This season has been a turbulent one for Roma. If you told Romanisti prior to the start of the league campaign that they would be 22 points from the top (which could go back to 25 depending on this weekend’s results) and on the losing side of a 7-1 Coppa Italia result, they would have called you crazy. Unfortunately for the Giallorossi faithful, though, these statements are true.
Heading into their match with Chievo, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side found themselves in joint fifth place and winless in their last three. A noteworthy moment, albeit for the wrong reasons, from this stretch of games was Roma’s failure to hold a 3-0 lead against Atalanta. Their collapse at the Stadio Atleti Azzurri d’Italia and the aforementioned 7-1 defeat to Fiorentina led much of the Stadio Olimpico to boo their own side during the announcement of the starting line-up in their match against Milan. Needless to say, something had to change.
Rock-bottom Chievo provided the Giallorossi with the perfect opportunity to right the ship. Stephan El Shaarawy, Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov all scored in Roma’s 3-0 victory over The Flying Donkeys to kick off the process of winning back the affection of tifosi. Putting another tick in the win column was what Roma needed most.
Roma has seen continued improvement over their past two matches, and 19-year-old Nicolò Zaniolo continues to be a shining light in the middle of the park for Di Francesco. He had been used in the trequartista role, but a move back to midfield in a 4-3-3 seems to be getting the best out of him. It even allows Patrik Schick to play in the same XI as Dzeko without them tripping each other up, a tactical puzzle Di Francesco has been working on for over a year.
Although he didn’t score against Chievo, Zaniolo continued his impressive form and further garnered praise from those in the football world. His presence is a welcome one, seeing as his role as the heir to Francesco Totti’s throne has acted as a silver lining in what has been a tough year for Roma.
The improvement on the pitch has come at the right time for Roma. Inter have continued to drop points, opening up an opportunity for teams to take advantage of the Nerazzurri’s woes. The Giallorossi will have to duke it out with Atalanta and Milan, but the added boost in confidence should do wonders for Roma considering their upcoming Serie A fixtures with Bologna and Frosinone.
The biggest thing that should worry tifosi, though, is Roma’s encounter with Porto. They are currently top of the Portuguese league and were arguably one of the best sides in the Champions League group stages, drawing one and winning five in a row.
The first leg takes place at the Stadio Olimpico and they'll want to create a protective cushion before going to Portugal. Their main concerns will be concentration, intensity and consistency. Roma were able to stop playing completely for a good 30 minutes after going 2-0 up at Chievo and get away with it, but that ugly habit of sitting on a lead and letting momentum evaporate cannot be tolerated.
The mood in Italy’s capital seems to be changing for the good. All of this points towards Roma staying on an upward trend, allowing fans to breathe a little knowing that their side is back and ready to fight.