We'll say this much about Roma's inconsistency this season: it's been consistent. After dropping points to Sassuolo in a bitter 2-2 draw last weekend, José Mourinho and the Giallorossi went straight out and did the same thing: dropping points to Verona in another bitter 2-2 draw. Despite the identical scorelines, there were some subtle yet important distinctions between those two ties. In last weekend's draw, Roma coughed up a lead, allowing Sassuolo to equalize and take the lead before Bryan Cristante saved the day in the 94th minute. While Roma managed not to surrender a lead yesterday, by falling behind 2-0 after only 20 minutes, they dug themselves a grave from which they barely escaped, needing two somewhat lucky goals to claw their way back into the match.
Neither result was ideal, but Roma are certainly better off with those two points than without them, so let's get right down to business.
Trigger warning: If you hate Bryan Cristante, skip the first paragraph...
No, he didn't rescue Roma with a last-minute header this weekend, but the embattled midfielder had a busy and effective evening at the Stadio Olimpico. In 90 minutes against Verona, Cristante completed 78% of his passes, including 12-17 long passes and a game-high 1,320 yards in progressive distance, and played a match-high seven balls into the final third. He also chipped in one key pass, one shot on goal, and one dribble in the attacking phases while completing four tackles and picking off three passes on the defensive end.
The veteran Englishman has struggled for health and consistency lately, but he put his nose to the grindstone last night, completing two tackles, intercepting five passes, clearing three balls, blocking two shots, recovering 18 balls, and winning eight of fifteen duels. With the ball at his feet, Smalling completed 82% of his passes and played two balls into the final third.
Pretty solid night for Smalling all around.
Apologies for burying the lede here, but Roma's adolescent Australian made the most out of his 29-minute cameo, scoring Roma's first goal by lashing onto a loose ball at the edge of the box. He received some help in the form of a late deflection, but Volpato was Johnny-on-the-spot, pegging the ball in the back of the net without batting an eye. In addition to his quick thinking in the 65th minute, Volpato completed 75% of his passes, completed his only dribble attempt, and racked up five progressive carries in only 29 minutes; the third-highest mark among Roma players.
But he wasn't the only teenager to make his mark...
The clean-cut kid who looks like he was torn from the pages of a J. Crew catalog didn't play much last night, but he definitely made the most of his 12-minute stint against Verona, securing a point for Roma with his 84th-minute strike—his only shot attempt of the evening. Considering how little he played, his story necessarily ends there, but for a teenager finding his footing in Serie A, he's achieving perhaps the most important benchmark: looking like he belongs in the big leagues.
These fellas, however, looked completely out of sorts yesterday...
While we wouldn't dare say the bloom is off the rose, the dream start to Oliveira's Roma career already feels like a thing of the past. After kicking off his Giallorossi career with two goals and an assist in his first three matches, Oliveira has hit the skids lately, turning in two clunkers against Sassuolo and now Verona. In 45 minutes of action last night, Sérgio failed to make an impact in midfield, completing 77% of his passes (nearly three percent lower than normal), winning only two of eight duels, while failing to register a shot on goal, key pass, tackle, or interception.
He's still a critical piece of the puzzle, but tempering our expectations should lower our collective stress levels; he was never meant to single-handedly put Roma over the top but he's still a damn fine addition.
It can be hard to precisely quantify a keeper based on one performance, but Patricio made only one save on three attempts, failed to stop all four crosses he faced, and completed only 61% of his passes, including only 41% of his long passes, nearly 20% lower than his season average. His poor rebound control also indirectly set up Verona's first goal. Patricio has been pretty solid this season, but we're starting to see cracks in his armor as we wind our way through the winter.
Apart from one key pass, AMN was practically AWOL in 77 minutes last night, completing 76% of his passes and registering only one successful tackle while being dribbled past a match-worst four times. Outside of defending like a traffic cone, AMN was fine last night, though he certainly struggled to make his mark on either end of the pitch against Verona.
While he remains every bit as intriguing as he did upon his two-goal debut, Afena-Gyan appears to be hitting a wall during his rookie year. In 61 minutes last night, the 19-year-old completed only 60% of his passes, misfired on his only shot attempt, and received only 42% of passes sent his way; the second-worst mark among Roma players.
He's just returning from injury, so we'll cut him some slack, but Pellegrini was still pretty poor against Verona last night. In 90 minutes, Pellegrini was sloppy, ineffective, and careless with the ball, completing only 67% of his passes, while failing to register any key passes and losing possession a match-high 22 times.
Injuries or not, he's too good to play this poorly in such a critical fixture.
Stuck In Between
- Tammy Abraham: Only one shot on goal and 71% passing. He just wasn't that involved last night, which could be a tactical failing on Mourinho's part, but you can't succeed when your top striker is so far removed.
- Rick Karsdorp: 86% passing and two key passes. On a sluggish night for Roma, Karsdorp did his best to keep the Giallorossi afloat.
- Jordan Veretout: Pretty solid in a 45-minute shift, Veretout completed 92% of his passes and hit on 4-4 long balls but went a brutal 0-6 crossing the ball.
- Marash Kumbulla: Another solid evening from the Albanian, who chipped in two clearances, one blocked shot, two interceptions, and one tackle. His passing wasn't as crisp as we've seen in recent weeks, but the steady growth he's shown this season has solidified his place in the club's long-term plans.
- Nicola Zalewski: He completed 74% of his passes, intercepted one pass...and, that was about it.
- Matías Viña: He managed three tackles and was successful in 50% of his pressure attempts but completed a pitiful 43% of his passes.