The Giallorossi got the job done in fine fashion yesterday against Empoli, finding the net twice in quick succession to guarantee the three points while avoiding overly stressing the star players who carry Roma’s hopes for this season on their backs. While the Coppa Italia loss to Cremonese still stings, the competition where Cremonese still has no victories is proving to be much kinder to Mourinho’s men, and you can consider me somewhat confident that I Lupi will get themselves Champions League football for the 2023-2024 season.
Paulo Dybala (Of Course)
It’s no surprise considering his stature in the game, but Paulo Dybala has to be one of the most consistent sainthood recipients at Chiesa di Totti since, well, the patron saint himself. Dybala was everywhere yesterday, notching an 8.4 WhoScored rating, two assists, and a Player of the Match award. This is exactly what The Friedkin Group and Tiago Pinto intended when they brought La Joya in, a star who creates something from nothing and is the closest thing to a Totti successor than anyone else in the Roma orbit has ever been.
While Dybala is no doubt critical to Roma’s potential for success this season, this season’s results are reportedly equally important to Dybala as he decides whether or not to make the Stadio Olimpico his long-term home. We’ll have more to say about the Corriere Dello Sport report that detailed that situation in the next few days, but with matches against Lecce, Verona, and Cremonese on the horizon, the club has a golden opportunity to solidify its hold on a Champions League spot, and therefore Paulo Dybala.
Do whatever superstitious ritual you do to make things go your way before each of those matches, please, because I don’t want to imagine a Roma without Dybala anymore.
Although Paulo Dybala was undoubtedly Roma’s man of the match against Empoli, Tammy Abraham deserves yet another spot among the saints for his contributions on Saturday as well. The Englishman has completely turned around his season since 2023 began, with the return of Paulo Dybala (and maybe the loss of Nicolò Zaniolo?) resulting in Tammy Two Goals rediscovering his scoring boots.
As usual, Abraham’s output against Empoli also showcased far more willingness to work with other forwards than we had seen from him in 2022, which will be critical for the Giallorossi as the season drags on. While it’s certainly useful to have a striker who sometimes can turn on the Selfish Gene and turn a game around by himself, it’s far more important for that striker to know how to work with others to better the entire team.
Abraham is showing he can do just that so far this year, and consider me happier and happier that I invested in a Tammy kit this summer.
If Roma players were all Katy Perry songs (where’s JonAS when you need him?) Roger Ibañez would definitely be Hot N Cold. During some matches, the Brazilian center-back makes me want to destroy my TV because of his boneheaded mistakes that cost Roma points. During other matches, we see his true ability and potential; we see just why the Italian and Brazilian National Teams have been fighting for his services. There’s obviously his second-minute goal that set the tone for Roma’s dominant fifteen minutes of play to start this match, but beyond that, Ibañez once again showed just how easily he can neutralize opposing offenses.
Sure, Empoli aren’t world-beaters, even on their best day, but a huge part of a defender’s development is going from having bursts of excellent play to having consistent excellent play. Roma is currently fighting for a Champions League spot because of its consistently excellent defense; it kept Roma alive during Paulo Dybala’s time injured; and this defensive core will be the foundation for a Scudetto run, if that run ever comes. Assuming he isn’t sold for an exorbitant fee, that defense will be built around Roger Ibañez. Romanisti should be grateful for that.
Stuck In Between
Lorenzo Pellegrini: Even when he doesn’t score or bag an assist, he’s critical by striking fear into the hearts of defenders during set pieces. Dybala may be the Set Piece Master for Roma, but Pellegrini complements him perfectly. Let’s hope Capitano sticks around as Dybala’s running mate for the long haul.
Gianluca Mancini: Mancini put in a good performance as well, but Roger Ibañez wrecked the curve. Sorry, Gianluca. You’ll be back among the saints soon enough.
Chris Smalling: See Mancini.
Bryan Cristante: I will find complete happiness when the Bryan Cristante hate among Romanisti ceases. He’s not a superstar, but he’s a good player for Roma. Please treat him like that.
No sinners today. Clean sheet win means no sinners in my book. If you don’t like it, bring it up with management.