Well, that’s quite the response from the Giallorossi. On the heels of a difficult week for Roma following their defeat to Napoli—where Roma found themselves unable to offload Nicolo Zaniolo and were unceremoniously dumped from the Coppa Italia by Cremonese—the Giallorossi bounced back emphatically by racing out to a very early two-goal lead over Empoli, comfortably seeing out the rest of the match to provisionally climb to third in the table.
Roma would score twice in the opening six minutes of the match, effectively killing off the game from the word go. Paulo Dybala was the man of the hour once again, providing assists to Roger Ibañez and Tammy Abraham in consecutive corner-kick attempts, showcasing once again just how deadly Roma are with the set-piece.
Now that the Giallorossi are finally back to winning ways let’s take a look at three things I noticed from Roma’s comfortable win over Empoli.
#1: Set-Piece Kings
Per WhoScored, Roger Ibañez and Tammy Abraham’s goals were Roma’s 8th and 9th set-piece goals this season, comprising approximately 32% of their total goals for the season.
I don’t know what they’re paying Roma’s set-piece coach, but it’s not enough. What was once an extreme source of frustration, season after season has now become Roma’s most potent weapon. Roma’s set pieces completely overwhelmed Empoli, leaving the visitors confused about how to manage the Giallorossi threat. And the best part is Roma’s set-piece ability obviously extends beyond just the corner kick, including both short and long free-kicks, as well as penalties.
Sure, it’s been a frustrating time for Roma in open play from a goal-scoring standpoint, but the set-piece is such a valuable tool for this club that we’re at the point where we’re starting to expect Roma to score on any given set-piece.
Of course, a large part of Roma’s prowess is due to a man that needs no introduction...
#2: Dybala, Dybala, Dybala....
I mean, what more can we say about La Joya? Another match, another pair of goal contributions for the Argentine forward. With his assists in the second and sixth minute of the match, Paulo becomes the first player to provide two assists in the first six minutes of a Serie A match since 2004-2005, per the league’s official Twitter account. It’s not surprising at this point, but man, what a coup for this club to have secured Paulo’s services.
The question with Dybala was always whether he could stay on the pitch, and unfortunately, Dybala was in quite a bit of pain when he was substituted in the 70th minute, but when he’s out there, Dybala has unquestionably become Roma’s talisman—so fingers crossed, Paulo sustained only a minor knock.
With reports that both Mourinho and Dybala’s futures are tied to Roma’s Champions League qualification, Romanisti will be praying that Dybala continues to deliver that magic.
#3: Operation: Top-Four Moving Right Along
Following the loss to Napoli, the Across the Romaverse crew discussed how February was shaping up to be a strong month for Roma, given the relatively light schedule. And while the loss to Cremonese in the Coppa was a black mark to start, the Giallorossi are right back on track in the league after the Empoli victory.
Don’t look now, but Roma are currently third in the table. Sure, Roma’s top-four rivals have a game in hand, but if Roma are able to run the table in the league the rest of the month, something well within their capacity to accomplish, they could develop a stranglehold on a top-four spot and have the chasing pack in the rearview mirror for the rest of the campaign.
Well, that’s all from me. Roma have an entire week to prepare for Lecce in another early Saturday clash, and with a whole week for Mourinho and Co. to prepare, I expect another three points for Roma in advance of the first leg of their Europa clash with RB Salzburg.