Tag Archives: Roma

AS Roma 2-1 Juventus

Xinhua News Agency Aug. 31, 2015-- AS Roma's Pjanic (2nd R) celebrates his goal with teammates during their Italian Serie A soccer match against Juventus on August 30, 2015 in Rome, Italy. Rome won 2-1.

Xinhua News Agency
Aug. 31, 2015– AS Roma’s Pjanic (2nd R) celebrates his goal with teammates during their Italian Serie A soccer match against Juventus on August 30, 2015 in Rome, Italy. Rome won 2-1.

Roma relied on two goals from Bosnian duo Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko to defeat title rivals Juventus.

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Iago Falque joined Dzeko and Mohammed Salah upfront in Rudi Garcia’s 4-3-3. Daniele De Rossi moved to centre-back alongside Kosta Manolas, whereas Seydou Keita formed a midfield trio with Radja Nainggolan and Pjanic.

Max Allegri reverted to a 3-5-2 with Mario Mandzukic and Pablo Dybala leading the line. With Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira unavailable for selection, Simone Padoin and Marco Sturaro joined Paul Pogba in midfield.

Roma dominated possession over extensive periods of the match, and with Juventus unable to pose a threat on the counter, Allegri’s men succumbed to two moments of brilliance.

Roma press

While Roma’s dominance may have been down to Juve’s caution, Allegri’s side have displayed their ability to decrease their route to goal by instantly lobbing balls into the strikers. Juve’s only way to maintain a decent spell of possession was to build from the back, but here, Garcia instructed his men to press from the front, with all three attackers handed a distinct role.

Falque and Salah pressed the exterior centre-backs, while Dzeko possessed a dual role. If Dzeko pushed towards Bonucci – a very good passer of the ball – he instructed a midfielder to close down Padoin, but for the most part, the Bosnian striker stuck goal-side to the Juventus midfielder to negate his influence from deep.

Roma didn’t always press in this manner, as they were keen on dropping into a 4-5-1 when necessary to clog spaces in midfield, yet both methods effectively contained Juve’s threat in open play. The wide players maintained their discipline, keeping the adventurous wingbacks quiet, and Dybala rarely received passes between the lines.

Juventus shape

Where Roma pressed higher up the pitch in various spells, Allegri instructed his side to drop deeper into their half and pressed aggressively in midfield. This allowed De Rossi time on the ball, and Nainggolan, in particular was free to retain possession, stringing passes from flank to flank.

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Essentially, Roma overloaded central areas with several passers, and it could explain several reckless tackles and eventual bookings in midfield. The transition to a 5-3-2 negated Dzeko’s aerial threat, as he was always outnumbered around the box, but in general their approach was too conservative, allowing the home-side too much space to dominate.

Roma’s balanced attack

Ultimately, there were two ways to describe Roma’s dominance over the current champions. First, Enrique placed Gervinho to the bench for Falque, who in fairness offered the hosts genuine width. With Falque stretching the pitch, Salah operated in narrow mixed positions, before charging into half space to create chances.

Gervinho and Salah are similar players – both thrive when there’s space to break into on the counter attack – but here, both the latter and Falque created chances in their respected positions. Salah’s first half pull-back resulted in Pjanic directing a shot off the post, whereas Falque delivered a devastating ball across the six-yard box that went amidst.

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The hosts’ attack would improve with a trequartista in the XI, but the cohesion between the front six was an improvement from last year. There was balance in wide areas, and each midfielder was able to fulfill their role due to Juve’s setup. Keita sat deep to protect the back four, Nainggolan retained possession a few yards ahead, and Pjanic scurried between the lines to receive possession and force Chiellini and Pogba into first half bookings.

Lack of familiarity upfront

Juve’s deep defensive line limited the possibility of creating chances from deep, but the away side still appeared perplexed during the rare occasions when they sustained possession in Roma’s third. One of the keys to Juve’s success last season involved Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata understanding their roles – the former dropped deep to receive the ball, while the latter sprinted behind the defence.

Tevez’s departure deprives Juve of a creative threat between the lines that can score goals and effectively link play with his teammates, which resulted in flat possession in the final third. Dybala’s lateral movement in these areas was positive, but a sole individual slalom sufficed from his presence upfront.

Likewise, Mario Mandzukic doesn’t offer a threat behind the last defender, and with Juve maintaining a low block, the Croatian was isolated for long spells. This, nevertheless, is also related to a lack of familiarity between the pair, along with one of the downfalls that comes with Mandzukic.

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The Croatian’s denies his team of natural pace upfront, but he was equally reluctant to drop deep to link play with his teammates. There was one moment towards the conclusion of the first half where Pogba was clearly frustrated with his attackers’ movement upfront, as neither attacker aimed to drop deep to receive the ball.

More so, Juve’s deep line, combined with a new strike partnership lacking Allegri’s basic attacking concepts is partially responsible for the away side’s blunt productivity in the final third.

Allegri adapts

Pjanic’s superb free-kick put Roma ahead at the hour mark, but Roma’s threat from wide areas decreased significantly. Majority of the hosts’ buildup play was narrow, and with Pogba offering improved protection for Evra, Garcia’s men relied on distant Nainggolan efforts on goal that forced Buffon to make a few saves.

Allegri instantly reacted to Pjanic’s opener, introducing Morata for the subdued Mandzukic, but the away side’s best chances stemmed from corner kicks. Then the Juve manager altered to a midfield diamond, sacrificing Lichtsteiner for Roberto Pereyra.

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Pereyra represented the ideal player suited for Allegri’s approach as his pace offers a genuine threat on the counter, and it was odd to see the Argentinian reduced to a bit-part role considering the circumstances. The Argentine forced Dzeko into a booking, while his pace and clever combination with Morata led to Dybala’s consolation goal – Morata dispossessed Keita in midfield to ignite the swift break.

Evra’s second dismissal proved costly in the final stages of the match, but a change of shape and additional space from Morata and Pereyra nearly inspired a comeback.


Roma, though, quickly pounced on the champions’ mistakes. Subsequent to Evra’s dismissal, Pjanic played a lovely diagonal behind Juan Cuadrado for Falque, and his cross into the box witnessed Dzeko tower over Chiellini to notch his first goal for the hosts.

The significance of the goal may be overlooked, but it distinctly highlights two areas that Garcia seeked to improve this summer. Put simply, it was another dangerous delivery from Falque in a wide area that was converted by a legitimate centre-forward.

There’s a chance that the signings may not elevate Roma into potential champions, but the goal provides evidence that Garcia has made it priority to offer variety to an attack that was mightily predictable last season.


Juve’s apathetic display enabled Roma to dominate the match, as a moment of brilliance and a defensive lapse punished the champions in the second half.

This was an improved display for Garcia’s side, following a poor draw to Verona, with the most intriguing theme involving the balance within his attacking trio. In the past, the attacking options at Garcia’s disposal represent a team suited to play on the counter, and natural width combined with an aerial threat can improve Roma’s difficulty breaking down organized back-lines.

Miralem Pjanic (15) of AS Roma competes for the ball with Paul Pogba (10) of Juventus FC during the Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and Juventus FC at Stadio Olimpico on August 30, 2015 in Rome, Italy. CREDIT: ANADOLU AGENCY

Miralem Pjanic (15) of AS Roma competes for the ball with Paul Pogba (10) of Juventus FC during the Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and Juventus FC at Stadio Olimpico on August 30, 2015 in Rome, Italy.

Allegri’s approach was logical considering the scheduling of the fixture and limited time to integrate his philosophy, but here, his personnel selection was incorrect. Perhaps match fitness prevented Morata from starting, but Pereyra’s pace in midfield proved crucial in transition, and was the missing piece to a disjointed attempt to break on the counter.

Still, it would be harsh to prematurely criticize Juventus as the club lost a leader in Andrea Pirlo, and the league’s best attacker and midfielder in Tevez and Arturo Vidal, last summer, leading to several new additions in Turin. Allegri will be assessed attentively in the upcoming weeks, as the Juventus manager rightly requires time to find the correct balance, and welcome back injured players on his quest to retain the Scudetto.

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Posted by on September 4, 2015 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Napoli 1-0 Roma


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Napoli narrowed the gap with Roma to three points as Jose Callejon’s second half header handed Rudi Garcia’s men their second loss of the season.


Rafa Benitez was pleased to welcome back Gonzalo Higuain and Raul Albiol to his starting XI, while Blerim Dzemaili slotted in midfield alongside Gokhan Inler.

Rudi Garcia was forced into making a few alterations as he was without the injured Francesco Totti, while Daniele De Rossi is currently serving a three-match suspension. Miralem Pjanic, Michel Bastos and Alessandro Florenzi formed an attacking trio behind Gervinho, while Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan retained their roles in midfield.

This was a tight affair in which Roma’s wastefulness in the final third prevented Garcia’s side from keeping pace with Juventus.


With both sides adopting identical formations, a significant feat in the match was based on which side defended better without the ball. Neither side opted to press high up the pitch, as they focused on limiting space in midfield. Nainggolan and Pjanic pressed Napoli’s double-pivot, while substitute Rodrigo Taddei tracked Marek Hamsik’s movement.

Likewise, Napoli’s front two occasionally pressed Roma’s centre backs, as they aimed to contain Roma’s threat in midfield. Unfortunately, Pjanic’s movement and Taddei’s energy exposed Napoli’s midfield. However, both sides’ persistence on negating the opposition’s full-backs was pivotal.

The two sides possess attacking full-backs that provide width, but it was evident that both sets of wingers were instructed to prevent the opposing full-backs from pushing forward. With that being said, this meant that central areas were congested, thus explaining why both sides struggled to create chances when they sustained possession.

Roma on the break

Garcia’s team selection indicated Roma’s approach – the away side was aiming to play on the counter with three runners in their attack. Garcia’s tactics were logical, as Gervinho – arguably the best player in the match – consistently posed a threat on the break.

In the opening 20 minutes, Gervinho had already dragged a shot wide of the net, and ignited a break in which Taddei’s heavy touched ruined a legitimate goal-scoring opportunity. Afterwards, the Ivorian’s pace troubled Benitez’s men. Gervinho ran at Cristian Maggio and played a key pass to Florenzi – who should’ve shot – but the Italian winger conceded possession with a poor pass. Minutes later, Gervinho ran behind the Napoli defence and held up the ball, before teeing up Bastos – but Pepe Reina pushed away his long-distance effort.

Roma’s pace in attack constantly exposed Benitez’s back line but their decision-making in Napoli’s third was putrid, and a final ball eluded the away side.

Midfield battle

Seeing as both sides were unable to utilize their full-backs, the battle in central areas was significant. Strootman was forced to leave the match in the 12th minute due to injury, thus forcing Garcia to introduce Taddei alongside Nainggolan. Although Nainggolan struggled to impose his authority, Taddei and Pjanic outshone Dzemaili and Inler in midfield.

In the opening half, Taddei drifted into pockets of space to receive the ball, while playing key passes in midfield, and linking play in wide areas. Ultimately, the substitute was Roma’s most proactive player in midfield, thus signifying Napoli’s poor first half display.

Despite not being at his best, Pjanic influenced Roma’s attack in the second half. The Bosnian midfielder dropped into deeper positions, and provided the guile Roma lacked in the first half. It was Pjanic that played an exceptional ball into Gervinho that should’ve given the away side the lead, and although he was unable to replicate a pass of that quality, the Bosnian was Garcia’s spark in midfield.

Pjanic nearly crafted Roma’s opener when he slid a delicate ball into Bastos, but Florenzi couldn’t convert the Brazilian’s cutback pass. The Bosnian drifted into nifty positions to receive the ball, and was Roma’s link between midfield and attack – Pjanic did all he could.

Napoli, on the other hand, struggled to dictate the midfield. Despite Napoli looking dangerous when Hamsik received the ball in pockets of space in Roma’s third, the Slovakian midfielder was ineffective. Roma dominated central areas and created the better chances on the counter, but Napoli coped with their threat in midfield.

Second half

Prior to Callejon’s winner, both managers turned to their bench in search of a spark. Henrique and Lorenzo Insigne were introduced in the second half, and while the former’s inclusion didn’t affect the match, the latter offered Napoli mobility and pace behind Higuain.

One can argue that Napoli’s attacking three is superior without Hamsik, and Insigne’s arrival created more space for the likes of Callejon and Mertens to dominate. Callejon had already missed two great opportunities to hand Napoli the lead, while Mertens gift-wrapped a chance for Higuain, but the Argentine skied his shot over the bar.

Garcia, on the other hand, called upon Adem Ljajic for the unimpressive Florenzi. Ljajic’s persistence to locate pockets of space, and play quick intricate passes around the final third, while posing a goal-scoring threat led to the decision. Florenzi epitomized Roma’s wastefulness in front of goal, as his tame effort from an excellent Maicon pass, along with his inability to play a final ball around the edge of the box summed up his night.

Napoli’s winner came in the final 15 minutes of the second half as the shackled Faouzi Ghoulam finally busted into an advanced position – after receiving a pass from Mertens – and delivered a fantastic cross towards the back post towards Callejon, and the Spaniard nodded the ball past Morgan De Sanctis.

The second half was split with both sides creating legitimate goal-scoring opportunities, but Napoli’s attacking three improved in the latter stages, and Benitez’s side pounced when their full backs advanced further up the pitch.


Despite producing the better football for larger portions of the match, Roma failed to solve Pepe Reina, as they drop maximum points for the second time this season. Garcia’s approach was logical, but his men lacked conviction in the final third, and a top-class striker that can score goals when Totti is unavailable.

“We decided to wait for Napoli and go on the counter with Gervinho, Florenzi and Bastos. We had many scoring opportunities and only missed that little bit of luck to convert them,” Garcia said.

“Mattia came back from international duty with a slight injury and couldn’t play 90 minutes, but the truth is I didn’t want to leave too much space to the opposition full-backs, as Maggio and Ghoulam could do damage. That’s why I chose some energy on the flanks.”

The victory sees Napoli close within touching distance of Roma for second place – while maintaining an imperious record at the Sao Paolo – but it also ends the title race in Italy, as Juventus now hold a 14 point lead at the top.

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Posted by on March 10, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Juventus 3-0 Roma


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Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A to eight points with an impressive victory over Roma.


Antonio Conte fielded his preferred starting eleven, as he welcomed back Andrea Pirlo from injury.

Rudi Garcia made no significant changes to his 4-3-3. Francesco Totti, Gervinho and Adem Ljajic led the line, while Kevin Strootman, Miralem Pjanic and Daniele De Rossi formed a midfield trio.

This fixture had no major tactical theme – Juventus’ approach without the ball nullified Roma’s main attacking threat.

Juventus without the ball

One of the most significant feats in this match was Juventus’ approach without the ball. Opposed to bringing the match to the away side, Conte instructed his men to sit deep in their half and minimize space between the lines for Totti to drift into.


This approach was logical because it ensured there was no space behind the Juventus backline to attack on the counter and Totti would be unable to drag defenders out of position. Conte’s men sat in two compact banks of four, with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente sitting a few yards ahead of the midfield to maintain Juventus’ shape.


Conte’s midfield trio sat in front of the back line, as Juventus became a 5-3-2, considering Stephan Lichtsteiner and Kwadwo Asamoah sat deeper then usual. Vidal and Pogba pushed out wide when Roma’s fullbacks received the ball, to prevent them from pushing forward, and they diligently dropped deeper to ensure that their wingback wasn’t isolated against Roma’s front three – this meant Tevez and Llorente dropped into these central areas preserve structure in midfield.

Juventus’ approach out of possession was significant – Garcia’s men were left flabbergasted in possession, as the home side stifled their main attacking threats.

Roma struggle

Juventus’ reactive approach meant Roma enjoyed majority of the possession throughout the match. Apart from Tevez occasionally closing down defenders, and Juventus’ attempt to press from goal-kicks, Roma’s centrebacks, along with De Rossi, were free to push forward.

The issue that Roma encountered – besides Juventus’ great organization – was their slow ball circulation and a focal point in attack. Strootman retained possession well and Pjanic – who looked injured – attempted to penetrate, but the midfielders’ impact was minimal. Gervinho was caught offside when he broke into good positions, and was always put into 1v2 situations when he intended on isolating a wingback – and Ljajic drifted infield desperately looking for gaps to penetrate.


Totti found it difficult to grow into the match, and he failed to create space for Roma’s attacker to run into. Whenever Totti dropped deep to receive the ball the closest Juventus centreback stuck tight to the Italian – Vidal also tracked his movement and closed Totti down when he roamed around the halfway line.

Ultimately, the only way Roma could create an opportunity to expose Juventus on the counter would be to press the Juventus backline higher up the pitch, or force them to concede possession in their third, and quickly commit men forward. Ljajic received a great chance early in the match when Totti dispossessed Leonardo Bonucci, but besides that effort, Buffon made routine saves to preserve his clean sheet.

Despite monopolizing majority of the possession, the away side rarely created legitimate goal-scoring opportunities because they couldn’t find openings in Juventus’ shape. The ball circulation was slow, their playmakers were nullified, and there was no space in the final third for Gervinho to attack.

Pirlo – De Rossi

Although Roma opted to drop into their shape and allow Juventus’ centrebacks to play from the back, Garcia instructed his men to press Pirlo. Totti was handed the duty to track the Italian maestro, and Pjanic occasionally stepped in when Totti was out of position. Garcia’s attempt to nullify Pirlo was logical, but as the game wore on, the Italian found it easier to receive the ball and build attacks from deep – this was down to fitness levels, and Roma’s lack of structure without the ball.


On the other hand, De Rossi was free to play passes from deep – he often switched balls towards the fullbacks, but rarely played long diagonal balls or forward penetrating passes. De Rossi’s passing was conservative, and while his passing rate was phenomenal, it didn’t influence Roma’s attack. Here, De Rossi often dropped between the two Roma centre-backs to ensure a numerical advantage at the back, and help push Dodo and Maicon forward.

Although neither man dominated the match from midfield, both held pivotal roles – Pirlo helped Juventus get into better attacking positions as the match wore on, whereas De Rossi’s presence prevented Juventus’ strike force from isolating the Roma’s centrebacks.


The home side’s threat from open-play was minimal, but they efficiently executed set-pieces. In fairness, Pogba and Vidal ignited attacks on the break, but their final ball let them down – however, Roma looked vulnerable defending set-pieces, and Juventus took advantage.

Juventus’ opening goal came from a simple Lichtsteiner throw-in that led to the Swiss wingback playing a pass into Tevez, who cleverly turned De Rossi, slid an incisive ball towards Vidal, and the Chilean beat Morgan De Sanctis at the near post. 20 minutes later, Pirlo tricked the Roma defence into thinking he’d play a ball into the six-yard box, and laid it off to Pogba, whose shot was blocked – Roma failed to clear their lines and Barzagli’s diagonal pass to Tevez subsequently led to the Argentinian striker whipping a ball across the six-yard box, which Bonucci couldn’t latch onto.

Bonucci doubled the home side’s lead minutes into the second half, when he broke free from Leandro Castan and guided in Pirlo’s free-kick at the far post. Roma further displayed their inability to defend set-pieces when Chiellini nodded back Pirlo’s free-kick at the far post and Castan handled the ball in the area, thus leading to his dismissal and a penalty, which Mirko Vucinic converted. Although Juventus’ influence from open-play was minimal, Conte’s men exposed Roma through set-pieces, and were rewarded with three goals.


Garcia opted to bring on Mattia Destro and Vasilis Torosidis for Pjanic and Dodo, as Roma moved to a 4-2-3-1.


The move was logical as Roma now possessed a focal point in attack, but unfortunately for the away side, they struggled to get the ball into Destro – Pjanic’s departure deprived the away side of any penetration, as they were left with Strootman’s complacent passing and De Rossi in a deeper role.


Garcia’s final attempt to alter the match saw Alessandro Florenzi replace Totti, but De Rossi and Castan were sent off within four minutes of his introduction. With Roma down to nine-men away from home against the champions, the match was over, and Juventus comfortably sustained their two-goal lead.


Juventus’ defensive solidity and set-piece efficiency merited three points – this was far from their best performance of the season, yet their defensive display was superb, as Conte’s men stifled Roma’s attack.

Roma dominated possession for large portions of the match, but the away side lacked invention, guile and penetration when they broke into Juventus’ half. Garcia’s men circulated the ball too slow, allowing Juventus to maintain their shape, while their set-piece defending was abysmal. Roma have overachieved by some margin this season – considering this is their first loss of the season – and if they can positively bounce back from this result, then the title race is far from over.

Roma’s overall performance wasn’t great – nor was it poor – here, they lost to a better side, executing a well-thought-out approach.

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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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AC Milan 2-2 Roma


Milan came from behind twice to earn a draw against Roma.


Max Allegri made two changes to the side that drew Ajax in the Champions League, as Urby Emanuelson and Andrea Poli were included in the starting eleven.

Rudi Garcia also made two changes to the starting eleven that defeated Fiorentina last weekend. Michael Bradley replaced the suspended Miralem Pjanic, while Mattia Destro was selected over Alessandro Florenzi.

This was far from a tactical spectacle – Roma took the lead twice, but individual errors, and Allegri’s substitution’s earned Milan a valuable point.


Both sides approached the match in different manners when the opposition secured possession, which contributed to Roma’s early dominance. Milan replicated the approach used against Ajax in midweek – Mario Balotelli and Kaka closed down the Roma defenders, while Sulley Muntari and Riccardo Montolivo pushed out wide to press the fullbacks.


However, there was more emphasis on limiting Maicon’s freedom to push forward, as Muntari successfully nullified his attacking threat.

On the opposing end, Roma occasionally pressed high up the pitch in the early moments, but for the most part, they allowed Milan’s centre backs space to play out of the back.


Roma opted to press the midfield, and limit their impact on the match, thus leading to Allegri’s men conceding possession in the opening minutes.

Yet, there was a common feat in regards to the way both sides pressed.


Neither side focused on pressing the holding midfielder, thus handing Nigel De Jong and Daniele De Rossi the freedom to string passes together. This benefited Milan, as De Rossi struggled to grab a stranglehold of the match, whereas De Jong periodically dictated the tempo and triggered attacks. There was no surprise that both men were the most proficient passers in the match.


Based on Roma’s dominance in the opening period, there was no surprise that they took the lead. But, once again, we witness a goal created because half space was penetrated efficiently – similar to Walcott and Hazard’s goal this weekend.


The space behind Zapata is the half space Ljajic plays the ball into.

Dodo intercepted Mattia De Sciglio’s pass and surged forward, evading De Jong’s pass before playing the ball out wide to Adem Ljajic. Ljajic drifted centrally and played the ball into half space for Strootman to latch onto.


Strootman attacked the half space to receive the ball and delivered a cross into the six-yard box, and Destro tapped in Roma’s opener.


Roma admirably pressed Milan’s midfield in the first half, which led to their slow start, but as the half wore on, Allegri’s men located an additional route of attack.

One of the issues Roma endured in the first half was protection for Maicon. Occasionally, Bradley would tuck in and prevent Milan from overloading the right flank, but for the most part, Ljajic and Gervinho failed to track back.

Majority of Milan’s attacks in the first half were off swift transitions led by Kaka.


The Brazilian often drifted into key positions to receive the ball, and played quick passes to the left side of the pitch. This was down to Maicon’s narrow positioning, Roma’s lack of numbers at the back, and belief that Emanuelson could get the better of the Brazilian in 1v1 situations.


Emanuelson’s ambitious runs into Roma’s third pegged Maicon back, and his delivery from wide areas were somewhat threatening. Specifically, his ability to drift past Bradley and Maicon, forced Morgan De Sanctis to make a key save, which led to the corner that Roma conceded from.

Emanuelson’s threat down the left was significant in the first half, as majority of Milan’s attacking threat came through him.

Roma break down the left

Garcia’s men started the second half in fine fashion – they enjoyed their best moments in the opening 15 minutes of the half, but were unable to put the match out of reach. The recurring theme in those opening minutes was exploiting the space behind De Sciglio.

The Milan fullback lacked positional discipline for large portions of the match, and he was a liability from a defensive standpoint.

  • 48th min: Poli’s poor back heel falls to Bradley, who pushes forward and plays a long ball into the left channel for Destro to run onto. Destro holds off Zapata, turns him, and plays the ball to Bradley, who finds Maicon, but Zapata cleared his cross.


  • 49th min: Subsequently, Strootman picks up a loose ball and plays in Gervinho down the left flank, but Gabriel jumps off his line and commits a reckless challenge in the box, to earn Garcia’s men a penalty – which Strootman converted.


  • 54th min: Dodo dispossessed De Sciglio and played Gervinho forward into open space on the left flank. Gervinho drove at the Milan defence but his ball to Ljajic was intercepted.

Ljajic begins his run at half as Gervinho attacks the space behind De Sciglio.


This is the end of Ljajic’s run as Gervinho plays him in.

  • 58th min: Dodo intercepts Balotelli’s final ball, and plays a pass to Gervinho in acres of space on the left. The Ivorian attacks Zapata, and Ljajic makes a run behind him and receives a disguising pass. Ljajic plays the ball across the box to Gervinho, but Emanuelson makes a lovely tackle to prevent a shot.

Milan pushed higher up the pitch in the second half, but this provided Roma with space to penetrate on the counter, however Garcia’s men were poor in the final third.

Roma change

Garcia made a pivotal player swap in the 63rd minute by sacrificing Destro for Francesco Totti – who appeared for the first time since October. This change played a significant factor in Roma’s dominance, and it allowed Milan some breathing space.

It’s undeniable that Totti is arguably Roma’s best attacker, but Destro’s contribution to the match provided Roma with the platform to threaten Milan in wide areas. Destro’s physical presence occupied the two centrebacks, while Totti often drifted into midfield.

During the final half hour, Allegri’s fullbacks were cautious with their forward movement, and Milan’s centrebacks sat deep – so Totti’s movement didn’t drag Milan’s backline out of position. Suddenly there was no space for Roma to penetrate out wide, and their centre backs were rarely tested.


Allegri reacted quickly to Garcia’s decision to introduce Totti. Alessandro Matri replaced Poli, and Milan became 4-3-1-2 with Kaka roaming behind the two strikers.


Allegri goes 4-3-1-2 allowing Kaka freedom in the final third.

Now, Milan competed in midfield, and Balotelli had more freedom to drop deeper and link play. Prior to Matri’s inclusion, Balotelli struggled against the two Roma centrebacks, but Allegri’s switch allowed the Italian striker freedom in attack.

Roma’s midfielders became sloppy in possession, and lost control of the match, as Montolivo and Muntari constantly closed them down and broke into tackles.


Eventually, Milan gained control of the midfield, Balotelli became a more prominent figure, and Kaka roamed around the final third with a purpose.


The Brazilian was the most influential Milan player on the pitch. In the first half he was restricted to the left flank, but he drifted centrally to receive the ball and initiate quick counter attacks.

However, when Allegri went 4-3-1-2 he was given more freedom to express himself. The one key component to his success against Roma was his positional awareness. Kaka dropped deeper into midfield to help build attacks, located pockets of space effortlessly, and drifted from flank to flank to link play with the fullbacks.

Kaka was the lynchpin behind Milan’s best chances in the final 15 minutes of the match. His nonchalant run into the final third, led to Balotelli laying the ball off to Muntari, who dropped his shoulder, bet Dodo, and levelled the match. While, his incisive penetrating ball into Montolivo, led to Balotelli’s spurned opportunity in injury time.


This isn’t the Kaka the world grew to adore, but Allegri’s tactical change surely provided glimpses of his brilliance.


Roma have been brilliant over the course of the season, but their overachievement has led to a sense of complacency. By no means did they produce an outstanding performance, but they were the superior side for large portions of the match, and failed to take their chances – frankly, it’s been a recurring theme in their last five or six matches.

As for Milan, although they dropped points, this was still a positive result. They showcased their resilience, and Allegri’s changes ignited a late resurgence that should’ve led to three points. In hindsight, while Milan can use this as a confidence boost heading into the derby, Roma’s dropped points sees Juventus extend their lead at the top of the table to five points.

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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Roma combine defensive organization and quick transitions to defeat Inter Milan


Over the past few weeks, Rudi Garcia’s fantastic start as Roma manager has been overlooked, laughed about, or simply ignored. Unlike last season, when Zdenek Zeman’s tenure was highly anticipated, Garcia’s was closely critiqued – at some points harshly ridiculed. But as we embark upon the second international break of the season, Garcia’s men has silenced more critics, and remain undefeated at the top of the table.


This weekend it was Walter Mazzarri’s Inter Milan that provided another obstacle for Roma to overcome. The Giallorossi produced a mature performance at the San Siro, combining defensive organization with quick transitions on the counter, to keep their unbeaten record intact. And it was their two-standout performers this season – Gervinho and Totti – that were brilliant on the night.

Francesco Totti continues to look ageless in Roma’s 4-3-3, which arguably is a 4-6-0 due to the Italian’s tactical intelligence. Totti is not your typical conventional striker – he drops deeper into midfield searching for space to receive the ball, allowing his wingers to attack the space behind him. Nonetheless, it was Totti who led the cavalry to three points with a first half brace.

However, Roma’s goals stemmed from Garcia’s initial game plan – defend deep and get the ball to their wide players . The Giallorossi pounced on Andrea Ranocchia’s failed clearance, and Alessandro Florenzi played a pass to Gervinho, who laid the ball off for Totti to thump a fabulous strike past Samir Handanovic. Totti added to his tally from the spot 20 minutes later, courtesy of Gervinho’s direct threat from wide areas, which led to Alvaro Pereira fouling the Ivorian in the box.

Florenzi put the match out of reach in the 43rd minute, which showcased a brilliant counter-attack straight off the training ground. Totti cleared his lines, playing a ball towards the advancing Kevin Strootman, who drove through the heart of the Nerazzuri midfield – the Dutch midfielder slid the ball into Florenzi, who hammered a one-time shot into the far corner.

For all of Roma’s attacking threat on the counter, their defensive work was equally impressive. Inter was allowed to dictate possession as Roma dropped into their shape, but Mazzarri’s men were unable to get behind the Giallorossi backline. The midfield trio of Daniele De Rossi, Strootman and Miralem Pjanic did a great job in minimizing space between the lines, while maintaining a compact shape ahead of the back four. Inter relied on width from their wingbacks, but Florenzi and Gervinho worked diligently to nullify Pereira and Yuto Nagatomo’s threat from wide areas.

As Inter Milan pushed forward looking to find a goal, Gervinho became Roma’s biggest threat going forward. The Ivorian was the main outlet going forward confidently skipping past defenders, as he was a nuisance from wide areas – which was a rarity in his overall game during his time at Arsenal. Gervinho and Totti completed the most passes in the attacking third of any player in a Roma shirt, as Garcia’s men stifled Inter’s attack, an targeted the space available on the counter.

Roma produced another terrific performance against an Inter Milan side that were on a great run of form, prior to the result. Last season the Giallorossi were abysmal at the back, and would’ve struggled to maintain a three-goal lead, but Garcia’s men – who have only conceded one goal thus far – continue to be magnificent defensively. It’s uncertain as to whether Roma will be able to sustain such brilliance for the duration of the season, but it’s refreshing to hear the Giallorossi mentioned in the title conversation.

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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Adem Ljajic’s movement steers Roma past Lazio

The summer sales of Erik Lamela, Pablo Osvaldo and Bojan Krkic left many questioning Roma’s front-line heading into the new season, however a certain Serbian attacker is slowly silencing those critics.


Adem Ljajic’s arrival in the second half turned the tide for the Giallorossi as they earned their 48th Rome derby victory. Prior to the Serbian attacker’s introduction, the match looked certain to end in a draw. Vladimir Petkovic’s cautious approach saw his side sit off in their half, maintaining a solid foundation in a 4-1-4-1, but this left lone striker Miroslav Klose isolated upfront. Alvaro Gonzalez and Hernanes pressed Kevin Strootman and Miralem Pjanic, leaving Daniele De Rossi free to play passes, but the Italian didn’t have a significant impact on the match.

Due to Lazio’s ability to contain Roma’s midfield, Rudi Garcia’s attacking three didn’t receive many opportunities to cause havoc in the final third. Gervinho scampered down the flanks lacking quality in the final third – while Francesco Totti was forced to drop deep into midfield to receive the ball and Alessandro Florenzi was a limited option on the opposing flank. Frankly, it was a poor half from both sides that resulted in no shots on target, minimal Lazio attacking threats – besides Antonio Candreva and Senad Lulic bombing down the flanks – and Garcia’s men unable to get behind the Lazio backline.

Six minutes into the second half, Garcia decided to introduce Ljajic for the disappointing Florenzi, and this is when Roma – specifically Totti – grew into the match.


Ljajic, celebrating his 22nd birthday, drifted around the final third linking play on each flank – he found pockets of space in key areas to receive the ball, and dropped deeper into midfield to provide an extra passing outlet. The Serbian attacker provided an attacking element – his immaculate off-the-ball movement – that freed up space for his teammates to slot into.


Maicon and Federico Balzaretti surged forward to help create overloads, and Totti, who had himself a frustrating first half, found spaces in wide areas to provide Roma with the creativity they lacked prior to Ljajic’s arrival.


Balzaretti and Totti benefitted from the Serbian’s second half cameo the most, as the Roma captain was no longer the creative focal point, while Balzaretti had space to attack due to Lazio’s narrow shape. And it took 11 minutes for the duo to combine as Totti drifted to the right flank and played a lovely ball to the advancing Roma fullback, but he drove his shot off the post. Seconds later, Totti played a short corner, received the ball back, and delivered a lovely cross to an unmarked Balzaretti, and this time the Italian put the ball past Federico Marchetti.

Petkovic brought on an extra striker, two midfielders, and altered his formation, but an Andre Dias red card – minutes after his introduction – ended Lazio’s chances of snagging an equalizer. Nevertheless, Ljajic continued to impact the match, combining with Balzaretti again, which led to substitute Marco Borriello nodding the Italian fullback’s cross at Marchetti. But, in the dying minutes of injury time, Ljajic received a pass on the edge of the box, awing the Lazio defence with his footwork, then squirming into space, where he was fouled, handing Roma a late penalty. The birthday boy confidently stepped to the spot, scoring his second goal of the season – off the bench – for the Giallorossi, as their perfect record stays intact.

Ljajic has yet to complete a full 90 minutes for Roma, but he continues to display why he’ll be a pivotal component to their success this season. His persistence to roam around the final third linking play, score goals, and provide space for his teammates is beneficial against well-organized sides. Roma struggled in the first half, but Ljajic’s work rate in the final third led to the Giallorossi’s second half superiority against a good Lazio side.

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Posted by on September 23, 2013 in Match Recaps, Published Work


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Napoli 4 – 1 Roma

Match in a sentence

An Edinson Cavani hat-trick sunk Roma 4-1 in the Derby del Sole and has reignited Napoli’s surge in the race for the Scudetto.


  • Zeman’s side started the game in a 4-3-3 with an attacking trio of Francesco Totti, Erik Lamela, and Mattia Destro.  Roma’s midfield consisted of Miralem Pjanic, Michael Bradley and Daniele De Rossi.
  • Walter Mazzari went with his traditional 3-5-2 with Edinson Cavani and Goran Pandev upfront.  Christian Maggio and Zuniga were the wingbacks with Marek Hamsik ahead of Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler.
  • Napoli started this game in fine fashion as it took them four minutes to take the lead courtesy of a delicious ball from Pandev to Cavani. The Uruguayan striker made no mistake as he slotted the ball past Mauro Goicoechaea

  • Pandev was Napoli’s danger man in the first half as he received the ball in between the lines on numerous occasions. He then would drive at the shaky Roma backline, but only the Cavani opener would result from Pandev’s work.
  • Roma enjoyed majority of the possession but did little with it. With Lamela and Destro switching sides looking to cut in, Roma’s shape was too narrow and it stifled several of their attacks when they got into the final third. They looked better when Federico Balzaretti got forward to provide some width, but they lacked the extra bit of quality. They could use width on both sides, but with Cavani drifting to the left, Ivan Piris has been unable to get forward.
  • Napoli started the second half as they did the first with another Cavani goal. Hamsik held up the play and Zuniga overlapped and cutback a ball into the box that fell to Cavani and the Uruguayan made no mistake.

  • Mazzari’s men were organized and they defended as a unit, and Roma simply failed to produce any magic in the final third. They moved the ball too slow, there was minimal movement off the ball and the front three of Lamela, Totti and Destro struggled to get in behind the Napoli back line.
  • As the game went on, Roma was forced to throw players forward, and finally Piris started  to push higher up the field. Piris as well as Balzaretti’s presence higher up the pitch was non-existent and as expected it was a useful outlet for Napoli to launch their counter-attacks.
  • Cavani added to his tally later on with an unmarked header from a corner kick that put the game out of reach for the Giallorossi.  Pablo Osvaldo brought the game to life minutes later when Pjanic provided a glorious ball that Osvaldo slipped past Morgan De Sanctis.

  • Zeman was tactically naïve tonight, and despite Roma having a few chances to pounce on, they weren’t good enough on the night. Napoli allowed them to have the ball, knowing they had the quality in breaking down that Roma defence. Napoli also believed that Roma couldn’t break them down. They lacked natural width going forward, the midfield were unable to provide quality service to the front men, who were also average today. Zeman’s 4-3-3 was nullified and without a plan B, he simply watched Napoli comfortably defeat his side.
  • Unfortunately for Roma, things went got worse when Pjanic was sent off moments after the goal when he received his second yellow card of the night. Christian Maggio added the fourth in stoppage time to secure the three points for Napoli.
  • The win sees Napoli climb to third in the Serie A table, in what looks destined to be a dog fight for not only the Scudetto, but Champions League spots. The difference in this match was Cavani, because unlike Lamela, Totti and Destro, Cavani was ruthless in front of goal. Today he displayed to the world why he is the best striker on the planet.

Three Stars

1. Edinson Cavani

2. Goran Pandev

3. Gokhan Inler 

Tyrrell Meertins

Follow @TEEWHYox

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Posted by on January 6, 2013 in Match Recaps


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