They say all roads lead to Rome but lately all roads have been leading into Roma’s goal. The Giallorossi’s start to the season has been a rollercoaster side as the club leads Serie A’s scoring chart but let it in a huge number of goals as they conceded in all but one game this season. Rudi Garcia’s team was one of the favorites to win Serie A after great signings like Edin Dzeko, Iago Falque, Mohamed Salah and Lucas Digne but the Frenchman finds himself longing for last season’s defensive mights as goals leak in.
While Walter Sabatini was focused on improving the attacking line, he let go of Alessio Romagnoli, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Davide Astori. The three central defenders were replaced late in the transferred window by young Norbert Gyömbér from Catania and an injured Antonio Rüdiger. Leandro Castan had missed almost a full year of football and he was still not in perfect conditions. On the bright side, Lucas Digne and Wojciech Szczesny are proving to be an improvement to whomever the Romans had the previous seasons but the defensive problems remain a collective issue rather than an individual one.
What could it be down to? Is it down to Rudi Garcia’s tactics? Game after game the same players are falling into the same trap and committing the same mistakes: Either starting poorly and then improving or the opposite as they score a few goals and shutdown and concede. Garcia’s football is attacking and it’s noticeable with an average possession of 63.3%, higher than any other Serie A team and an average of 17.8 shots per game (second only to Juventus). The wolves have also made well use of their chances up front scoring a total of 20 goals, higher than any other club in their league. Even if we take a look at their performance in the Champions League we can see that seven goals in three games is not bad at all.
One would be forgiven to think that the Romans are playing too much attacking football. In fact, the Giallorossi’s problem is dropping too deep. Roma’s game alternates between high pressure coupled with possession and dropping to deep and giving balls away to opposition. This is not a tactical issue but rather a mental one. The players are playing their best football once they concede and once they score and lead they relax and back off. In Roma’s defense, the starting back five are yet to play a game together. Szczesny, Castan, Rüdiger, Maicon, Keita, Totti and Dzeko all suffered injuries so far. Without a constant starting XI, Rudi has been forced to rotate way too often and this has been counterproductive so far.
Things are not disastrous at Roma. The capital side sits second and just one point off Serie A leaders Fiorentina. The two sides will meet in Firenze this weekend and Roma have a chance to silence their critics and keep the faith of their fans if they win the clash. A win would put the Giallorossi on top of the table but a loss could kill the team’s morale and mentally drain the players. They also stand a chance at qualification in the Champions League. They have two home clashes against BATE and Bayer Leverkusen, in case they win them both and Bayer falter against Barcelona then the Italians will be in the running for the group’s second qualifying spot.
Everything is still open and it’s quite early to judge Roma’s season but the outcome of the game against Fiorentina could foreshadow the rest of the season for Garcia’s men. Scoring four goals away to Bayer Leverkusen is not an easy feat to achieve but conceding four is an embarrassment as well. It could be the pressure of the competition, a mental barrier, a psychological issue, a lack of consistency and fitness or perhaps a tactical error. Whatever the problem is, Roma needs to stop leaking goals if they are to win any silverware.