If you were surprised by Roma's stunning reversal of fortune against Genoa yesterday afternoon, cherish that innocence; this club, this league, and its officials will wear you down without batting an eye. In what feels like a bi-weekly occurrence, Roma's right to self-determination was stripped away by some questionable officiating, which this weekend took the form of a controversial foul call on Tammy Abraham in the buildup to Nicolo Zaniolo's stunning would-be 90th-minute match-winner.
This is a bit beyond the scope of Sinners & Saints, but you be the judge:
Thanks to that ex post facto decision, Roma were forced to swallow a bitter pill, as they watched a thrilling victory become a deflating draw. Despite that disappointment, we shall prevail, and part of moving on means focusing on the positives, so let's kick off this Sunday with some halos!
Yes, I'm courting controversy already. Scour the usual football sites and you'll see a wide range of match ratings for The Kid, with Zaniolo alternatively playing the role of martyr and villain. The truth, as always, rests somewhere in between. Sure, the red card was a disappointing end to what was an otherwise solid performance, but given the circumstances, can you blame the kid (lower case this time) for lashing out the way he did?
Take away his demonstrative response, and the case for Zaniolo's sainthood against Genoa becomes a no-brainer. In 90 minutes, Zaniolo was at the center of nearly every functional forward move Roma managed last night, completing 77% of his passes (including all four of his long attempts), pulling off five successful dribbles, drawing three fouls (which seems absurdly low) and chipping in three key passes from only 13 total passes—in other words, nearly a quarter of all his passes created shots for his teammates. He also averaged a game-high 33.01 km/h while sprinting, the fastest mark of any player on the pitch.
Much like the match itself, the ending was bitter but Zaniolo was fantastic on Saturday; he finally seems to be finding his groove.
His passing wasn't as crisp as normal, though he did complete six of twelve long balls, but Smalling was swarming all over the backline. Going the full 90 (and then some), Smalling won 90% of his duels, cleared five balls, blocked four shots, completed one tackle, managed one interception, and made 13 recoveries, the second-highest mark in the match.
Yup. The increasingly maligned Canadian/Italian hybrid was sensational last night. With 18 balls into the final third, nine long balls completed, two key passes, and a match-high 53 passes completed, Cristante did his best Andrea Pirlo impression against Genoa. Throw in his three clearances, four tackles, and one interception, and Cristante came in quite handy for José Mourinho yesterday.
Despite all the slings and arrows hurled in his direction, this is why Cristante remains employed by Roma. You take the good and you take the bad with Cristante, but there’s no denying it: the guy can pass the ball with the best of them.
While you didn't hear his name on the broadcast too often, Ibañez was solid as they come against Genoa. In 90 minutes, Ibañez completed 85% of his passes, including eight of fourteen long balls, won nine duels, cleared five balls, blocked one shot, made 13 recoveries, picked off four passes, and even completed two dribbles for good measure.
He didn't match his previous Roma highs, but Sérgio was right behind Zaniolo in the attacking hierarchy. In only 57 minutes, Sérgio chipped in three key passes, hit on four of five long balls, fired one shot on target, and threw in one clearance and two tackles on the defensive end.
In 71 minutes, Karsdorp did his damndest to move things forward, creating four scoring chances (including one big chance) completing two-of-two long balls, while maintaining an average of 32.32 km/h while sprinting,
Roma's stand-in captain turned in a quiet but solid all-around effort in 90 minutes against Genoa. In addition to completing 80% of his passes, including five of nine long balls and two key passes, Mancini won seven of twelve duels, cleared one ball, picked off two more, and made two successful tackles.
Per usual, Patricio was ready when called upon, stopping all three shots he faced Saturday afternoon at the Stadio Olimpico. In addition to keeping the ball out of the back of the net, Patricio completed an impressive 11 of 17 long passes.
As you may have guessed by the lengthy list of saints, there were no sinners from yesterday's performance. Despite how much noise this match made in the press, none of the men in maroon did anything particularly poor in yesterday's scoreless draw, so let's wrap up it with the folks stuck in between.
Stuck In Between
- Stephan El Shaarawy: From a pure chances created per minute ratio, SES was fantastic, chipping in two key passes in only 33 minutes. El Shaarawy also ripped off a match-high five shots in his cameo, though none were on target while he ignored multiple options on his one-man 40-meter fast break. When you play this sparingly, you have to produce when called upon, and El Shaarawy, though certainly active, didn't make a difference when it mattered most against Genoa. He'll likely remain the first option off the bench, but he definitely needs to be more efficient.
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan: He completed 85% of his passes and put his only shot attempt on target but didn’t really make a dent in the final third.
- Tammy Abraham: While he managed three shot attempts, two were blocked while the third completely missed the mark. After a terrific January in which he scored five goals, Abraham was due for a subdued performance; it was just that kind of day for Tammy Two Goals.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles: He was a perfect two-for-two on dribble attempts and intercepted one pass but completed only 60% of his passes and lost possession 20 times.
- Jordan Veretout: In only 19 minutes, Veretout completed all 18 of his pass attempts and provided two key passes. Pretty, pretty, pretty good.
- Felix Afena-Gyan: He ran his ass off and made two tackles but failed to really make an impact yesterday.
That's it for today's rendition of Sinners & Saints but we'll see you back here after Roma's cup match against Inter Milan on Tuesday.