Friday, October 22, 2021

Sinners & Saints: Lazio 3, Roma 2

Yesterday’s Derby della Capitale was eagerly anticipated for a variety of reasons. Outside of the usual Roma vs. Lazio animosities, fans on both sides of the Olimpico aisles were counting down the days until José Mourinho and Maurizio Sarri went toe-to-toe for the first time as Serie A managers. And with the sun beaming down on the Eternal City and both fanbases in full voice and proudly waving their respective banners, the atmosphere in Rome yesterday was the stuff of dreams.

Unfortunately, the product on the pitch quickly became a nightmare for Roma fans, as the Giallorossi fell in a two-nil hole after only 19 minutes thanks to a pair of defensive lapses that enabled Lazio to put Roma on the back heel early in the match.

Roma did well to worm their way back into the game but never managed to draw level with their Olimpico flatmates, ultimately falling 3-2 to their bitter rivals. And, as one would expect, that result is going to produce a healthy mix of sinners and saints, so let’s take a quick look at the standouts and strugglers from yesterday’s defeat.

Despite what we’d like to think, not every goal Roma concedes can be blamed on one player. And while there were a few culprits on Pedro’s 19th-minute strike, Cristante’s lack of effort was hard to miss. After playing the ball into the box for Zaniolo, Cristante was literally right next to Pedro, jogging in lockstep with his former teammate, even keeping his head on a swivel: one eye tracking the ball to his left, the other on Pedro to his right. But once Pedro made his burst, Cristante continued his jogging pace and did nothing other than point once Pedro started to accelerate towards the area.

Cristante isn’t as bad as he’s made out to be, but this play was further evidence that his effectiveness is limited in a defensive role.

There is no debating Patricio’s hot start to the season. Roma’s summer signing has made some genuinely spectacular saves during his first few weeks on the job, but yesterday was a reminder that, for all his admirable traits, he remains a streaky and, at times, passive goalkeeper. Lazio’s first two goals were pretty well telegraphed—with Patricio literally pointing out the opening goal—but Patricio’s hesitance to come off the line cost him in both instances.

All told, Patricio faced 10 shots, making only one save. His defense didn’t do him many favors, but he has to be better than he was yesterday.

The tendency to couch any criticism by first pointing out his injury history is understandable—and you’re certainly not alone in that—but that well is about to run dry. With no viable backup at the moment, Karsdorp is being counted on to run a full 90 nearly every week, and, as we’re already seeing, all those miles are starting to wear on his 26-year-old legs.

In 81 minutes yesterday, Karsdorp was a wallflower, failing to register a single shot (on target or otherwise), successful dribble, or accurate cross. Karsdorp completed 80% of his passes and chipped in one key pass but was otherwise absent in yesterday’s defeat.

With Bryan Reynolds remaining on the periphery thus far, we may be forced to add a right-back to Roma’s winter shopping list. The club can’t operate with only one option at the position.

Take everything we just said about Karsdorp and apply it to Roma’s other full-back. While Viña racked up a few more defensive statistics than Karsdorp, he was equally absent in the attacking phases of the game and was frequently seen choking on Felipe Anderson’s dust as the Lazio winger ran past him.

Viña once looked like a lock to hold the fort down at left-back until Leonardo Spinazzola returns, but after Riccardo Calafiori’s strong showing last week, Viña may face some stiff competition from the young Roman.

Maybe he was distracted by the bandage under his eye, but Mancini was woeful yesterday. In 90 minutes, Roma’s vice-captain managed little more than one tackle and one clearance while winning only two of seven duels. And the less said about his work on Ciro Immobile yesterday, the better; he did very little to stop his two assists. Mancini’s typical passing grace failed him yesterday as well, as he went 0-7 on long passes.

Okay, enough doom and gloom…

After enduring a slow start to yesterday’s derby, Zaniolo gradually grew into the game and turned in a man of the match performance in Roma’s losing effort. In 76 minutes, Zaniolo menaced Lazio with seven successful dribbles (out of eight), five shots (including one that hit the woodwork and one that Pepe Reina barely saved), three key passes, three aerials won, three accurate crosses (from seven attempts) and two accurate long balls (from two attempts).

Zaniolo has struggled since returning from nearly two years in absentia, which is certainly understandable, but even though it didn’t result in three points, this match could mark a turnaround for the 22-year-old. After easing into the match, Zaniolo was back to his old ways: dribbling, bullying, and outsmarting his way around opponents.

Another player with his share of ups and downs in this young season, Veretout was fantastic yesterday. In 90 minutes, the Frenchman took 67 touches (losing the ball only nine times), completed 90% of his passes, chipped in five key passes, put two shots on target (from two attempts), completed five of seven crosses, converted a penalty, and assisted on ‘s 41st-minute goal.

The 28-year-old midfielder has really come to life since signing with Roma two summers ago and if Mourinho can nail down his midfield rotations and find some rest for Veretout’s seemingly tireless legs, we may see performances like these regularly.

In addition to scoring Roma’s only non-penalty goal yesterday, Ibañez had four tackles, two interceptions, and one clearance while winning seven of nine duels. With the ball at his feet, Ibañez took a match-high 85 touches, putting two of four shots on target and completing 86% of his passes.

While there wasn’t one particularly memorable Mkhitaryan moment in yesterday’s match, it was hard to ignore his stat line: Three shots, two key passes, three dribbles (from only four attempts), 1/1 crosses, and 1/1 long balls. Not bad as a Lorenzo Pellegrini stand-in, eh?

Tammy Abraham : Four key passes, 89% passing, two fouls drawn and 1/1 on long passes, He didn’t take a single shot but he continues to impress with his all-around game. Quite a player, indeed.

: Four key passes, 89% passing, two fouls drawn and 1/1 on long passes, He didn’t take a single shot but he continues to impress with his all-around game. Quite a player, indeed. Stephan El Shaarawy: Three shots, one key pass, two dribbles, two fouls drawn; not too bad but didn’t make a dent in the scoreline.

Until next time…
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