When Roma defeated Atalanta at the weekend 1-0 thanks to a goal from new signing Alexander Kolarov, social media was ablaze with various hot takes about the game and how Eusebio Di Francesco’s side looked in their first outing. The vast majority of people were not impressed. They were happy that Roma picked up the win in what was a potentially tricky tie, but nevertheless a lot of people were underwhelmed.
Admittedly, it wasn’t the most exciting game to watch, whether as a fan or a neutral, but at such an early stage in the season, that’s almost to be expected. Even Di Francesco admitted that it was an “ugly victory” and that is what Roma needed, an ugly victory. Many times last season we were delighted by some of the attacking play that Roma had to offer and questioned if they had the toughness, both mentally and physically, to go that extra mile and capture a trophy.
EDF may have said that this was an ugly win and, whilst he’s correct in that analysis, it was also a hugely important style of victory for the club. Roma lost seven games and drew three last season, with one loss and one draw coming from the two games against Atalanta, so this is a bigger result than many give it credit for.
It’s easy to look back on last season and say that Roma shouldn’t have lost to Sampdoria and Fiorentina, and they certainly shouldn’t have drawn against Empoli and Cagliari, but ultimately those results cost them the Scudetto. If Roma can secure some of the tougher victories in games they should be picking up maximum points in, then they will reach the heights and targets they have set for themselves.
Atalanta may have pressed them towards the end and maybe with some better finishing they could have stolen a point or three, but throughout the game Roma looked rigid. They weren’t exactly exciting going forward, not like they used to be, but EDF will have a tough job in maintaining that incredible attacking level without the likes of Mohamed Salah.
It will be hard for Di Francesco to improve this Roma side, scoring 90 goals last season and conceding 38, but everyone will know that Di Francesco needs to make this new set of players not only try to keep that level of attacking prowess and defensive solidity, but also have the right mentality of not caving in at vital moments. It’s something they did various times in Serie A, in the Champions League play-offs against Porto and eventually in the Europa League quarter-finals against Lyon.
This Atalanta victory could be just a flash in the pan, but it’s not so easy to just throw this result away given the changes at the club. More business could be done to bolster the bench and maybe add another dimension to the starting XI, but the victory signals the start of something new at Roma. Ugly victories may not be nice to watch or pleasing on the eye, but it’s what they needed and it could be what gets them back in the Champions League next season.