Defensive numbers

One of the reasons often offered to explain Roma’s defensive record – fourth worst in the league at 59 goals, only behind Lecce, Reggina and Bologna, all potentially relegated – is the lack of games played together for Juan and Mexès. Breaking up a central defense is often advised against as it’s said to rock the understanding between the two defenders who would need acclimatization when partnered together again the next time. For Roma there’s also the issue of our third and fourth central defender not being of the required quality to make any sort of change run smoothly.

But let’s crunch some numbers; out of Roma’s 59 goals allowed in 37 league games (an average of 1,59 goals allowed per game), only 19 has happened when Juan and Mexès has played together, which they did for 18 games (a very respectable average of 1,05 goals against per game). Their run together in central defense, often interrupted by injuries or suspensions, included some good opposition (twice vs Milan, Juve, Fiorentina) and also 8 clean sheets. Full list of the games they've played are at the bottom.

I perfectly understand the importance of chemistry between central defenders, and far be it from me to trivialize it to the point of rendering it moot. But at the same time I think no other transfer which Roma makes this summer will be of greater importance than bringing the team back to the old method of having three largely interchangeable central defenders. For some reason, Juan is unfortunately prone to injuries in Rome, and Mexès is prone to being Mexès, which means he’s volatile and often suspended. That in turn means whoever the third defender is, he should be ready to play a lot. This year that third defender happened to be Loria (or Panucci), which won’t do for a team with aspirations to continually qualify for Europe.

With Juan and Mexès:

Napoli (H) 1, Juventus (A) 2, Bologna (A) 1, lazio (H) 0, Lecce (A) 0, Fiorentina (H) 0, Chievo (A) 0, Cagliari (H) 2, Catania (A) 3, Milan (H) 2, Torino (A) 0, Napoli (A) 0, Palermo (H) 1, Reggina (A) 2, Genoa (H) 0, Atalanta (A) 3, Siena (H) 0, Milan (A) 2