Roma produced one of their most exhilirating performances of the season so far to beat Bologna 5-1 on Sunday.
It has been a strong start to the season overall, with a few minor setbacks not enough to dampen the restored optimism among the Roma faithful. If any reminder was needed about what this team is capable of this year, it was delivered at Bologna.
For the first time this century, Roma scored five goals in the first half of a Serie A match – and they could have had more.
Right from the beginning, the Lupi were at their blistering best. They took the lead through an own goal, created by Leonardo Spinazzola’s cross, inside just five minutes.
The lead was doubled 10 minutes in through an excellent finish from Edin Dzeko, which saw him move level with the great Amedeo Amadei in third place on the club’s all-time top scorers chart.
Dzeko knows he could have overtaken Amadei on the day as well, as he missed some chances that he would have put away on another day. That was of little significance, though; the striker played his part in Roma’s exciting link-ups that led to even more goals.
Lorenzo Pellegrini made it three with a calm finish after an outstanding pass from Spinazzola, before Bologna reduced the deficit after a comical Bryan Cristante own goal.
But the lead was restored and extended before the break, as Jordan Veretout got his second goal from open play this season, before the man who had set him up, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, got on the scoresheet himself.
Roma have been a high-scoring outfit this season, but those 45 minutes were arguably the best they have produced so far in attack.
Yes, Bologna did not offer the strongest resistence defensively. But Roma were clinical in punishing them; the pace at which the Giallorossi broke forward would have caused problems for any team.
A motto often tied to this club reminds players that ‘the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf’. That concept was summed up perfectly by Roma’s performance.
All the individual elements of Roma’s attack were in full working order. Dzeko led the line superbly, bringing others into play and creating chances.
In behind him, Pellegrini thrived in a more advanced role. The midfielder has done well as part of a deeper pairing recently, but sent a reminder of what he can do further forwards as well. His adaptability can be a massive benefit for Roma when he creates – and scores – like he did against Bologna.
Mkhitaryan. What more is there to say about Mkhitaryan?
The Armenian magician can probably be classed as Roma’s best player now. He oozed quality on the ball; he makes it look effortless at times. This was yet another example of him transcending those around him.
But Roma are quickly developing into a multi-dimensional team. Since the switch to a back three, the wing-backs have had to provide greater threat, for example.
Spinazzola has been offering that in spades this season, and was once again dominant down the left-hand side.
But perhaps Roma have been over-reliant on attacks down that channel in recent months. That was, until Rick Karsdorp found his form again.Embed from Getty Images
Voted man of the match in Roma’s last league game, the Dutchman was a candidate again after another hard-working performance. He showed quality and attacking intent in possession; the timing of his assist for Mkhitaryan was perfect.
Hence, he provided the balance Roma were looking for to make them a fully functioning attacking juggernaut. Spinazzola remains Roma’s best source of creativity out wide, but Karsdorp is beginning to offer something similar down the right.
It means Roma are now covering all bases. Opponents are becoming all too aware that this Giallorossi side can hurt them from all angles.
This is what fans have been dreaming of for a long time. There has been an over-reliance on Dzeko in the last few years, which hasn’t mattered for a lot of that time because of how good he has been.
Roma are now even more threatening, because the goals are not just coming from their striker. It means that when he misses the chances he sometimes does, it is becoming less significant. Roma can soon find another way to penetrate their opponents.
The Giallorossi are now on 24 goals from their first 11 league games this season. The last time they managed a tally that high at this stage was in 2016-17 – the year they broke their record for the most goals they had ever scored in a Serie A season.Embed from Getty Images
If Roma can continue at this rate, and replicate these performances against the bigger teams, then why not dream of setting a new record? This team now has a clear formula for success in attack.
And that is without Nicolo Zaniolo. On Sunday, it was also without Pedro. Stephan El Shaarawy did not return to the club in the summer – but if he does in January, then that will be three more elements to add to the thunderous force that was on display against Bologna.
Fans should savour the moment of this result. It may only be one small step, but it has proven that Roma can be lethal when everything clicks.
It won’t always be that way, and this win might not be enough to restore Roma’s credentials as title contenders yet, but when their attack is as strong as it was against Bologna, very few teams will be able to withstand it.
This could just be the beginning. Roma have shown that when all their individual elements excel, their force as a whole is one to be reckoned with.