Wednesday November 28 2018
Roma are beyond baffling

The way they lost to Real Madrid exposed Roma's myriad contradictions, which Andrea Tallarita is still struggling to account for.

When the whistle blew at the end of Roma 0-2 Real Madrid, anyone looking around in the Stadio Olimpico would have thought the club's situation was crystal-clear. The enraged expressions, the mumbled insults to players and staff, the drooping flags: everything bore the traits of irredeemable failure.

One would certainly not have guessed that this was the evening in which Roma, a team famous for flaking on the grand European stage, had secured qualification to the Last 16 of the Champions League with a game to spare.

This is far from the only oddity about this year's most inconsistent, most baffling team in Serie A. The very loss to Real Madrid showed us a string of performances by the players which no scout last summer would have had the faintest chance of predicting.

It seemed reasonable to expect, for example, that Nicolò Zaniolo - the 19-year-old imported from Inter as part of the controversial Radja Nainggolan deal - would still be warming the bench at this point. Perhaps he might have enjoyed a handful of endgame minutes against the likes of Parma or Cagliari.

Zaniolo was surprising yesterday not just because he started a Champions League game against Real Madrid (it is in fact the second time this happened), but because he was by far Roma's best man on the pitch. For the 69 minutes that his teenage muscles held, he bossed the midfield, held on to the ball, distributed play, and shelled out assists like it was still Black Friday. On the evening that Francesco Totti was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame, it felt at times like his younger self was back on the pitch.

No less mystifying was the performance of another of the Giallorossi's many prospects, 21-year-old winger Cengiz Under. After lording Serie A on his debut season, most of us expected the young Turk to truly explode this year. Not only did this not happen, he has dramatically regressed. Last night he was so bad that he arguably cost his team the game, missing a spectacular sitter (courtesy of a brilliant Zaniolo play), fluffing crosses and dribbles alike, and repeatedly giving away possession.

Under was not the only disappointment. He was rivalled by Patrik Schick, who seemed keen to remind us who the club's greatest waste of money was, first by shooting a golden ball square into the body of a defender, then by showing us his best impression of a tree at the very instant when he should have been pouncing on a Justin Kluivert assist. The most I can say is that he was not as wildly unpredictable as his teammates - many have long been doubtful that the Czech striker would live up to his price-tag, and now all of us are certain that he won't.

Had I more space, I'd happily extend this argument to touch on Bryan Cristante, Stephan El Shaarawy, Justin Kluivert, and maybe even Alessandro Florenzi, who somehow dribbles like a god and then crosses like a dog, but we must gloss, and turn our attention to the Romanisti's favourite pinata model for November, Coach Eusebio Di Francesco.

Given the erratic tendencies of his players, to say nothing of their injuries, I'm not sure how much of the blame for Roma's inconsistency can be laid on his shoulders. The man rectified his old 4-3-3 very effectively by reframing Lorenzo Pellegrini as trequartista in a 4-2-3-1, but his team still has a lot of trouble when it comes to producing goals. Some of his players are blooming (Zaniolo, Pellegrini) while others are withering (Under, Schick). His record this season is solid in Europe, and embarrassing in Serie A.

Early in the season I said that more time was needed to evaluate DiFra as a Coach. Three months have gone by, and I still have no idea how to rank him or what his real strengths and weaknesses are. Fans are clamouring for his head, but I expect neither they, nor we, nor EDF himself, could unravel the whirlwind of contradictions that is Roma.

Perhaps what the capital needs more than anything, at this point, is perspective. Roma's primary objectives for this season were, and remain, a dignified Champions League campaign (meaning knock-out stages), and a top four finish in Serie A. The former has been secured, and with 25 games still to play in the championship, there is ample room to cancel that moderate four-point gap with fourth-placed Lazio.

Roma are not in a bad place, or if they are, it's not one they cannot get out of. But they absolutely need to address their inconsistencies, and for the second half of this season, their domestic efficiency must improve, vastly. Does all of this require sacking Di Francesco? Remember what football fans too easily dismiss: "I don't know" is also a valid answer.

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Have your say...
Di Francesco must share the blame for constructing a team completely lacking in personality and with a confused tactical identity (slow players playing a high line in defence, passing the ball around aimlessly and failing to press the opposition in midfield). He has also persisted with the "Senators" for too long (especially Dzeko) and presided over worsening player fitness. The only thing keeping him in the job is the lack of an alternative.
on the 30th November, 2018 at 6:21am
Pallotta is only interested in constructing the new stadium so he can re-sell the club at a profit. Buying young players who can be sold at a profit (thanks Monchi) is fully consistent with this - a financially successful sporting failure (not even a Coppa Italia or Europa League won). No wonder players lack commitment to the club.
on the 30th November, 2018 at 6:06am
Players like Zaniolo, cristante, Luca and lorenzo pellegrini should always play they are very talented. And next year Roma shoul bring on more italian youngster. I believe with a core of Italian players it will be easier to win the champions league. that was the case in the past Milan, inter and Juve have all won it with many Italian players on the field Not with an abundance of foreing players.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 6:02pm
Difra is one the best Italian coach. He is not afraid to play young italian players who fully deserve their chances. There should be more of him in serie a. Give him time Roma will shine soon. And many of these youngster will shine for the senior italy team also. Difra is at the moment an example to follow and italy will be great again.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 5:50pm
No accountability in the midfield. Zaniolo saved us from getting spanked even worse, he's a glimmer of hope for the future (pending management doesn't sell him). I agree with most of what has been stated in the comments above. Pallotta reminds me of most business owners; he has no problem selling off assets in order to build a stadium. He's basically destroying Roma's soul, overpaying for guys like Schick then selling off Nainggolan and Strootman in our to recoup his costs. Poor management.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 5:25pm
Roma really need to get going with their new stadium. Otherwise they have to sell their best player each year. The atmosphere is less intense with these running tracks. And the stadium is seldom half full.
A modern 52.000 seater is imperative if Rome want to be a top team in Europe.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 11:03am
Lets start by reiterating Roma have finished runners up _9 times_ since last winning scudetto. That’s impressive and .... sad. they couldn’t least win 2 scudetti in those 9 attempts? They flopped much like they do in CL. The legendary Totti had to settle for 1 title and rode the bench in his farewell season Mainly cuz they had to blood the youth, and to make run for title / 2nd place. Never got new stadio.
They made next CL round cuz of in lucky group.
If EDF leaves they be worse off.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 3:03am
Man I thought Juve were wasteful against United in Torino. This was beyond absurd. Unger, hang your head in shame....ahahahahaha.
on the 29th November, 2018 at 2:40am
Can't even beat a Real side that just got beat 3-0 by a small club and are struggling.Both Roma and Inter are poor.
on the 28th November, 2018 at 11:19pm
Feel for EDF. Up against it. When you break Romas play in detail, thya play exciting football and should of put Real to bed last night in the first half alone.

some players are not up to standard, Nzonzi is no where near Naingolan's level. Under not performing like last season, Schick is a gamble not paying off. That's already three starters.
on the 28th November, 2018 at 6:32pm
Not baffling at all This is the logical result of an unambitious club that does a great job of finding and developing promising young players... only to sell them once they get good. There's never any time for continuity to develop because they're always selling players and bringing in new ones. It's clear the club's goal is to make money not challenge for trophies. No manager can succeed under these conditions.
on the 28th November, 2018 at 4:32pm
How is Totti a wasted talent?? It's Roma that gives the youngsters a chance, what would be the more "stable"club?? Inter? Juve? Inter that chose Naingolan over Zaniolo and cash??Would they get more playing time, less pressure? Utter bollocks mate
on the 28th November, 2018 at 4:29pm
I don't think it's baffling. What do you expect when you kept selling your main engines and relying on youngsters? Even Conte, or Zidane won't be able to do better than EDF if they are told to rebuild every year. The problem is Palotta's mindset, not EDF.
on the 28th November, 2018 at 4:03pm
Great to see Zaniolo out there... a promising young Italian.. so few of those, eh?
on the 28th November, 2018 at 3:59pm
@Ade Totti sporting director? This is what Kolarav meant when he said that fans don't understand football. Roma's problem is very apparent. They are a young squad yes, but it's their experienced players that are failing them. Fazio's mistake yesterday is a prime example. Dzeko has been poor in front of goal and Nzonzi/Pastore have been big let downs. Roma has much young talent but need their experienced players to pull their weight. Also leave DiFra alone he's a great coach.
on the 28th November, 2018 at 3:19pm
@Ade If Totti becomes a director Roma can change the name to Costa Concordia :D the guy is only rivaled by Zlatan when it comes to ego and I hope EDF stays!
on the 28th November, 2018 at 2:02pm
I'd like to see them with Conte. Or eventually I'd like to see Zaniolo, and both Lorenzo and Luca Pellegrini leave for more stable clubs... Otherwise its wasted talent again much like De Rossi and Totti.

Roma have never shown signs of consistency even with the change of ownership. They've always been a selling club (apart from tying up their Italians which ruins their chances of progressing).

They need new ownership that will bring them stability. It's always a case of should have with Roma.
on the 28th November, 2018 at 1:11pm
This team is just too inexperienced the pressure obviously got to them that the only way i can't at least explain to myself the misses last night. Roma could been 3-0 up at the end of the first half under should have scored schick should have scored fazio shouldn't have headed the ball back to the keeper and olsen should have made contact on his goal kick.
on the 28th November, 2018 at 1:09pm
Young crop of players give them time
on the 28th November, 2018 at 1:01pm
Please put Totti in charge. With his legendary IQ we will be champions again soon (Champions of Serie B)
on the 28th November, 2018 at 12:27pm
What's Roma's biggest problem?! Well, STOP selling ALL YOUR BEST * MOST EXPERIENCED players... MAYBE crap like this won't happen as often as it does!
on the 28th November, 2018 at 12:08pm
Very terrible set of players, even more so time wasting to watch, Only a Romanista knows what the Romans want, Monchi is a mere professional whose aim is to make profit at the expense of the fans... I can't blame him, Francesco Totti is waiting in the wing to take his job...
on the 28th November, 2018 at 11:58am

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