Yesterday's one-nil win over Sampdoria wasn't an exciting match for neutral observers, but then again, one-nil matches aren't typically known for their entertainment value. However, despite the lack of fireworks, yesterday's win over Samp was still a noteworthy occasion. Roma extended their unbeaten Serie A run to 10 matches and did so while playing with poise, aggression, and solidarity. In a word, they're starting to form an identity: a well-organized team capable of playing winning football with or without...the football. Despite losing the possession (and shot) battle, Roma looked in complete control yesterday, seldom rattled by Sampdoria's forward runs and undeterred by Fabio Quagliarella and Antonio Candreva's would-be late heroics.
But the good news didn't stop there. In the marquee matchup of Round 31, Inter Milan eeked out their own one-nil win over Juventus, a result that cuts the gap between fifth place Roma and fourth place Juve to a mere five points—not a small amount by any means, but it should keep Roma's Champions League for next season alive; barely breathing and in the ICU, but alive nonetheless.
We'll have more to say on that in coming weeks, but for now, let's pass out some halos!
Earlier in the season, it seemed like Chris Smalling's Roma career would end on a dour note. After an impressive debut season with the club 2019, the veteran defender has dealt with a spate of minor injuries that caused his form to fluctuate wildly, a pattern that carried into this new season under Mourinho's watchful eye. Fortunately for everyone involved, Smalling has found fresh legs and consistency in 2022—and yesterday was certainly no exception.
In 90 minutes against Samp, Smalling completed 94% of his passes, including all four long passes he attempted, while clearing six balls, blocking three shots and intercepting one pass on the defensive end. Given the paucity of attacking moves from both sides, these numbers look even more impressive.
Another member of Roma's summer transfer class of 2019, Mkhitaryan, much like Smalling, has found new life in 2022. Playing the entire match yesterday, Mkhitaryan scored the game's only goal while completing 85% of his passes, including four of five long balls. Mkhitaryan also chipped in one key pass, played three balls into the final thrid and two more into the penalty area while clearing five balls, interceting two passes and completing two tackles.
Will he be back next season or is Roma's much-maligned midfielder destined for the greener pastures of Juventus? It'll be a few months before we can answer that question, but the 27-year-old midfielder continued to silence his critics yesterday. In 90 minutes against Sampdoria, Cristante, while not at his best, was incredibly active yesterday, completing 78% of his passes, including 80% of his long attempts, while pumping thee balls into the final thrid and playing a Roma-high four progressive passes. Behind the ball, Cristante added three tackles, three blocks, three interceptions and three clearances to the mix.
While he wasn't tested that often, Patricio added to his league-leading cleansheet total (13, tied with Samir Handanovic) after making three saves, including two in the box. I'm sure he'd love to face more shots, but Patricio was spectacular when called upon yesterday.
Unfortunatley, the same cannot be said for the next few names, who failed to pull their weight yesterday.
While he didn't make any game-changing errors yesterday, Oliveira didn't make a dent in 89 minutes on Sunday, failing to register a single shot on goal, key pass, block, clearance or interception. Apart from one tackle and one completed cross (from five attempts), Sérgio was noticeably absent against Samp.
Similar to Sérgio, Abraham didn't necessarily hurt Roma yesterday, but he wasn't up to his usual high standards. With only two shot attempts, neither of which were on target, and one big chance missed (according to SofaScore), Abraham just couldn't find his footing yesterday, but if he converted the pass he essentially stole from Samp keeper Emil Audero, Roma's 1-0 squeaker would have become a more resounding two-nil win. No big deal, he'll be fine.
At this point, you have to feel bad for the kid. Ever the solid citizen, apart from a likely mistranslated quote last week, Shomurodov has seldom, if ever, complained about his diminishing role with the club. Relegated to a late-match sub, Shomurodov offered little in his 10 minute cameo. Admittedly, it's tough to judge a player after such a limited appearance, but Roma aren't exactly getting their money's worth from the 26-year-old attacker, who may be better served finding a new club this summer.
Stuck In Between
- Lorenzo Pellegrini: When he's not scoring golazos or doling out key passes like after dinner mints, Pellegrini tends to fall in our post-match purgatory. In 90 minutes against Sampdoria, Pellegrini was fine: 79% passing, one dribble, two interceptions and two tackles.
- Rick Karsdorp: The Dutchman's 2022 renaissance continued yesterday, as Roma's right-back completed 89% of his passes, while adding two tackles and one dribble to the equation.
- Roger Ibañez: One tackle, three clearances, two interceptions and one tackle. Not the best we've seen out of the young Brazilian, but a solid run under the circumstances.
- Nicola Zalewski: You can't expect a 20-year-old kid to shine every week, and while he wasn't a MOTM candidate, Zalewski still managed three tackles while completing nearly 80% of his passes. He just couldn't get in the flow yesterday, but he still looked like he belonged—his emergence has been one of the surprises of the season for Roma.
- Gianluca Mancini: One clearance, three tackles, 80% passing and zero yellow cards. Not exactly peak Mancini, but we'll take it.
- Matías Viña/Marash Kumbulla/Edoardo Bove: 11 combined minutes and 11 combined touches; not much we can do with that.
With two matches this week, we'll see you back here after Roma's bout with Bodø/Glimt.