Time will tell whether or not yesterday's 4-1 victory over Atalanta will be the turning point in Roma's season, but one thing is certain, though. Yesterday's result, Roma's first victory over a top-five opponent in 19 months, was shocking and could go down as one of the biggest upsets in the first half of the season. Apart from a brief blip early in the second half when it felt like Atalanta were destined to equalize, Roma played this match perfectly, luring Atalanta into counter after counter, creating chances, putting shots on target, and finishing chances like their lives depended on it.
In his post-match comments, José Mourinho summed up the importance of yesterday's match as only he could, gently reminding everyone that, thanks to this win, it's only been 20 minutes since Roma has beaten a top club, not 19 months.
And beat them they did, so enough with the pretense. Let's hand out some halos... and yes, today is nothing but halos!
What else really needs to be said? Abraham had two looks at goal, put both attempts on target and beat Musso both times—there's a reason we call him Tammy Two Goals, after all. But Abraham's afternoon was so much more than the sum total of those goals. In 89 minutes, Abraham completed 76% of his passes, completed two of six dribbles, drew three fouls, completed three tackles, and, perhaps most impressive, won 10 of 27 duels.
Granted, that's not a superb rate of success, but the mere fact that Roma's starting striker engaged himself in 27 duels—nearly double the highest mark of any Atalanta player—speaks volumes about Abraham’s effort against Atalanta yesterday. He was everywhere, getting involved in Roma's build-up play, back-tracking to bust up attacks, working give and goes through the midfield; simply a sensational effort and performance from Abraham last night.
A year from now, that €45 million will look like an absolute bargain if he keeps playing like this.
Roma's other English star put in another magnificent shift last night, influencing the match on both ends of the pitch. Playing the entire match, Smalling scored Roma's third goal—a great side-footed strike off a Jordan Veretout corner—completed 75% of his passes, cleared five balls, blocked one shot, intercepted two passes, and completed two tackles.
While we can't draw a direct causal line between Smalling's return and Roma's improved play, the correlation is hard to ignore. From the moment he signed with the club, Roma's best stretches seem to have synched up with Smalling's best performances; a trend that certainly seems alive and well as we head into 2022.
Another player who seems to be cresting as we prepare to flip the calendar to another year, Veretout was sensational in Roma's upset victory. In 89 minutes, Veretout completed 78% of his passes, cleared one ball, completed two tackles, and provided two assists: a give-and-go with Nicolo Zaniolo and the corner kick to Smalling. Veretout also overtook an impressive 4.75 players per forward pass, the highest mark in the match.
If you watched yesterday's match and thought to yourself “damn, Mancini is covering a lot of ground back there” your hunch was correct. Mancini was masterful in defense yesterday, winning five tackles, recovering five balls, clearing four more, intercepting four passes, and blocking one shot while winning 60% of his duels.
One of the quieter saints from Roma's 4-1 win, Karsdorp completed 94% of his passes against Atalanta (including five of six long passes), provided one key pass, cleared two balls, blocked one shot, intercepted three passes, and completed one successful tackle.
At long last, Zaniolo scored in Serie A, breaking a drought that extended all the way back to July 2020. Granted, he missed large swaths of time due to injury, but you could sense his inability to score has been weighing on him, so that goal was undoubtedly a massive relief for the 22-year-old. In addition to his goal, Zaniolo put two of his three shots on target, completed two dribbles, won three fouls, and chipped in one tackle.
Facing 17 shots, including six on target, Patricio was busier than he had been in weeks, but the veteran keeper passed this test with flying colors. With six saves. including two in the box, and one high claim, Patricio was aces every time he was called upon.
While he didn't wind up on the scoresheet, Mkhitaryan had an excellent all-around afternoon. In 89 minutes of action, Mkhitaryan completed 73% passes, pulled off two successful dribbles (in two attempts), cleared four balls, intercepted two passes, and completed one tackle. It was a bit of an odd performance from Mkhitaryan, insofar as his attacking contributions were pretty minimal, but as you can see, he did a bit of everything and did it well.
Stuck In Between
The following players didn't really excel enough to warrant saint status, but they did very little to forestall Roma's upset.
- Bryan Cristante: Under normal circumstances, his own goal would have earned him the sharpest pitchfork in our shed, but considering the lopsided scoreline, we'll give Cristante a pass. Apart from that errant deflection, Cristante was pretty middle of the road against Atalanta.
- Matías Viña: While he didn't do much to help the attack, Viña racked up the defensive stats last night, clearing three balls, intercepting four passes, and completing two tackles. Given that Atalanta had over 70% possession, those figures aren't surprising, but Viña certainly didn't wilt under the pressure.
- Roger Ibañez: Similar to Viña, Ibañez stuffed the stat sheet last night with an astounding nine clearances and three interceptions but completed only 69% of his passes while winning only two of eight duels.
- Eldor Shomurodov: Provided one key pass in only 13 touches but was also dribbled past twice and completed only 50% of his passes
- Edoardo Bove/Marash Kumbulla/Riccardo Calafiori: Each played only one official minute.
We'll see you back here on Wednesday after Roma's tilt against Sampdoria, the final match of 2021.