History could be set to be repeat itself for La Lupa. A second straight strong start to the season under Paulo Fonseca could prove to be another false dawn after a damaging 3-0 derby defeat.
Friday’s meek surrender to archival Lazio is a major cause for concern, especially as it fits into a preoccupying pattern of poor performances against the Peninsula’s premier sides.
Roma’s abysmal record against the big boys over the last 18 months is impossible to ignore. Their only triumph over a top four team in 2019-20 came against a heavily rotated Juventus that had already secured the Scudetto.
This term, they have collected only three points from meetings with Juventus, the Milan clubs, Napoli, Atalanta and Lazio.
Rather than showing signs of progress against the elite, it appears the Giallorossi have regressed.
They have suffered shellackings in Naples, Bergamo and the Eternal City, and their latest lifeless display could send them tumbling down the table as Juve, Atalanta and Lazio are within touching distance from Fonseca’s side in the table.
Even if that worst-case scenario came to pass, there would still be an entire ‘ritorno’ to turn things around.
Yet, a disastrous run of results around this time last year saw the Giallorossi lose touch with the top four, and the way both players and coach cowered in the face of adversity at the Olimpico suggests that the painful lessons of that fallow period have not been heeded.
More spirit must be shown moving forward, and that starts in the dugout. The difference in demeanor between Fonseca and Simone Inzaghi was striking, with the latter constantly cajoling his charges from the edge of his technical area while the Portuguese stayed stoic.
Even after taking a 2-0 lead, the Biancocelesti boss could be seen berating referee Daniele Orsato for a garden variety foul on Felipe Caicedo.
That sharp contrast in comportment is damning for Roma’s head honcho, as is his tardy tactical response to Lazio’s utter domination. The hosts were in complete control of proceedings throughout the second stanza, but Fonseca waited until the 70th minute to switch from a back three to a more adventurous two center-back setup.
The Mozambique-born mister has masterminded some spellbinding attacking showings during his tenure, but Roma’s reputation as one of Serie A’s great entertainers will be all for naught if they cannot secure a top four spot.
Even after a solid run of results in the lead up to Friday’s fiasco (10 points from a previous 12 on offer), La Lupa could be cut adrift in the Champions League chase if they don’t recover quickly.
Upcoming home contests against Spezia and Hellas Verona provide an opportunity to get back on track, and victory in both of those games is imperative.
Yet, a tricky trip to Turin on February 6 to face Juventus could further underline La Lupa’s inferiority complex against Italy’s best. Ultimately, that weakness against the cream of the crop could prove Fonseca’s undoing.