Roma got their season underway in the most uninspiring way possible. A game that many had predicted would be a walk in the park turned out to be a much sterner test. Newly promoted Cesena battled doggedly for 90 minutes to earn a famous point at the Stadio Olimpico. While not an appalling performance from i Giallorossi, Claudio Ranieri is likely to be kept awake at night by one aspect in particular – his side’s miserable failure to score against what, on paper, looked like a porous defence.
Roma were solid defensively, but their lack of cutting edge up front is an issue that needs to be addressed. The home side dominated possession to the tune of 61%, suggesting that the midfield was well and truly on top of proceedings. There was a visible lack of urgency in Roma’s performance, even as a goalless draw loomed in the closing stages. Only David Pizarro really appeared anxious to inject any pace into the side’s play while Daniele De Rossi appeared unfocussed and Simone Perrotta disappeared after the opening 20 minutes. Ranieri will note, though, that despite lacking urgency and drive, his side created numerous chances and registered 17 shots over the course of the game.
Perhaps, then, the fault for the lack of cutting edge lies not with the midfield but with the front line. Robbed of summer signing Adriano by a thigh complaint, Ranieri had little choice but to field an attacking trident made up of Mirko Vucinic, Jeremy Menez and Francesco Totti. Of the front three, only Vucinic really troubled Francesco Antonioli in the Cesena goal. While he was unable to get his name on the score sheet, the Montenegrin attacker looked dangerous around the penalty area and forced a number of excellent saves from the veteran Antonioli.
Menez flitted in and out of the game, showing flashes of his talent but all too often going AWOL when his side attacked. His habit of giving the ball away cheaply in the final third allowed Cesena to nip too many attacks in the bud and he will have to work hard at his ball retention if he is to retain his starting spot. Totti, on the other hand, was consistently at the centre of Roma attacks, probing and testing the Cesena defence but all too often without any real joy. Er Pupone remains Roma’s main danger man but he must avoid growing frustrated by stubborn opposition defences as his outbursts all too often land him in hot water with referees.
Some of the blame must also be laid at the feet of Ranieri. With his team struggling to find a way through, he waited until the 79th minute to make a really attacking change, replacing the ineffective Perrotta with Stefano Okaka. While the young forward endeavoured to make a difference, he was given so little time in which to do so that his efforts almost seemed futile. Rodrigo Taddei and Matteo Brighi both worked hard in the midfield, but neither is the sort of player likely to provide the spark to win their side a game. Okaka, on the other hand, is exactly that sort of player and will be disappointed that it was Taddei and not he who replaced Menez after 65 minutes.
However, despite not achieving the result he had hoped for, Ranieri was unwilling to criticise his side, saying: “It wasn’t the start we had dreamed of but I refuse to crucify the boys after picking up a point.” The Coach claimed that his side lacked the movement and fluidity that caused Inter problems in the Super Cup, adding: “When we manage to find that extra gear I am very confident the results will come.” With games against Cagliari, Bologna and Brescia to come after the international break, i Lupi have plenty of time to play their way into form before the visit of Inter on September 26th.
Talisman Francesco Totti also appeared positive when discussing the game, saying: “We weren’t lucky, we created several chances but the ball just didn’t want to go into the goal.” Er Pupone also called for improvement after the international break and with a visit to Bayern Munich just days after Serie A reconvenes, an improvement will certainly be necessary if i Lupi are to leave Munich with any kind of result, or even their pride in tact.