Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

I'm not saying this to try to alleviate any of the blame that's on him (when you haven't even won yet in the season's fifth game, you're inevitably a part of the problem too), but Ranieri got it pitch perfect when he said that Roma's problems are mental. They always seem to be, but nevertheless. He pointed to the many, many set piece goals Roma has let in, and reasons that they're the result of mental fatigue, not physical. When Brescia scored its first goal, they kicked an already wide open door. Sending half a dozen men over to the RAI archives to dig up old footage of Liedholm explaining zonal defense (such footage has to exist) might be a brilliant allocation of man power at this point, because there seems to be collective confusion about the very basis of the system. Against Bologna Di Vaio exploited this, as did Brescia: Juan was caught out in no man's land, Rosi drifted way off and was in the last place he should have been, while Brighi was content to ball watch as the midfielder he should have tracked got loose and scored.

Three very legitimate calls for Roma penalties were ignored, and they were all of the kind that if you did see it, you'd give the penalty simply becaus eyou'd have no other choice. They weren't 50-50. So either Russo is wildly incompetent, or he had an active part in deciding this game. When Ménez complained that a Brescia player was standing too close as he was about to hit a free kick, and in order to get his opponent to draw a yellow card, he kicked the ball at his legs. It's a technique used a lot by Totti (learning you are, young padawan) and is basically a loop hole because it exploits the fact that it is an automatic yellow. Roma got a throw-in instead. I'm not saying, I'm...well, no, I am saying, as a matter of fact. Mexès's red card was just as startling; instead of a clumsy challenge from behind, inside the box, it was all ball. Being outside of the box is just what spices it up, as the fact that he took nothing but the ball is more than enough to make it a wrongful penalty call. I've avoided the media after the game, but I have no problems imagining the condemning of Mexès's tantrum that's circulated. But I don't blame him nor will I berate him. If you expect anyone to take that kind of injustice with stoic serenity and a stiff upper lip, you're looking at the wrong team and the wrong player.

But smoke gets in our eyes, and even if it was better than the games preceding it, even if Roma were treated worse than any team has been seen Moggi was around, it still wasn't good. A normal referee, and Roma takes this game handily. And they ran a lot more than in previous outings, they fought and showed real will. But the quality didn't match their dedication, and there's still plenty to be done. The midfield is in complete disarray, and it's hard to see the utility of most of the players there. What actually was good, the sunny side up of this breakfast, was twofold for me: Borriello is for real. The man is a beast, a diluted Drogba on a lay-away plan. Adriano, on the other hand, was objectionable. He misplaced open passes of five meters by ten meters. In a different direction. But even in this dismal state, I saw enough of him standing with his back to the goal and turning around in one swift move and shooting to know that he'll score like that. He can even score a lot like that. He's still got a stroke and release that few players has, and the sheer amount of power and speed he can make the ball travel with will net him and Roma some goals and points this year.

Inter, again at the top of the table. Last year it started the turnaround for Roma. Surely it's too much to ask for it again?