Failure to beat Cagliari on the season’s opening game served to make Roma’s trip to Inter a considerably more daunting prospect. Normally, both a clean sheet and an accompanying San Siro point would have been considered a profitable raid to the north, but in retrospect, Enrique was left to rue his team’s bewildering inability to score.
Since Luis Enrique replaced Vincenzo Montella talk has almost exclusively revolved around Roma’s quest to become a quasi-Barcelona. And subsequently, the summer mercato did nothing to dispel this notion with a glut a of attacking talent descending upon Trigoria.
After two Serie A games however, Roma have only a consolatory strike from Daniele De Rossi registering in the ‘goals for‘ column, and Enrique must quickly fathom a way of prizing goals from what is a considerable arsenal.
Ostensibly, Roma appeared to adopt an offensive formation against Inter with Pablo Osvaldo, Francesco Totti and Fabio Borini forming a forward trident. In reality, Osvaldo operated in what was Mirko Vucinic’s left-flank berth, while Borini worked the right channel as Totti played in his accustomed central position – albeit relatively withdrawn.
Understandably, certainly for any team traveling to face Inter, Roma sat deep and maintained a sufficiently compact shape to frustrate the Nerazzurri. The problem that this created however was in attack, where Borini and Osvalado struggled to threaten from wide positions and Totti lacked either or both the pace and height to capitalise and on any service from the flanks or through the middle.
On one hand it seems bizarre that Roma are struggling to score goals, but bear in my Erik Lamela’s absence and the psychological damage created by the Cagliari defeat, certainly in advance of the trip to one of Serie A’s more inhospitable grounds.
Thus, it is understandable why Roma adopted a safety first approach and in that regard one has to applaud what was a resolute, if at times frenetic rearguard display – more so with Lobont having to replace the stricken Stekelenburg – and while plaudits are being dispensed with, Daniele De Rossi is simply a revelation in his defensive midfield role with his lung bursting work rate something to behold.
So, after two very different games, Thursday evening sees Serie A new boys Siena visit the Stadio Olimpico, and without being disrespectful to the Bianconeri, the Tuscans should offer Luis Enrique a perfect opportunity to prove he has learnt quickly and can indeed eek out goals from a variety of available options.
Early indications suggest a start for Borriello and possibly also Bojan, and while the need for change is evident, certainly after two relatively toothless ties, (more if you include the Europa Cup fixtures), it highlights that Romanisti are going to have to contend with a state of flux while Enrique fathoms out his most potent offensive configuration.
Needless to say, all of this translates into performance inconsistencies while the optimum XI remains work in progress, and while such rational hypothesising lends itself to plausible conclusions, it fails to account for fervent Romanisti who desire to see a fruitful summer yield a bumper harvest – namely, in the guise of victories.
Therefore, Enrique must balance style with substance and develop a mode of winning games during the transitional phase. Tifosi can prove incredibly tolerant when it comes to unattractive football, more so when victory sweetens the bitter pill that is the ‘ugly game’.
Ultimately, Roma desperately need to avoid chiding from their own supporters – and while the newly formed group remains in its infancy and uncertain, hostility from fans can only inhibit their development as a coalesced unit.
So, at home, in one of those ‘must win’ games against a newly promoted side, Enrique should hopefully have chutzpah to deploy Bojan in what could be considered as an Antonio Di Natale style role, constantly buzzing around the Siena box and looking to profit from mistakes and through balls alike. Unlike last weekend’s trip to San Siro, it would be nice to see a Giallorosso shirt occupying an orthodox ‘number nine‘ position and at least asking questions of Siena’s centre-half pairing – and in that regard, Bojan’s movement would tax Siena more than the languid Borriello.
And if all else fails, Roma need to fashion three points on Thursday irrespective of personnel and formations. Tiki-taka or long-ball, right now Romanisti should not care one jot, and while the Olimpico faithful remain on board with this ‘project’, and while the upper echelons of Serie A remain within reach, Enrique has to remain adroit in his thinking and it all starts against Siena – quite possibly the biggest game of this campaign thus far.