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Sinners & Saints: Empoli 2, Roma 4

Don't let the second half dampen your spirits. There was an awful lot to like from Roma’s performance last night in Empoli.

Empoli FC v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Yesterday's 4-2 win over Empoli was a study in extremes. From the dizzy highs of a first half in which Roma pumped 13 shots at Guglielmo Vicario's goal, putting seven on target and scoring four goals in a matter of 13 minutes, to an incredibly uneven second half in which Roma conceded 13 shots (including six on target) while allowing two goals (and nearly a third late in regulation), we experienced nearly the entirety of the Roma experience in 90 extremely fast and furious minutes.

Despite the sloppy finish, Roma's emphatic performance in the first half was more than enough to sentence Empoli to their second straight defeat, and the third in their past six matches in all competitions.

Considering that imbalance, we're going to see a pretty healthy spread in our day after player rating series, Sinners & Saints. So, without further ado, let's pass out some halos!

The Saints

Empoli FC v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Tammy Abraham

While he didn't garner Roma's highest match rating, any time you score 50% of the club's goals, you're going to bat leadoff in our lineup of Saints. Going the full 90, Abraham was electric, efficient, and extraordinary against Empoli, firing five shots on goal, including three on target, while also completing 72% of his passes and winning eight duels, including six of ten aerial contests.

You simply cannot say enough about Abraham's first season with Roma: 17 goals (including four braces since late November alone) and three assists in 29 appearances.

€45 million well spent. Start fretting Chelsea's buyback option immediately—if you weren't already.

Sérgio Oliveira

Between the first two names on today's list, Roma GM Tiago Pinto is batting a thousand. In only his second match with the club, the Portuguese midfielder made his countryman look like a genius. In 90+ minutes last night, Oliveira was arguably the best player on the pitch, completing 84% of his passes, including a perfect four-for-four on crosses, winning 10 of 15 duels, picking off three passes, winning five tackles, chipping in five key passes, and providing an assist on Abraham's first goal while also bagging one of his own on a sensational side-footed shot.

We said it last week, but it bears repeating: Oliveira is having a dream start to his Roma career.

Nicolo Zaniolo

After a rough start to 2022, Roma's number 22 appears to be slowly rounding into form. Starting up top next to Abraham, Zaniolo turned in 78 masterful minutes against Empoli, firing two shots on goal, chipping in three key passes, scoring one goal, and setting up another. He still hasn't pulled it all together after missing nearly two years with successive ACL tears, but performances like these give you hope that he'll figure it all out sooner rather than later.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Another quietly excellent evening for Roma's veteran playmaker. In 75 minutes, Mkhitaryan completed 88% of his passes, fired two shots on goal, chipped in three key passes, assisted on Zaniolo's goal, pulled off one successful dribble, and made four recoveries.

Rick Karsdorp

Another quiet contributor, Karsdorp did a little bit of everything last night: 79% passing, 4-6 long balls, 1-1 crosses, one successful dribble, two clearances, one interception, four tackles, nine recoveries, and a club-high 70 touches. His resurgence over the past two years should give you hope that Zaniolo can achieve the same once he's fully recovered.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

Doing his best Francesco Totti impression (low socks, all-black boots), Roma's other Englishman was no slouch against Empoli. Playing at left wing-back, AMN completed 77% of his passes (and overtook an average of four opponents per long ball—the highest mark for any Roma player), fired one shot on goal, completed one dribble, intercepted one pass, and recovered nine balls. It wasn't the glitziest performance from a Roma player, but little by little, we're starting to see what this kid can contribute across the board—another excellent depth signing by Pinto.

Rui Patricio

Facing an unexpectedly busy evening (Empoli fired 16 shots at him), Patricio was up to the task again, making five saves (including three in the box), and had to react in an instant to stop a late Pinamonti header that threatened to pull Empoli within one goal late in the match. He also completed 10 of 20 long balls for good measure.

Considering how thoroughly dominant Roma was in the first half and how flat (but not deflated) they were in the second half, we're going with the rare Saints/no Sinners/Stuck-in-Between mix.

Stuck In Between

Empoli FC v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

These players did a bit of good while making some questionable decisions but otherwise didn't impact the bottom line either way—they were stuck in between flourishing and failure.

  • Gianluca Mancini: He was active on the defensive end (two INTs, three clearances, and two blocks) but his careless clearance indirectly set up Empoli's first goal, while his accidental deflection more or less produced their second goal. There were plenty of touches following said clearance while his subsequent deflection was accidental, so we won’t harangue him for marring an otherwise perfect evening.
  • Roger Ibañez: A couple of nice defensive reads early in the match produced four clearances and two interceptions, but he was otherwise pretty quiet last night.
  • Bryan Cristante: We didn't really hear his name called much at all, which can be considered a sign of progress. In 90 minutes, Cristante had three clearances, three interceptions, and two tackles but his usually crisp passing was missing last night: only 73% overall completion with a pitiful 25% on long passes
  • Chris Smalling: He had a couple of nice moments early on and cleared three balls, but much like Mancini and Ibañez, he didn't really move the needle in either direction.
  • Matías Viña: Only 16 touches and nine passes in 30 minutes, though he did hit on three of four long passes.
  • Jordan Veretout: Seven touches in 15 minutes. If this was his last appearance in a Roma shirt, it was barely noticeable.
  • Felix Afena-Gyan: Only played eight minutes but still managed eight touches and one shot.

That's it for today's rendition of Sinners & Saints. We'll see you back in these spaces after Roma's home tilt against Genoa on February 6th.