Sometimes a victory doesn't feel like a victory. Sure, the scoreboard fell in your favor, but when the path to three points was full of potholes and jagged shards of glass, the sense of satisfaction that normally accompanies success is missing. That was certainly the case in Roma's narrow one-nil win over Udinese at the Stadio Olimpico yesterday. The Giallorossi won the day thanks to Tammy Abraham's first-half goal, but the overall product lacked the usual vim and vigor we've seen in the earliest days of the José Mourinho era.
In the days leading up to Thursday's fixture, we asked how Roma would respond to the first defeat of the season. Would they overcompensate for last weekend’s loss to Hellas Verona by hunting for an early goal against Udinese? Would they bide their time and wait for Udine to exhaust themselves and then pounce later in the match? Or would they act like Udinese didn't even exist and simply go about their business as usual?
The truth lies somewhere in between those three approaches. Roma certainly came out with guns blazing yesterday and could have broken the match wide open early in the first half were it not for two shots striking the goal frame, but they simply couldn't sustain that pace for 90 minutes and frequently left the door open for a late Udinese equalizer.
In the end, our worrying was academic: Roma won and that's all that matters. But that won't stop us from separating the wheat from the chaff.
When you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Roma's captain has been their best player through the first several weeks of the new season, but their over-reliance on Pellegrini bit them in the ass yesterday. His questionable sending off notwithstanding, Roma's number seven wasn't exactly his best self against Udinese.
Before being ousted for a second yellow card late in the match, Pellegrini lacked his usual effectiveness, seeing two of his three shots blocked, winning only one of 10 duels, and losing possession 16 times; the highest mark of any Roma player.
The second yellow card was the crescendo on Pellegrini's evening. Actually, I guess it would be the opposite of a crescendo, which is...checking Google...decrescendo...seriously?
He'll be fine, but yesterday wasn't a banner day for Pellegrini.
For the second consecutive match, our top-rated U-23 player looked a bit out of sorts. While Zaniolo's struggles aren't harming Roma, per se, he's definitely capable of better performances than we've seen over the past 10 days or so. In 73 minutes yesterday, Zaniolo managed three shots, none of which were on target—though he did strike the woodwork with an acute-angled header early in the first half—and lost possession 14 times while failing to register any key passes, completed crosses, or accurate long balls.
Zaniolo may be coming off two major knee injuries, but Roma needs more from their budding superstar if they have any chance of sustaining their winning ways. Better days are ahead but right now Zaniolo is struggling to make his mark.
With two shots, one goal, three dribbles, and two tackles, Abraham was quite busy in his first match against Udinese and good things seemed to happen whenever the ball came near the lanky number nine. Starting with his superb finish on the only goal of the match, Abraham was seemingly always where Roma needed him to be. His passing left a bit to be desired yesterday, but Abraham is covering more ground, getting involved in more link-up play, and doing more dirty work than we ever imagined when Roma spent 45 large on him this summer.
Whether it's his relationship with Mourinho, the change in scenery, or simply the just rewards for all his hard work, Tammy Abraham has the makings of a star player. This will be 45 million well spent.
I mean, for the bloody gash on his head alone he deserves sainthood, but Roma's vice-captain put on a show yesterday. In 90 minutes, Mancini took 81 touches (second-most) while completing 96% of his passes, clearing two balls (including one off the goal line), blocking one shot, and completing two tackles. Mancini also hit on three of five long balls while winning four of seven duels.
Bruised, bloodied, and bandaged, Mancini showed a strength of character, passion, and dedication not seen since Daniele De Rossi's roars echoed off the highest reaches of the Stadio Olimpico.
Micki may have gotten lost in the shuffle yesterday, but the stat sheet was kind to Roma's playmaker. In 90 minutes against Udinese, Mkhitaryan took two shots (hitting the woodwork once), completed 82% of his passes, created three scoring chances, drew four fouls, and won eight ground duels. Mkhitaryan also chipped in four tackles to the cause and was a perfect three-for-three on long passes.
Sometimes words fail, so just enjoy the sheer strength displayed by Roma's 19-year-old fullback.
Even with Calafiori moving with all the speed and grace of a toddler stuffed into a one-piece snowsuit, he did exceptionally well to retain possession here, even with the defender repeatedly trying to knock him off the ball. And to cap it all off, he played a dynamite low ball into the box to set up the only goal of the night, threading the ball past the diving keeper to Abraham at the near post.
I don't know, call it a hunch, but this kid might be good someday.
Stuck In Between
- Rick Karsdorp: Five tackles, one interception, two clearances, one key pass, and 82% completion. Not bad at all.
- Bryan Cristante: Some careless ball possession at points, but Cristante still managed two key passes, one dribble, and four interceptions. He continues to confound.
- Jordan Veretout: 93% passing, four clearances, one tackle, one interception and a perfect eight-for-eight on long balls.
- Rui Patricio: Roma didn't need him often yesterday, but he made two crucial saves down the stretch to preserve the lead.
Be happy for yesterday's win, but expect a better performance this Sunday against Lazio—we want nothing but hallows after the derby.