With the top two all but determined in Serie A, the emphasis for both Eusebio Di Francesco and Luciano Spalletti to grasp a Champions league berth couldn’t be more pressing. With Lazio not looking like slowing any time soon, Roma’s 1-1 draw at Inter seems favourable on the face of it. However, a determined Inter earning no less than what they deserved against a Roma side who, at times had no more than 10 outfield players in the box, lures a polarising opinion.
Despite both sides’ recent woes, with Inter in case being winless in Serie A since early December, Di Francesco’s call that Roma need “action, not words” lingers hollow in a sense. The Giallorossi’s performance against a strong, physical Nerazzurri was by no means disheartening. A combative, tactically-smart game, however, suffered from a crippling lack of judgement by Di Francesco as the match wore on. This indecision eventually saw Roma sit yards away from their goal line and thus concede smacks of the naivety that many have suggested still resides at the Olimpico.
Amidst a stressful month, which may see last season’s Capocannoniere Edin Dzeko and talented full-back Emerson Palmieri leave to find their fortunes at Chelsea, Roma’s lack of concentration against Inter does little to ease their growing pains. With increasing fears from fans and former players, as was the case with Zibi Boniek, that the Lupi were being ‘dismantled’ by Monchi, the sporting director himself decided to release a statement, assuring fans that Roma’s lack of resolve is for the greater good.
Such discussion does little to reassure Di Francesco, who undeniably demonstrated exactly why doubt over his experience were valid with his tactical gamble. Roma currently exist in a strange limbo, preoccupied with the transfer window and speculatively searching for sense of direction and end-goal with Monchi at the helm.
Conversely, Spalletti’s decisions lacked questioning after Inter left a lasting impression in fans’ minds after their late game rally against Roma. The Beneamata’s incessant pushing sparked a somewhat valiant chord with their fans, and wholly detracted from what is an increasingly precarious situation. Despite a draw being perfectly acceptable, Inter are now searching for the victory that has cruelly eluded them for over a month. And should their drought continue, expect a change in discord surrounding the Coach.
The Italian’s free pass so far has been somewhat justified. A success story at Roma and a clearly-astute Coach, Spalletti is also a beneficiary of a transfer window, which is the polar opposite to his former paymasters. Lisandro Lopez, a decorated centre-back joining from Benfica, may be enough to pacify Spalletti’s grandmother, but for as long as Inter’s board provide Spalletti with ample ammunition, he cannot afford any more misfires. The ghost of Roberto Mancini’s catastrophic capitulation in in 2016, which saw Inter slip from Champions at Christmas to a measly, fourth-place finish, come May might well be rearing its ugly head, and while the 58-year-old still has credit in the bank, he would be wise to snap Inter out of their limbo and save face.
In what was a strange encounter, both Inter and Roma will no doubt view their clash from different angles. What seemed a bizarrely-unimportant match for Roma, seeing as their focus for concern exists with Monchi potentially disassembling a well-oiled machine, the Giallorossi can afford to ponder Di Francesco’s mistaken gambles, but no more.
The Nerazzurri sit with their hands tied, reassuring themselves that Spalletti will wrong his rights, and they will be hoping to find the grit needed in order to squeeze out a top-four finish. An unsatisfying draw does little to placate either side but prolongs the curious, shape-shifting battle for European football even further.