When you compare Roma in the present day to what the vibe was around the club around a year ago, it’s pretty much night and day. The Eusebio Di Francesco Experience was starting to reach its final stretch, with the club struggling with inconsistency all over the field and dropping points more often than a sneakerhead drops money on a new pair of Jordans.
This season, though, there’s plenty of optimism about where the team is going.
And rightfully so.
Thanks to first-year manager Paulo Fonseca’s new ideas, Roma enters this weekend’s showdown with Juventus in the fourth and final Champions League spot, with their performances over the course of the last couple of months being about as consistent as Roma’s maybe been in years. (Sidenote: Consistency was an issue last season, so this is most certainly a change for the better.)
Because it is a Juventus-Roma weekend, it’s only right that we have a chat with our old buddy Bren from our sister blog Chiesa Di Totti. Luckily we didn’t ask him about the Chicago Cubs not signing anybody so far during free agency and stuck to calcio, so he’s actually in a good mood.
Away we go ...
BWRAO: No funny introduction here, buddy. Let’s get right to it: Roma was looking good to end the 2019 calendar year. They had gotten all the way up to fourth place in the standings. Things were looking good! Then Sunday’s loss to Torino happened. What the heck happened against Torino?
CDT: Well, in years past that loss would have sent us screaming for the hills, but given how effectively Paulo Fonseca has managed everything else this season, we’re viewing it as just a blip on the radar. They had 31 — 31!!! — shots on goal but managed to only put seven on target. It just wasn’t their day, plain and simple. These sort of matches tend to happen to Roma at least twice a year. I’m confident it’s an anomaly and not a harbinger of doom.
BWRAO: Speaking of that new manager of yours ... This is going to be the final game in the first half of the season. How has the Paulo Fonseca Experience been through the first 18 Serie A fixtures?
CDT: Fonseca Football has taken the capital by storm, not so much in running roughshod over the competition, but the manner in which he’s dealt with an early-season injury crisis, playing players out of position yet never missing a beat and tweaking his tactics as needed. Furthermore, he’s gotten the best out of guys like Jordan Veretout, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Chris Smalling, and Gianluca Mancini, among others. For the first time in many years, it seems like Roma found the right man for the job. The sense of impending doom that was there with EDF and even Spalletti just hasn’t been a factor so far. He’s legit, so much so that we’re now worried he’ll move to a bigger club sooner rather than later.
BWRAO: Simply by looking at the stats, one will see that Roma’s second-leading goal scorer is the club’s starting left back. So, I ask, how was Roma able to get points consistently before Sunday’s 2-0 loss to Torino?
CDT: Well, they’ve only scored two fewer goals than Juventus, so I could ask you the same thing! It’s a fair question, though. The crazy thing is that they haven’t been involved in that many one-goal matches. They’re just getting a good spread of goals from several different players and Kolarov’s performance from set-pieces has certainly helped. Outside of Dzeko’s capo season a few years ago, Roma seldom rely on one single player to shoulder the scoring load, so it’s really not that unusual. They’re top four/five in goals scored and conceded, so their spot on the table is perfectly in line with their actual performance. But yes, it is weird that a LB leads in scoring.
BWRAO: Edin Dzeko BACK?!
CDT: He never really left. Outside of his explosion in 2016-17, he’s always been a 12-15-ish goal sort of player. The only problem with Dzeko, which we saw against Torino over the weekend, is that he’s still such a huge part of their attacking plans that when he’s off the mark, as he was that day, Roma’s offense struggles in kind. It’s hard to believe, but he’s closing in on 100 goals in a Roma shirt, so you’ll get no overall complaints from any of us about Dzeko, but Roma has absolutely no succession plan in place for him. That’s worrisome.
BWRAO: Does Nico Zaniolo and Lorenzo Pellegrini’s potential give you the warm fuzzies inside?
CDT: Absolutely, and I think that potential is already turning into production. Pellegrini missed a solid chunk of time earlier in the year, but is among the league’s assist and key pass leaders, while Zaniolo has six goals and three assists in all competitions. He burst on the scene so quickly that we forget he’s only 20-years-old, but if Roma can hang onto these guys for a long period of time, great things should happen. Pellegrini is the ideal number ten, while Fonseca seems to have found a home on the wing for Zaniolo. Honestly, I can’t think of many better building block tandems in the league, at least not Italian ones.
BWRAO: I gave you my prediction for the match over on your site. What’s your prediction for Sunday’s showdown?
CDT: Hmm, since this one is in Rome, I’m gonna call it a draw. 2-2.