Roma lack balance, Roma defend badly, Roma concede too many goals. All true. But at the same time the problem, which has been somewhat underplayed, is that Roma don’t even know how to attack like they used to. Right from the beginning, as Spalletti noticed, there have been too many backpasses towards Szczesny, even from within the opposition half, and these are invitations to the opposition to gain territory. And when things aren’t working in the attacking third, it’s obviously more difficult to win games.
Of Roma’s 11 goals so far in the league and in Europe, 5 have been penalties. The sixth was an own goal (at Porto, in the first leg of the Champions League playoff), which came about following a Florenzi corner. This isn’t just a coincidence, as other statistics show: in the league, Roma are the team who have taken most shots at goal (64 shots in 4 games, an average of 16 shots a game) but they are only third for shots on target with 28, less than Sarri’s Napoli (31) and even Mihajlovic’s Torino (29).
Clearly the players lack accuracy in front of goal – Dzeko alone has had 20 shots, at least 4 more than any other player in Serie A, and has scored just 2 goals – or they are making mistakes in the attacking third by shooting when they shouldn’t. This tendency is confirmed by subsidiary statistics: Roma have played more key passes than anyone else (22) but only 4 have led to a goal, while Genoa, Torino and Napoli have scored 5 despite creating fewer opportunities. We can also analyse crosses: Roma have taken the most crosses in Serie A (44) but also made the most mistakes when crossing (38).
It isn’t the mentality that’s been lost, and probably not even the players’ personality as that would cause them to take fewer risks: there are just some things missing in the complicated tactical setup that first Garcia then Spalletti have prepared. The result is that while Roma have had more penalties awarded to them than anyone else in the league (4, all scored), they have only scored 5 times from open play in 4 games.
Had they not capitalised on their spot kicks, they would have only the 8th best attack in Serie A behind, as always, Napoli, who are first with 12 goals scored, as well as Lazio, Torino, Juventus, Cagliari, Pescara and Genoa (who still have two thirds of their match against Fiorentina to play after it was postponed due to weather conditions). If we remember that Roma finished last season with the most prolific attack in the league, it’s clear that there has been regression.
Obviously there is still plenty of time to fix it, we are only 4 games into the season. But one more statistic should be underlined: Roma have one less point than this stage last season, when Rudi Garcia was already coming in for criticism for his style of play after the disappointing draw at home against Sassuolo (although the team did also have the distraction of the Champions League). It’s only right that we shouldn’t be melodramatic, but it’s also right to keep these negative signs, of which there are more than a few, in mind so that they can be corrected as quickly as possible.
This article is a translation – the original was written by Roberto Maida for Il Corriere dello Sport.