When Roma signed Paulo Dybala last summer, expectations ran wild. From thoughts of Dybala rewriting the club record books to La Joya turning Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolo Zaniolo into superstars by association, Roma fans let their imaginations off the leash. Hell, yours truly tipped Roma to win the Scudetto (there's still time!), but I'm not sure many of us expected this.
And what do I mean by this, exactly? Allow me to elaborate.
Rather than Dybala's tide lifting the rest of Roma's boats, the 29-year-old Argentine attacker has become the boat itself: the life jackets, the emergency oars, the signal flares, the tow ropes, the whole shebang. Shit, given how often he has to pull Roma's ass out of the water, he might as well be the entire coastguard.
Dybala has been as advertised, but thanks to underwhelming performances from nearly every other marquee player, the club has barely kept its head above water without him. And Thursday's Coppa Italia contest against Genoa was no exception.
After another frustrating performance in which the Giallorossi were piling up shots and corners at the ready with nothing to show for it, Roma was forced once again to rely on Dybala, who bailed them out with a slick 64th-minute goal.
Surely the Roma brass knows they have to give Dybala some help this summer, so let's stow away the nautical metaphors for now and pass out some halos.
The statistics (two shots on goals, one dribble, and one accurate cross) won't bowl you over, but remove Dybala from the equation and place any other Roma player in that exact same situation at that exact same moment, and I'm not sure the results are the same. Even in microdoses, Dybala does more than any of his teammates to impact the bottom line.
Despite everything we said, Roma's second banana had a pretty decent 45 minutes last night. A surprising exclusion from the second half (he was actually subbed off for Dybala), Pellegrini was pretty productive in the first half: four key passes, two shots (including one that struck the woodwork), and 4-9 on crosses.
Given how lopsided yesterday's match was on the stat sheets, the numbers won't tell the entire story on Mancini. In 90 minutes, the walking yellow card not only avoided the referee's scorn, but he also turned in five clearances, two interceptions, and even two key passes, one of which was a big chance, according to Sofascore.
Matic has only been with the club for a few months, but so far, a pattern seems to be emerging where he coasts by for weeks and then turns in a performance that reminds you why he's played for some of the biggest clubs in the world. Going the full 90 last night, Matic won 67% of his duels, completed three tackles, intercepted three passes, completed four of seven long balls, and created one scoring chance.
After a few months in the darkness, the Zalewski we knew and loved last spring was on full display against Genoa on Thursday. In 75 minutes, the Polish international completed 92% of his passes, including four key passes, won 75% of his duels, and drew three fouls.
While he had a relatively quiet evening, in 90 minutes, Ibañez also won 75% of his duels and completed two tackles while clearing three balls and intercepting two more. Ibañez rounded out his evening with 84% passing, one shot on goal, and five fouls drawn.
While it wasn't necessarily an exciting match, Roma managed to avoid any glaring, match-changing errors, so we'll jump straight to the players stuck between sinners and saints.
Stuck In Between
As you may know, this section is reserved for players who neither shined nor fell behind; consider it our post-match purgatory.
- Marash Kumbulla: Making only his third start of the season, Kumbulla completed 94% of his passes and was among Roma's most active defenders, but a pair of misses in the attacking end nearly ruined the day for Roma.
- Stephan El Shaarawy provided three key passes and fired two shots on goal but wasn't really a direct threat in a match that was screaming for one.
- Tammy Abraham: He managed only two attempts on the night, but you can hardly blame him, considering the almost utter lack of service coming his way.
- Rui Patricio: He wasn't tested much, but add another clean sheet to his Roma tally.
- Edoardo Bove: He showed some good grinta and aggression in the first half, but his performance waned as the match wore on, being dribbled past twice and winning less than 50% of his duels.
- Bryan Cristante: In 29 minutes, Cristante completed 85% of his passes and cleared two balls but was otherwise inert against Genoa.
- Nicolo Zaniolo: You can almost sense the frustration through your screen, can't you? For the umpteenth time this season, we saw The Kid barrel his way through the midfield, use his broad shoulders to shield defenders from the ball, and unfurl a left leg that looks like it was hewn from marble to threaten the goal only to come up empty handed. The worm has to turn at some point; he's too talented to remain stuck in the mud.
- Leonardo Spinazzola: 21 touches in 28 minutes... and that's about it, but imagining the Euro 2020 version of Spinazzola teaming up with Dybala is the stuff of dreams.
- Benjamin Tahirovic: An eight-minute cameo, but this kid clearly has Mourinho's confidence.
That's it for this rendition of S&S. See you on Sunday!