Is anybody else longing for the days when matches against bottom-of-the-table sides could be penciled in as an automatic three points, and far more often than not, that prediction would come true? Anybody at all?
Roma has been one of the best teams in Serie A since the restart, and after an emphatic win against Empoli and a full week to prepare, you were inclined to bet the house on Roma continuing their winning ways against Lecce.
Instead, the Giallorossi put in a frustrating performance against Lecce, conceding an own-goal and converting a penalty in a dull affair that ended 1-1.
I’m sure this is a result we all would much rather put in the rearview mirror and forget about, but in any case, let’s take a look at three things I noticed from Roma’s draw with Lecce.
#1: Same old, same old
For as much as we laud this team for their growth on the mental side of the game, there are just some scenarios where Roma are stuck in their ways. Jose Mourinho, post-match, told the media that he’s proud of his players and that it was a difficult match, citing a poor pitch as one of the reasons that Roma couldn’t play their game, but make no mistake, this was a massive wasted opportunity for Roma.
A win would’ve put the Giallorossi joint-second with Inter, and while we still have a long way to go between now and the end of the season with plenty of football left to play, the longer it takes for Roma to develop a stranglehold on a top-four spot the less margin for error come the end of the season.
I’m not sure whether Roma had one eye towards their midweek fixture against RB Salzburg and took Lecce for granted, but this result has the potential to be one that we look back on and rue as a missed opportunity.
#2: Pellegrini Needs a Rest
Across the Romaverse listeners will know my general attitude towards Lorenzo Pellegrini, and while I can’t say I didn't curse at my TV several times during the Lecce match because of the Roma captain’s performance, I can say that I’m not here to pile on him—the man just needs a rest.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. On more than one occasion, José Mourinho has addressed Pellegrini’s recent form, saying that the player has been battling through injury to make himself available and consistently give the team 70+ minutes, which to me suggests that there’s no respite on the horizon for the captain.
But Pellegrini just did not look up for it against Lecce; no moment more telling than when the captain elected to shoot rather than lay the ball off to a wide-open Stephan El Shaarawy making a run into the box, his shot blasting over the goal.
Players are far more prone to making mental errors when less than 100%, and with Roma already struggling enough in the attack as is, playing an unfit Pellegrini will only exacerbate those issues.
With no reinforcements to lean on, Mourinho will have to get creative with his rotations, but the Special One needs to get Pellegrini some rest. Roma can’t afford to have a player of Pellegrini’s importance have an extended poor run of form.
#3: Free Agents to the Rescue?
It’s been a running theme for some time now, but Roma’s depth is such a weakness for this club. The Special One opted to wait until the 83rd minute to make his first substitutions of the match, with Andrea Belotti and Gini Wijnaldum coming on and Ola Solbakken coming on five minutes later for a brief cameo.
You could argue that Mourinho should've thrown on Belotti and some of the youngsters earlier in the match, but for Gini and Ola, they’re still not 100% up to full speed, so I’d argue that they came on at the appropriate time, given the personnel already on the pitch.
With Zaniolo long gone and Pellegrini struggling for form in an increasingly worrying fashion, it might be time for Tiago Pinto to look hard at bringing in a free agent for the attack.
Roma have been linked to Isco in recent days once again, and sure, you’ll potentially have the same issues with an adaptation period, but Roma could do much worse than the former Real Madrid man (at the right price) for some additional attacking depth.
Well, that’s all from me. Despite the disappointment against Lecce, Roma will have to pick themselves up in advance of the first leg of their Europa League clash with RB Salzburg on Thursday. Knockout football is Mourinho’s specialty, so expect the Giallorossi to put in a much better performance.