As Roma raced in to a 3-0 lead during the opening 45 minutes in Bergamo, the second half was expected to be a procession. The Lupi were in complete control after an Edin Dzeko double and Stephan El Shaarawy strike, and merely had to maintain concentration to claim all three points.
Of course, what followed has been well-documented, highlighting the defensive frailties which could ultimately be the difference between playing against Europe’s elite and Thursday night football during the 2019-20 calendar.
Despite all betting sites odds and earthly logic, the Giallorossi failed to see out the match, squandering their advantage and were even fortunate to come away with a share of the spoils, as Colombian hotshot Duvan Zapata fluffed his penalty. Even that wasn’t enough of a let-off, as the same player did get the equaliser 45 seconds later.
The Lupi survived another scare from Torino on January 19 to see out the clash 3-2. The statistics are shocking, as after 21 rounds Roma have already conceded 29 goals. Throughout all of the 2017-18 Serie A season, this same team let in 28.
As it stands, Roma sit in fifth, just one point off this weekend’s opponents Milan, and while much has justifiably been made of the starlets at Eusebio Di Francesco’s disposal, there must be a balance throughout the starting line-up.
Though the former Sassuolo tactician’s belief in youth is to be admired, fielding Bryan Cristante, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Cengiz Under, NicolòZaniolo and Justin Kluivert all from the opening whistle is not functional. The oldest member of the quintet is Cristante at 23, and it is unrealistic to expect the former Dea man to hold the midfield together – not just singlehandedly, but because it isn’t his natural role.
Meanwhile, Under, Zaniolo, Kluivert and Pellegrini only have one focus, and that is to attack, which has impacted on the team defensively. The exciting talents have not shown a willingness to defend from the front or track back, therefore leaving the backline regularly exposed. It would be worth considering switching to a 4-3-3 and putting at least one of Pastore, Daniele De Rossi or Steven Nzonzi in the team to add a bit of experience and stability.
To some extent, Di Francesco has been forced to go on the front foot given the Giallorossi’s ongoing injuries issues and De Rossi has been a huge miss. The World Cup winner may be 35 years old, but is still one of the most consistent and influential performers at the club and the standout option to sit at the base of the midfield.
Elsewhere, Aleksandar Kolarov’s powers are finally beginning to wane after forging a career up and down the left flank, while Federico Fazio has struggled to recapture the formidable form that saw Roma sign the big centre-half outright from Spurs in 2017.
Of course, Di Francesco will have to completely revamp his midfield against Milan, as both Nzonzi and Cristante are suspended. It could be a sign of what is to come for Roma, or simply provide an even bigger gap for Krzysztof Piatek to relish.