Twenty Five

As the game clock ticked towards full time, Roma chased a single, solitary goal at home against Livorno. The same Livorno who'd scored two goals in eight games, and were stuck dead last. We might as well have asked for a miracle: while the display of ineptness went on, agonizing us, taunting us, the electronic bill boards lining the pitch displayed ads for Francesco Totti's clothing brand Never Without You, featuring only the brand's name on a dark background. They were a poignant reminder of who Roma was missing; a stinging realization that No, Roma will never make it without you. His absence continues to loom over the team, shrouding even accomplished footballers in parallelization. Without him, we have nothing. Without him, we are nothing.

Roma-Livorno hasn't ended in an away win since what feels like the foundation of the very city of Rome. There's a reason, usually: Livorno are a small, small team, and Roma should beat them based on every conceivable merit, every given day. And these editions of Roma and Livorno, respectively, shouldn't be the time when that trend is broken, but it nevertheless was, despite friendly refereeing. Livorno won, neither unfairly nor very lucky, led by Tavano - the ex - and coached by Cosmi - this guy. This shouldn't be interpreted as a claim that either are better than what Roma has now, or that Roma would be better with those two on the team, but it's an ironic twist that digs itself deep into the blackened heart of the romanista.

Ranieri lost Pizarro before the game, and while missing any one player against Livorno is no excuse, it does show precisely how important the little one is to this Roma. Without him we see the ugliest of De Rossis: the one who tries to shoulder every role because he think he has to. The one who launches long balls straight into the grateful arms of opposing goal keepers; the one who by trying to do everything accomplishes nothing.

Ranieri had a hard time getting anything else right in the game. Beyond the more egregious examples, dealt with below, I'm having difficulty locating the rationale behind pulling Ménez after 45 minutes. He hadn't accomplished very much, that I can acknowledge, but he was still clearly among the lesser of evils in Roma during the first half. But hey, who needs a player that can dribble and create when you have Perrotta, Faty, Taddei and the worst Vucinic seen by man.

When Adrian Pit came on in the sixty fifth minute, it was like taking a leap into the unknown. The effect of him taking the pitch was much the same as what you would get if you put on a panda bear wearing a Roma shirt: you sit there, watching on in complete confusion, and have no earthly idea how this will play out. Will Pit/the panda bear play in midfield, and if so defensively, offensively or on a wing?; Or will Pit/the panda bear sit down in the mid circle and groom himself?

Post game statistics shows he was on the pitch for twenty five minutes, all of which Livorno were in ten after De Lucia's red card, and I don't recall him doing anything at all. The same stats shows he hit precisely three out of ten passes to a team mate, which is always some sort of accomplishment when the team as a whole had an 83% success rate on its passes. I cannot for the life of me understand what made Ranieri gamble on Pit in this game (especially not when there were more logical options: Brighi, who is to Pit what Godzilla is to a pet lizard; Okaka; and finally Andreolli, bomber extraordinaire). Perhaps Pit impressed so much in practice that he earned a chance? If that's the case, whatever impression he made at Trigoria should have been irreversibly erased by these twenty five minutes of nothingness.

During the Fulham game, the English commentator keeping me company during the broadcast struggled mightily and bravely with the pronunciation of the guests' names. "Here's Ta-da!", he would say as Taddei did something unidentifiable somewhere on the right wing. Ta-da: to me the name suggests magic. Once - two or three or a hundred years ago - it would refer to tricks illusions such as this. Now, there might as well be promoters outside Olimpico screaming "Come one, come all! See the amazing disappearance act by Ta-da!". I nominate it as one of life's greatest mysteries how, why, he's as solid as he's ever been in the starting line-up. Spalletti's not here any longer, it's impossible to hinge it to some sort of Spallettian nostalgia and misplaced loyalty towards old servants as Ranieri continues to trust him every bit as much as Lucianone ever did.