In true Walter White style, I must throw my hands up and say, “you got me”. As our podcast listeners know, I had zero confidence in the Giallorossi going into Saturday’s match, going so far as to even predict a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of Atalanta, such was the form that La Dea were in.
And while I’ll happily claim that my scoreline prediction on the podcast was one of my patented attempts at a reverse-jinx, I genuinely did not think Roma stood a chance against a streaking Atalanta side.
Thankfully, the Giallorossi proved me wrong and thumped Atalanta 4-1, bridging the gap between the two sides to just six points in the all-important race for Italy's final Champions League spots. And what better time than after an absolutely vital win to break out a new series here at CdT, where I examine three things that I either liked, or didn't like, from the match.
Zaniolo Finally Breaking His Duck
As the great LeBron James once said, “it’s about damn time”. Zaniolo’s inability to find the back of the net in Serie A this season had become an almost all-consuming narrative, with Mourinho fielding questions on the issue in seemingly every press conference over the last few weeks. Should Roma let the kid play through it? Should Zaniolo sit for a few matches and recalibrate himself?
The thing is, Zaniolo wasn’t even playing particularly poorly, the numbers just weren’t there for him. But certainly, on the eye test Zaniolo seemed on the precipice of a true return to form, with his near goal against Inter being the first example of this that comes to mind. While playing alongside Tammy Abraham in a front two is unlikely to be his role long-term, the two youngsters clearly have chemistry between them, and Zaniolo has looked good in the role, which paid dividends on Saturday with Nicolò cooly slotting the ball past Musso.
We can only hope that Zaniolo starts to bang the goals in from here now that he’s broken his duck.
Roma finally Getting the Seven Sisters Monkey Off Their Backs
Make no mistake, this was an absolutely massive win for Roma, specifically in terms of breaking a run of poor form against the top sides in Serie A that seemingly had no end in sight. We discussed on the latest episode of the podcast whether the upcoming Juventus match was going to be the match Roma got the monkey off their backs, considering Juve’s poor run of form, and I maintained that the win might come when we least expected it, which for me at least, was yesterday’s match. Forgive me for being pessimistic, but I just couldn’t see a way the Giallorossi would survive an Atalanta squad firing on all cylinders.
I’ve long held the belief that once Roma gets over the hump in just one of these games, that we’d start to see a noticeable change in fortune against the top sides in Italy. With games against both Milan and Juve just weeks away, we’ll soon find out if this was a true change in fortune, or merely a one-off.
The Terror That Atalanta Puts Into the Hearts of Opposing Teams and Their Fans
Man, I gotta say, watching Atalanta go at your team for 90+ minutes must invoke the same level of stress response that The Fellowship had running away from the thousands of Moria goblins chasing after them, just completely relentless. Now, although this is a clear dislike for me, you have to tip your hat to them, they really don’t take their foot off the gas going forward, do they? I’m sure I wasn't the only one who was completely unsurprised that Muriel scored not long after coming on, a player who seems to score every time he makes an appearance for Atalanta.
To Roma’s credit, they for all intents and purposes shut down Atalanta, limiting the much-vaunted attack to a lone, deflected, goal. Smalling was the man of the match for me, harassing and locking down Duvan Zapata all afternoon, in addition to the vital goal he scored. Roma seemed beyond gassed at the end of the match, a testament to the threat that Atalanta pose, especially with the context that there was no midweek fixture to recover from.
Well, that’s all from me. With a midweek match against Sampdoria on the docket this Wednesday, I’ll be curious as to whether the Giallorossi experience some sort of performance drop-off following an exhaustive effort against Atalanta, or if they’re able to close the year out with a three-game win streak in the league, something that would be a massive springboard for the squad as Roma enter the second half of the season.