Repeat after me: this match didn't matter, this match didn't matter, this match didn't matter. With two games remaining on the Serie A slate and Roma's intrigue whittled all the way down to dispiriting debates about the merits of the UEFA Conference League, I promise that we'll find a new narrative when describing Roma's final two tilts of the season against Lazio and Spezia.
Despite the lack of consequence in yesterday's 3-1 defeat at the San Siro, Roma and Inter Milan treated neutral fans to a surprisingly entertaining affair. After gritting their way through the opening niceties yesterday, the two bitter rivals ripped off roughly 75 minutes of end-to-end attacking football, with the two clubs combining for 34 attempts. And if Roma were a bit more precise in the final third, this could have easily been a five or six-goal barnburner.
As it was, Roma fell to Inter for the first time since round two of the 2017-2018 season; another 3-1 defeat, one in which possible future Roma striker Mauro Icardi bagged a brace, canceling out Edin Dzeko's opening goal.
With José Mourinho set to takeover Roma at the end of the season, next year's Roma-Inter fixtures should be epic, but for now, let's pass out some halos and sharpen our pitchforks.
Making only his ninth appearance of the season, Santon had a rough go of it yesterday evening and was incredibly lucky he wasn't given a straight red when he horse-collar tackled Alexis Sanchez in the first half, after slipping while trying to intercept a pass. Santon may have connected on every single one of his 39 passes, but the plaudits end there.
Santon has one year remaining on his deal with Roma, and unless Mourinho has some grand plans for him, a repeat of this year seems on the cards for Santon. Will he remain satisfied riding the pine or will he finally accept a move to a smaller club?
From moments of poise and polish that belie his 21 years to stretches where he looks like a complete fish out of water, Marash Kumbulla has been all over the map during his first season with Roma. The talent is obvious, but his detractors would have you believe he's first up in Mourinho’s firing line come July 1st. And with 90 minutes in absentia yesterday against Inter, he did little to build his case.
Kumbulla completed 95% of his passes and managed four tackles yesterday, but he struggled mightily against the likes of Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku. He's hardly the only defender to come under their thumb, but one of Kumbulla, Gianluca Mancini, Roger Ibañez, or Chris Smalling will end up on the outside looking in Roma’s defensive rotation next season.
He's still well built and athletic as the day is long, but Fuzato needs more seasoning before we can even begin to speculate about his future. He won't be Roma's starter next season, and probably not even the number two, but the club still needs to sort out his future—get him a loan somewhere he'll actually play next year and then make your decisions.
There was a time, not that long ago, where Mkhitaryan was a lock for weekly Serie A sainthood. Roma's double-double magician hit a bit of a rough patch in 2021 but has seemingly come to life over the past two to three matches. In addition to scoring Roma's only goal yesterday—his 11th Serie A strike this year—Mkhitaryan managed two shots on goal (both on target), chipped in three key passes, one successful dribble, and three tackles.
Given his checkered history with Mourinho, his Roma future remains up in the air, but even if Roma leans hard into the youth movement, they'll need a veteran presence like Mkhitaryan. And, as his performance this season proves, he's still got plenty of life left in those legs.
Another veteran finishing the season on a high note, Dzeko was denied by the post yesterday but set up Mkhitaryan's goal with a lovely settle/turn/touch/pass maneuver. Dzeko played the entire match yesterday and ripped off four shots (one on target), chipped in three key passes, won five aerials, completed one successful dribble, and hit on one of two long passes.
Stuck In Between
These players did some good against Inter but came up just shy of being canonized
Ebrima Darboe: After an impressive run against Crotone last weekend, Darboe showed his youth and inexperience yesterday. He completed 95% of his passes, set up one shot, and completed three dribbles but otherwise looked overmatched by Inter, particularly when he tried to slow down Lukaku and Martinez—though there's certainly no shame in that. Darboe committed one glaring error that led to an Inter shot and was booked after only six minutes.
Bryan Cristante: Three shots, two tackles, and two clearances highlighted his evening but Cristante wasn't able to really get in the flow attack yesterday. And while I can't speak for all Roma fans, I certainly feel better about his place on the club than I did a year ago.
Stephan El Shaarawy: In just 45 minutes, SES was arguably Roma's most dangerous attacker yesterday (five key passes), frequently carving out space down the left flank and nearly had a goal late in the match but was robbed of the opportunity thanks to a last-ditch clearance from Ranocchia.
Lorenzo Pellegrini: The good included four shots and nearly 90% passing while the bad was marred by 1-10 crossing and one pitiful shot attempt in the box off a Dzeko headed pass.
We only have two more S&Ss left this season, so let's hope Roma gives us more reason to smile over the next 10 days.