It’s been a while since we’ve seen Roma being so united and determined for more than a game or two. Don’t get me wrong – the Giallorossi have always had natural leaders on the pitch, but very often only a few individuals were displaying the needed passion to wear the famous jersey.
However, in the last couple of games, we’ve been witnessing something different, as Roma seem to be transformed. The desire and character that every single player is displaying is really refreshing to see and yesterday’s 2-1 victory in the Derby del Sole was arguably the best display this season.
Paulo Fonseca’s men were on a mission and that was evident from the first minute of the game, as the Roma players showed more hunger, bravery and conviction against the at least on paper superior Napoli side.
Just like in the last few weeks, the Giallorossi were plagued by injuries, especially in midfield where Fonseca was forced to field Gianluca Mancini next to Jordan Veretout once again. However, for yet another week the Italian centre-back was impressive and played a key role in Roma’s spirited display.
While Fonseca’s decision to use Mancini as a makeshift defensive midfield has been brilliant, what’s arguably been even more impressive is the impact the former Shakhtar Donetsk coach is having on a player like Javier Pastore.
The Argentinian was included in the starting XI for a second consecutive game, something that hasn’t been happening to him too often in recent years, and just like against Udinese on Wednesday, he did not disappoint.
Alongside Edin Dzeko, Justin Kluivert and Nicolò Zaniolo, Pastore managed to maintain Roma’s high pressing game even deep into the second half. This prevented Napoli from using their 57% ball possession effectively enough during large stretches of the game, and allowed Roma to spend more time in the opposition half.
It was really surprising to see Pastore’s attacking display being overshadowed by his defensive brilliance, as the 30-year old registered three tackles, two interceptions and participated in 14 ground duels against Partenopei. Not bad for a player that has always been criticized for his lack of effort and physicality.
Pastore’s role perfectly complimented the work of Veretout and Zaniolo, who were undoubtedly Roma’s best players on the pitch. The Frenchman produced arguably his best performance ever since joining the Giallorossi, as putting aside the penalty that he converted, he finished the game with 91% pass success rate, two key passes, three clearances and two interceptions.
In fact, the dirty work of Mancini, Veretout, Pastore and Dzeko allowed Zaniolo to perform at his best when attacking, as beyond his well taken shot for the opener, the youngster was a real menace every time he went forward.
While individual talents like Mancini and Zaniolo deserve to be singled out, the overall display of Roma in both defence and attack has been the most encouraging sign in recent weeks.
The Giallorossi had less possession against a Napoli side with superior individual quality, but finished the game with more interceptions, more tackles and more unity, which was the reason for their victory.
Roma have been producing similar displays on a regular basis since the season started and this makes them tough to beat. It is no coincidence that Roma have suffered just one defeat since the start of the season, as despite the large number of injuries and all the pressure surrounding the club, Paulo Fonseca has managed to bring unity to the team.
This unity proved to be enough against the confused and inconsistent Napoli and as it seems it could be the key for Roma in the future.