in the fives as well. It would have been easy to assume that Mourinho would have played Daniel Fuzato at some point in the Conference League, but after yesterday's result, Roma may no longer have that luxury—these matches will matter, so Patricio now has to carry this extra burden.
Max Kumbulla has all the size one craves from a modern center-back, along with solid technique and decent long-range passing, but he's slower than molasses. And that lack of pace was on full display last night, particularly on Ola Solbakken's 71st-minute goal, where he not only missed a chance to intercept the ball but was quickly left in Solbakken's wake as he scored Bodø's fourth goal of the match.
Kumbulla has and will continue to catch heat from fans for performances like these, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. The sum total of Kumbulla's Roma career amounts to little more than 2,000 minutes, none of which have come in Serie A this season. Perhaps a loan is in order, but he's too talented to cast aside so soon after acquiring him.
I'm tempted to say we can apply everything we just said equally to Reynolds, but he doesn't have quite the same background or profile as Kumbulla, who had an incredibly promising debut season with Hellas Verona in 2019-2020. Kumbulla's paltry time on the pitch makes Reynolds look like even more of an afterthought. Since acquiring the Texan last winter, Roma has barely broken the seal on their American right-back, using him fewer than 10 times in all competitions.
In fact, Reynolds hasn't even surpassed the 2,000-minute mark for his entire professional career. Having only turned 20 over the summer, and perhaps because the pandemic has warped our sense of time, it's easy to forget how young Bryan Reynolds remains. But Roma clearly saw something they liked in him—why else would they have persisted so strongly in their pursuit of the then 19-year-old?—beating Juventus to the punch with the promise of more first-team action.
That hasn't happened yet, and in the wake of yesterday's disastrous performance and with a manager not known for his patience, it likely won't happen anytime soon, so let's hope Pinto and the Roma brass can convince him of the merits of going on loan, perhaps to Venezia where he'd face lower expectations and can develop alongside fellow Americans Gianclua Busio and Tanner Tessman.
José Mourinho has more confidence in Roma's young left-back than the two names that preceded him on this list, but yesterday was an evening to forget for the young Roman. While Calafiori was as big as anyone on the pitch last night, he frequently looked a step behind his Norwegian counterparts and perhaps even a bit out of sorts, losing possession 14 times. While he was able to intercept three passes, Calafiori won only two duels and contributed almost nothing going forward. Better days are ahead for Calafiori, but yesterday was a brutal showing for the 19-year-old left-back.
I didn't even realize until just now that Roma's entire defense is on this list, but it obviously checks out. They were atrocious as a unit, and Ibañez was particularly poor in 90 frigid minutes last night. To be fair, Ibañez had a decent statistical night in Norway (five interceptions, three tackles and five of eight duels won) but some of that this likely due to Bodø's higher rate of possession and greater shot output. With the ball at his feet, Ibañez was atrocious, completing only 79% of his passes (compared to his season rate of 94.8) and losing possession a match-high 16 times.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Making his third start of the season, and wearing the captain's armband last night, El Shaarawy failed to provide any attacking inspiration for the boys in blue. In 60 minutes, El Shaarawy didn't register a single shot attempt and managed only one successful dribble while taking only 20 touches. It's one thing to have a bad run on the pitch, but he was almost absent last night. At this point in time, he's the ace of the second unit, so he has to produce (or at least threaten consistently) when called upon.
The Second Half Subs
We tend to be a bit more lenient on substitutes since they don't have as much time to make an impact, but Mourinho used all five of his subs before the hour mark, and neither Eldor Shomurodov, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Bryan Cristante, Tammy Abraham nor Lorenzo Pellegrini did anything to reverse Roma's fortunes in the second half. Granted, they probably went to bed the night before assuming they'd have the evening off, but their performance (or lack thereof) was a letdown for Mourinho and Roma fans everywhere.
Yup. For the first time in many months, we're adding a Roma manager to our list of sinners. Listen, Special One or not, displeased with his bench or not, Roma should never lose to a club as small as Bodø. Full stop. And then to come out and “accept” responsibility (for choosing the lineup) while indirectly discrediting and disrespecting nearly half your squad by claiming you only “have 13 players” isn't leadership. It's passive-aggressive... at best.
He was likely more direct and earnest with the squad behind closed doors, but discrediting your players publicly, even when veiled like this, seldom leads to good things.
Stuck In Between
We'll throw the only two marginally positive performances from yesterday a bone here by sparing them our metaphorical pitchforks.
Amadou Diawara: Set up a goal, commit an error that leads to a goal. If that's not balanced, then I don't know what is. We had so much hope for this kid when Roma signed him, but the writing is on the wall: for his benefit alone, Roma needs to sell him this winter.
Carles Pérez: He did well to give Diawara a target on that sensational assist and was able to slot it home past the oncoming keeper, but Pérez was otherwise meh last night, frequently getting dribbled past and completing only 73% of his passes.
If nothing else, Roma has a quick turnaround, so we won't have to dwell on these results for much longer, but the challenge is squarely on Mourinho now. Can he use this defeat as a rallying cry where so many before him failed to inspire?
...Napoli on Sunday, see you then!