Roma kicked off the season in sensational form after their bizarre forfeit against Hellas Verona, propelling themselves into an unlikely title race. The Giallorossi’s hot start came to an abrupt end, suffering a comprehensive defeat against Napoli. Paulo Fonseca’s side failed to get into the game, eventually losing 4-0 to the Partenopei.
While it is the side’s only defeat on the field this season, the manner in which they lost was slightly concerning. Roma was completely played off the pitch by Gennaro Gattuso’s men and will need to turn it around ahead of the holiday stretch. Bryan Cristante, a midfielder by trade, has had to deputize at the back due to an injury crisis at the club, and did a solid job – that was until Sunday.
Summer arrival Marash Kumbulla is expected to return to the lineup, after battling with COVID-19 for the better part of the last two weeks. The defender’s return will offer Roma some much-needed stability at the back, allowing Cristante to return to a more familiar position.
Beyond their defensive woes on Sunday, Napoli completely overran Fonseca’s side in the middle of the park. Jordan Veretout and Lorenzo Pellegrini struggled to get a grip of things in the midfield and regularly turned over possession. Roma’s 3-4-2-1 setup has worked in recent weeks, but in big games, their midfield duo needs support.
Whether it is a winger tracking back centrally, or one of their wingbacks coming into the middle, Fonseca would be wise to make a tactical adjustment. Otherwise, Roma risks getting outnumbered in the midfield in every big game. Gattuso took full advantage of this opportunity, deploying a midfield three of Diego Demme, Fabian Ruiz, and Piotr Zielinski.
The Polish international was a constant menace in the final third and often drifted between the lines, without being marked. Fabian Ruiz, on the other hand, was offered more freedom by Gattuso and regularly popped up in and around the area. As Demme shielded the back four, Fabian Ruiz and Zielinski’s runs opened up Roma’s rearguard and overloaded the middle of the park. If Roma wants to continue its fine run of form, Fonseca should take note of this and make the appropriate tactical changes.
As a result of their midfield struggles, Roma’s front three of Pedro, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Edin Dzeko were largely stranded up top. Mkhitaryan often dropped deep to collect possession but was unable to find outlets in the final third. Roma’s wingbacks tried to get forward in support, but Napoli did well to double up on their markers out wide and nullify their threat.
Roma had been flying high before matchday nine, but have since been rocked back to earth following their heavy defeat. Fonseca would be wise to learn from his side’s mistakes and retool his setup ahead of the upcoming stretch. Roma has made some significant progress under the Portuguese tactician and is arguably a few tweaks away from hitting their best form. It may have taken a 4-0 defeat, but it might just help them in the long run.
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