Roma-Parma 2-0

These last few weeks have been scripted better than I could bring myself to do even in my most clandestine dreams. Roma's resurgence made yesterday against Parma a game worth possession of the 4th spot over Christmas and New Year's. After the dominance over Parma and the most stable of 2-0 wins ever conquered, Roma will be toasting in 2010 in control of it's fate. The holidays will be particularly joyous for Ranieri, whose great work for Roma paired with the poor job of Ferrara in Juve has given him restoration of his name. In his post game comments, when asked about Juventus' loss to Catania, he was noticeably gleeful. And he has every right to as Roma ends 2009 two mere points within distance of Juventus, with an overwhelming sense that had the break not come now,  Roma would have passed his former employer. Comeuppance, it's called comeuppance.

The game against Parma went just as one would hope it would, their great start to the season notwithstanding. There was something in the air; a Roma reborn, glaring sun and a lot of people there to see it. This was a game Roma would win 10 times out of 10, without that ever being a slight on Parma. This game was dominated from start to finish, and the great tradition of not allowing the opponent to score continued. Roma has now played four games in a row without conceding as much as one single goal, and I want to attribute as little of that as possible to mere luck. What's been noticeable even a few weeks before the derby is that Roma now gives up much fewer shots to the opposition. Here we must credit Ranieri for instilling a functioning, cohesive game plan which has served Roma greatly. With that in place, Roma can now win games by one or two goals without low scoring compromising the win. Before Brighi's goal I wasn't worried at all, even as the lead was a single goal - it wasn't to be that Parma would score if they'd played for three hours yesterday. That's a novel sensation, but a no less welcome one.

The success of the last run of games is owed in part to Ranieri being able to bring back the players of quality Roma has, and reintegrated them into a stable team. Vucinic had a tremendous second half, even if it becomes clearer by every passing game that he will never be the goal scoring bomber Roma perhaps needs. He does important work on the flanks with his running all the same, and his sacrifice allows his team mates to express themselves more freely. Juan, again, played excellent and his return corresponding with Roma's defensive excellence is more than a coincidence. DDR played what I thought was the best game of his season by far, an invaluable asset. But it is his brother in arms, Pizarro, that I am most content with. El Pek hardly ever gets as much recognition as he deserves, mostly doling away fairly obscured. He's not one to go on a dribbling run at the edge of the penalty box, making any highlight reel. He doesn't hit very good free kicks, so never gets fame by way of those. In fact, the casual observer might very well most notice him for short corners and him falling over in order to win a free kick in his own half. But I'll be harsh: Pek is the test for understanding football. To me, he represents the difference between knee jerk populist opining and real insight and understanding of the game. I don't think one really gets football without appreciating Pizarro.

He outpasses everyone else on the pitch, game after game. He acts the fulcrum of the entire team, without whom playing quickly becomes robotic and stale. Pek isn't so much the engine of the team as the motor oil that keeps it running smoothly. Personally I am convinced Roma would be a much lesser team without him, which is an opinion I feel is supported by juxtaposing the games against Sampdoria and Parma. The former saw a stale, unimaginative Roma; the latter the fluid Roma able to combine his and Totti's altruism and fantasy with the rigid and stable defensive organization Ranieri has created.