For much of the season, Roma fans have been complaining about the lack of quality provided from their full-backs when crossing the ball, which has hampered many of their attacks.
Of course, that remains an issue that the team need to work on. However, the 4-2 loss to Inter on Saturday sent a reminder that Roma also have a problem dealing with opponents’ crosses.
Roma have conceded five goals to Inter this season and all of them, in different ways, came from out wide. Inter obviously have some of the strongest wide players in Serie A, but why have Roma found it so hard to stop them?
The only goal at San Siro in October, in the final 10 minutes after a determined display by Jose Mourinho’s side, came when Inter launched the ball to Federico Dimarco on the left wing, and the Italian picked out finisher Marcus Thuram with a well-weighted cross along the ground.
Upon their reconvention at Stadio Olimpico in February, Daniele De Rossi’s side conceded an opening goal to a development from a corner – even if, strictly speaking, the way the ball got to goalscorer Francesco Acerbi was off Romelu Lukaku’s headed clearance – before Thuram benefitted from another low cross, this time from the right, Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s cross caused Angelino’s own goal, and Alessandro Bastoni finished off a counter attack after being picked out from the right wing.
While, when complaining of their own ineffective crossing, Roma can point accusatory fingers at the individuals letting them down, the situation is slightly more complex in the opposite phase. Indeed, they need to take a detailed look at how they are allowing chances like these to develop and where the problems are starting.
But it seems as soon as they get on the backfoot, they become vulnerable, especially when skilled opponents try to exploit their weaknesses out wide (often reminding them about the option of crossing along the ground, perhaps something Roma could utilise while working on their own deficiencies at the other end).
It is somewhere Roma will need to toughen up if they are to become more resilient against these kind of opponents. Is it a case of positioning? Awareness? Lack of physical strength? Poor resistance in midfield earlier in sequences?
Whatever the cause, or causes, Roma will have to be wary when playing against teams with similar systems and tactics.
It is a shame, since there were some more promising aspects in their overall attitude against Inter.
Leading at half-time should serve as a confidence booster, regardless of what unfolded after the break. It will take time to see how De Rossi’s Roma react against the better teams, and it was maybe unfair as a measuring stick that his first big game was against the best team in the league.
But the boss admitted after the game, “We take away a match to analyse. We’ll analyse our fitness, our play and our choices. I’m a disciple of Luciano Spalletti’s. When people praised us because we’d lost but played well he’d say, ‘There’s nothing to praise. You lost at home and you have to work on things.’ You can rarely say a defeat was totally undeserved. This wasn’t undeserved. Inter weren’t undeserving. It might have ended in a draw but Inter weren’t undeserving. If we want to compete with a team like Inter, an excellent team, we have to raise our game and become perfect by analysing the defeat. If we go away ‘happy’ because we played well but lost, that’s a recipe for mediocrity and we that’s not what we want.”
Defending crosses should at least give the staff a starting point when it comes to themes they will need to find a way to work on.