Saturday December 30 2017
Di Francesco flourishing at Roma

As the Coach prepares to face his old club Sassuolo, Emmet Gates tracks Eusebio Di Francesco's tactical approach and transformation of Roma.

Even at this early stage of his tenure in the capital, Eusebio Di Francesco has exceeded all expectations. By mid-December, Roma were sitting on 38 points from 16 games, a feat achieved by only two men in Roma’s history: Rudi Garcia in 2013-14 and Fabio Capello in Roma’s title winning campaign of 2000-01.

Whilst it’s hard to envision Di Francesco emulating Capello and wrestling the title from Turin at this juncture, the man who lifted the Scudetto as a Roma player is constructing a team capable of doing so in future.

Dating back to the first Luciano Spalletti era, Roma have been a side renowned for playing at times some truly breath-taking football, but always defensively suspect. Infamous capitulations to Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Barcelona over the years proved that there’s a soft underbelly at the heart of the Roma backline.

Yet Di Francesco has changed that mentality, as despite losing Antonio Rudiger last summer, Roma have conceded the fewest goals in the league, the third-best defensive record in European football this season. It’s a statistic that’s rarely associated with Roma, but Di Francesco has made them much more compact and resolute.

Di Francesco’s tactical ideology has, by his own admission, scarcely changed from his time at Sassuolo. His 4-3-3, when in possession, morphs into a 4-5-1 when defending. Himself a solid if not spectacular winger, Di Francesco demands his wingers track back diligently in support of the midfield three, yet it is this factor that is thought to be stifling Roma’s ability to score goals.

Mohamed Salah’s departure has hurt the Giallorossi’s ability to effectively switch into a counter-attack, especially in battles against top sides, when space opens up. Diego Perotti and Stephan El Shaarawy are certainly no slouches, but they can’t compare to the blistering pace of the Egyptian.

The evidence is in the numbers: Roma have scored fewer goals than any of the other Scudetto challengers, and in direct matches against the top six, they’ve scored a paltry five goals (they’ve yet to play Sampdoria). Roma have almost become un-Roma like.

In the second half of the season, Di Francesco will be searching to rectify Roma’s lack of goals. However, there’s little doubt of the impact he has made in the Eternal City.

The old mantra of ‘defence wins championships’ isn’t particularly true in the modern game, but having a secure backline will go a long way. And Di Francesco has, so far, accomplished that. 

Have your say...
january is big for his team. atalanta at olimpico, then inter, and sampa 2x. an impressive run would do a lot heading into matchup with Shaktar
on the 3rd January, 2018 at 12:20am
I believe Roma will get 3rd place. With Lazio, and Inter fighting for the last spot.

Forza Juve
on the 2nd January, 2018 at 2:53am
At least we can probably sign Shick as soon as Roma feels he's a bust. Then he can play for a real team, and develop into the star we know he can be.
on the 1st January, 2018 at 11:11pm
It seems to me that EDF is getting praise for his team beating Chelsea as let’s be frank they have been ordinary in almost every other game. They struggled against whipping boys of that group, Atletico Madrid were better in both games; they are no longer fun to watch as they limp through games and Schik has been horrid as they try to incorporate him into the side. They are no longer a dream to watch for neutrals.
on the 30th December, 2017 at 10:04pm
If by flourishing you mean finishing in worse position than last season then you would be right. EDF needs to change and change quick or he is out of the job in March.
on the 30th December, 2017 at 8:14pm
getting poorer and poorer as the season continues. they cant score
on the 30th December, 2017 at 4:37pm
I have to say I thought Roma would struggle based on their start to the season, however the performances against Chelsea, and tight defensive unit. nothing like the Roma of the past
on the 30th December, 2017 at 11:45am
Yes he can flourish somewhere around 3rd or 4th spot
on the 30th December, 2017 at 8:15am

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