With just three games to go until the end of the season, what could be described as Roma’s fatal flaw has reared its ugly head again. The flaw being – ill discipline.
This season Roma have received more red cards than any other Serie A side and subsequently sit bottom of the fair play league. This time it was a Daniele De Rossi elbow and a Simone Perrotta punch that left i Lupi without two vital players for a chunk of the second half against Bari and now the final stretch of their race for the final Champions League place.
While Perrotta is no longer the player he was, his energy, drive and movement are key to the success of the formation Vincenzo Montella likes to play. From a starting position ahead of two holding midfielders it is Perrotta’s job to provide an alternative option through the middle and he often finds himself the furthest player forward when Roma attack. The obvious choice to take Perrotta’s place in the side is Fabio Simplicio.
The Brazilian was a regular starter under Claudio Ranieri but has been relegated to the role of bit part player since Montella took over with Perrotta preferred in the advanced midfield role. While Simplicio is a very different type of player to Perrotta, he showed earlier in the season that he can offer something different to the Giallorossi midfield. He brings a less energetic, more technical approach than Perrotta and provides more of a goal threat than his Italian counterpart, something that Roma could certainly benefit from, as they are currently badly over reliant on the goals of Francesco Totti.
First in line to step into De Rossi’s shoes in holding midfield is likely to be Matteo Brighi. While he lacks the footballing ability and the fire of De Rossi, he makes up for it with unmatched stamina and work rate around the pitch. With attributes more similar to Perrotta than De Rossi, he could also be deployed further up the pitch with Simplicio in the holding role but the Brazilian’s ability in front of goal and Brighi’s battling qualities suggest otherwise. Brighi is also an ideal partner for David Pizarro in that he will cover a lot of ground, break up opposition attacks and provide the Chilean with possession.
The alternatives to Brighi and Simplicio include shifting Jeremy Menez into a more central role and start with Rodrigo Taddei or Aleandro Rosi out wide. However, given Montella’s apparent distrust of Menez, it seems unlikely that he will go with this option. Leandro Greco is also an option for either role but his performances have been consistently underwhelming and doubts linger over whether he is capable of filling in for De Rossi or Perrotta.
Whoever gets the nod will immediately be put to the test against Milan as the Rossoneri can seal the Scudetto with a win at the Olimpico on Saturday. If Roma are to keep up their challenge for a Champions League place they must get a result against the champions elect and a strong midfield performance from the stand ins for that to happen.