You can usually tell when the screenwriters of a TV series are losing their grip on the story because they start coming up with random and ridiculous plot-twists. You know they've gone off the rails completely, when this barrage of 'I am your father!' revelations stop having any effect on you at all and actually lead you to question how and why you found yourself here, watching what you're watching.
Last night's Roma-Genoa was very much like that: an endless sequence of plot-twists so ridiculous and implausible that when the final whistle blew, nobody was even sure how to feel.
Coach Eusebio Di Francesco himself kicked off the circus as he pulled out of his hat a 3-4-3 formation with a 19-year-old midfielder playing as false nine (Nicolo Zaniolo).
Obviously, as soon as the ball was put into play, the Roma players looked like 11 castaways who had abruptly woken in foreign seas after surviving a storm, so we were all expecting Federico Fazio or Juan Jesus to pick up the Sceptre of Terrible Decisions and gift Genoa a goal.
Instead, here comes the plot-twist! It was goalkeeper Robin Olsen, heretofore as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, who somehow managed to nutmeg himself (this blog is already getting surreal) and give Cesare Prandelli's side the lead.
Now ready for the unexpected, we watch central defender Fazio himself shoot from inside the box and equalise and we think we outsmarted the plot this time, but wait, gotcha! In less than 60 seconds, Genoa score another one and make it 2-1. Who'd have guessed that?
A Roma team ranging from depressed to moribund are already halfway to their locker rooms where they will no doubt throw a quick Farewell and Good Luck party in honour of good man DiFra, but no, gotcha! Justin Kluivert gallops up from the midfield and scores a masterpiece of a goal, completely out of nowhere.
The second half opens with what must be a goal by the Giallorossi – gotcha! Cengiz Under shoots it into orbit with the Christmas Comet, keeping the score level – no, gotcha again! Genoa score 60 seconds after that, to make it – wait, gotcha! VAR rules it out! Gotcha! Bryan Cristante scores, 3-2 for Roma – wait, gotch– it'll be 4-2 with another – no, gotcha – he actually hit the post…
When the game finally shuddered to a halt at that merciful 95', it felt like we had witnessed the birth of a strange new sport; some grotesque hybrid between grass hockey and basketball. You could even call it enjoyable.
But there was one thing that yesterday night's shambles certainly was not, and that is football. That sport as we know it is about organisation and teamwork. Reduced to its elements, it is about strikers whose shots could hit the side of a barn and goalkeepers who are able to use their hands. Almost none of those things were on display.
Genoa themselves were dragged into that monstrous tactical black hole, losing all form after an honourable 30 minutes of football. The entire second half wound up as a bizarre show, in which isolated groups of twos and threes lobbed the ball across the pitch so they could watch other groups doing something else with it.
There were a couple of beautiful goals, sure, but they seemed to happen in a bubble, with no proper plan behind them and little or no work done to prevent them. This was football the way that 10-year-olds play it, with the exception – he deserves this mention – of Bryan Cristante, last night a man among boys. The 23-year-old was everywhere, running, fighting, scoring and carrying Roma on his back with an attitude that finally seemed to justify his expensive signing.
Di Francesco's crisis has by now reached a depth that nobody could have anticipated. Roma have scraped the bottom of the barrel in their recent past under Coaches like Luis Enrique and Rudi Garcia, when they were playing some truly terrible football. But at least it was football.
One can only hope that things will improve from here, but the next game happens to be an away trip to Juventus. Which Roma will totally win. Gotcha!