For anyone who dared miss the Rome derby, they should go hang their heads in shame. This was about as fiery and committed as derby matches can be and the only thing missing, if indeed we can count this, was a red card. Controversy reigned as we saw goals scored, goals disallowed, bookings, penalties given, penalties denied, fouls, shots against the woodwork and crazy scenes of celebration. What more could we have asked of from the game of the week? Claudio Ranieri’s men made it three wins in eight days and Mirko Vucinic proclaimed that Roma are no longer a club in crisis. It is difficult to argue with that statement but we will not allow ourselves to be convinced by such declarations, not just yet in any case.
Lazio still lead Serie A, but they were second best to Roma on Sunday. We shall put the controversial issues to one side for just a moment, and concentrate on the most important aspect – the football. The Giallorossi had the majority of the attacking play throughout the first half. Even the staunchest Laziale would readily accept that. Fernando Muslera was kept busy, in concentration if not saves, of the two goalkeepers as the Biancocelesti rarely threatened Julio Sergio. Daniele De Rossi, Fabio Simplicio and Simone Perrotta dominated the midfield, allowing the front three of Marco Borriello, Jeremy Menez and Vucinic to probe and puncture the Lazio defence. To its credit it held firm, though Leandro Greco had a perfectly good goal disallowed for a non-existent offside.
The second half was much more balanced, both sides hit the frame of the goal and both keepers were much busier, this time in the way of shot stopping. I Lupi got the breaks with the two penalties whereas Lazio were denied at least one good appeal for a spot kick, and that just about sums up the match. Debating the refereeing decisions would be futile so instead we will look at the Roma performance as we have done in the past. Wednesday sees Fiorentina visit the Olimpico and the derby win will be already a distant memory by then.
So, Vucinic wants the Roma faithful to believe that the troubles are over. We will not be so easily swayed, though we have huge respect for the Montenegrin. The derby victory was in our view a merited win but these games are one-offs. These matches rarely go to form and can almost be treated as separate games to the usual Serie A fixtures. Ranieri’s team played well, but this desire and motivation will be difficult to replicate again. Signs of an improvement in attitude and tactics are impossible to see during a match against a fierce local rival but we shall dissect what we can.
The team formation was changed to a 4-3-1-2, with Menez tucked in behind the two forwards. We have previously stated that the Frenchman is more effective out wide and though he came off injured before the end of the first half, we did not see him threaten much. Some nice touches and good movement but in the past we have witnessed his incisiveness similar to Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery. We are still not convinced in his ability as a ‘trequartista’.
Philippe Mexes replaced Juan and he did a superb job, negating Sergio Floccari. John Arne Riise was much more impressive as the set up gave him room to attack. The defence was very convincing in stark contrast to previous outings, maybe the determination needed for derby games provided the focus, which has thus far been lacking. Brazilian Simplicio added an attacking dimension to the midfield though defensively he tended to lose possession too often. David Pizarro’s return is eagerly awaited, Simplicio is cover but no more than that.
The question of Francesco Totti position in the team merits its own Club Focus but we shall give it a cursory mention. Was Tommaso Rocchi right to say the Giallorossi are better off without him? On this occasion he was absolutely correct, the captain was not missed and maybe it proves that he could be used more sparingly and allow his body to rest in between matches. This is not an absolute but certainly something that will need some consideration if Er Pupone’s usefulness is to be extended. A delicate matter and we will follow his deployment over the coming months with curiosity.
The situation for the midweek game against La Viola sees Juan and Menez still at risk of missing out. Pizarro could be in contention for a recall but Marco Cassetti is suspended. Cicinho could come in for the Italian full back. The coach’s tactical set-up will be interesting and we could see a return to 4-4-2. More importantly, Ranieri will need to bring his team back down from cloud nine to concentrate properly on the match if they are to avoid an embarrassing fall at the hands Sinisa Mihajlovic.