Once again, José Mourinho and Roma are testing the limits of our ability to accentuate the positive. After 93 minutes of absolutely dreadful football, in which Mourinho's men seemed like they were desperately trying to get all the groceries into the house in one trip, the Giallorossi caught a lucky break in stoppage time, picking up a penalty kick after an Udinese handball in the box, one which Lorenzo Pellegrini converted with a flourish.
Luck played a role insofar as you typically don't expect to be bailed out by a 94th-minute penalty call, but once again, Roma showed impressive resolve, fighting till the bitter end to rescue a point after a putrid display in which the club looked incredibly fatigued following the resumption of midweek European play. If you're a sunny-side-up kind of person, the pride and commitment with which Roma has played recently have likely buoyed your spirits. If, however, you're a negative Nancy, then you're likely dismayed by the club's lack of fluidity and killer edge in recent weeks.
The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. However, this is certainly an improvement over last month's results when Roma went 1-3-1 (W-D-L), just barely scarping out a 1-0 win over Spezia thanks to a 99th-minute penalty converted by Tammy Abraham. Were it not for that extremely last-ditch win, Roma would have gone 0-for-February.
Given how poorly Roma fared in the run of play last night, we're really going to have to dig deep to find some halos from yesterday's 1-1 draw, but we'll start with the man in between the sticks.
For much of the season, Patricio's halos have been almost an afterthought; a big save in a clean sheet match here, a timely punch to preserve a draw; that kind of thing. But yesterday, Patricio was arguably the star of the show for the Giallorossi. Given how subdued the match was in general, the black and white stats won't bowl you over (four saves, three in the box) but without multiple key saves down the stretch, Pellegrini's PK would have merely been a footnote on a 2-1 Udinese win rather than a point-saving miracle.
There have been a few minor gaffes this season, but by and large, Patricio has been as advertised: steady as she comes and nearly unflappable in the biggest moments.
Having too many good center-backs is seldom a bad problem. After beginning the campaign with visions of Ibañez and Gianluca Mancini becoming Crocket and Tubbs for the 2020s, Roma's presumed starting pairing gradually gave way to the Chris Smalling and Marash Kumbulla tandem we've seen in recent weeks (not counting the various three-man looks) but Ibañez put in a vintage performance yesterday—to the extent a 23-year-old can do such things.
Going the full 90, Ibañez was all aces: 91% passing, 90% of his duels won, a game-high 119 touches, three clearances, two interceptions, and four tackles. He's still a streaky player but matches like these serve as reminders of his almost limitless potential.
Hey, look at that! Another one of the aforementioned center-backs put on a stellar display against Udinese. In 90 minutes, Smalling completed 99% of his passes (what happened on that one miss, Chris!?), won all four duel attempts, cleared a match-high six balls, blocked one shot, and completed two tackles.
We can say this much about Roma's 20-year-old winger/wing-back: he’s no shrinking violet. Thrust into the starting lineup yesterday, Zalewski responded with 82% passing, 10 duels won, five tackles won, four successful dribbles (from only four attempts), and one foul drawn. Pretty impressive stuff from the young Polish forward.
There were a couple of other close calls on our saints list, but given how poorly Roma's attack fared yesterday, we can't in good conscience include any of Roma's advanced players this time around.
I suppose it's somewhat ironic that we always decried Karsdorp for his inability to stay on the pitch, but Karsdorp's recent struggles likely stem from spending too much time on the pitch. Looking deflated and sapped of energy last night, Karsdorp struggled to make a dent in 76 minutes yesterday, contributing little beyond one key pass and one tackle.
Eldor Shomurodov/Felix Afena-Gyan
We'll lump these two together because they delivered virtually identical performances in their 25-minute cameos last night, combing for 15 touches, one shot on goal (Felix), and one blocked shot (Shomurodov on a near breakaway). Felix can at least use age as an excuse, but Shomurodov's struggles, and his subsequent tumble down the pecking order, have been hard to miss.
Stuck In Between
- Lorenzo Pellegrini: Apart from two shots on goal and one key pass, Pellegrini wasn't overwhelming in the run of play but he saved Roma’s bacon with a beautifully struck penalty kick in the 94th minute.
- Bryan Cristante: A few good counting stats yesterday (four clearances, two tackles, 12 duels won) but his usual crisp passing escaped him.
- Sérgio Oliveira: With two tackles, 79% passing, and one shot on-target, Sérgio had a solid albeit quiet evening against Udinese.
- Gianluca Mancini: Completed 89% of his passes, won two of three duels but was otherwise unnoticeable.
- Nicolo Zaniolo: One shot on goal, two successful dribble attempts, one key pass, and a perfect three-for-three on long passes. A pretty middle-of-the-road performance from Zaniolo, who looked increasingly frustrated as the match carried on.
- Tammy Abraham: We should probably credit the Udinese defense here for effectively removing Abraham from the equation. In 65 minutes played, Abraham only managed one (off-target) attempt on goal and struggled to shake free from the Zebras defense.
- Stephan El Shaarawy: He didn't do much last night, but if Marco Silvestri didn't intercept his low cross into the box, SES likely sets up an equalizer for Roma much sooner, potentially changing the outcome of the match.
- Jordan Veretout: Another brief second-half cameo, Vertout took 25 touches and completed 87% of his passes while having his only attempt on goal blocked.
- Carles Pérez: In 11 minutes, he won both of his duel attempts and completed four of five passes. It's becoming increasingly difficult to envision his future in Rome, but he can be a spark plug under the right circumstances.
We'll see you back in these spaces next weekend!