Footnotes of Roma: Udinese and The Replacements

• Watching the Roma of late rack up points in the league–17 collected out of the last possible 21–is an exercise rife with inner conflict. It has tangents of watching someone walk a rope perched up between two peaks, always no more than a slipped step away from a fall that ends up in mid-table anonymity. At the same time, the last weeks have to me carried with them a feeling of nigh ineluctability, much like a train running along its tracks. The team continues to allow chances for their opponents, but isn't this counterweighted by the entire starting midfield (as it were in an ideal Ranieri line-up where injuries and international breaks are entirely foreign concepts) being replaced by the bench options? A turn-over rate of 100% in what can with good reason be called the game's most important area is surely on parity with allowing Floro Flores a touch or two in the box. Roma didn't even slip off the rope/slow down with the game killer subs of Julio Baptista and Adriano, a message as clear as any that this game was done for, and that Ranieri had already begun scribbling down simple maps and instructions for  Ménez and how he can find Demichelis on Tuesday.

• Some weeks back, they said of Ménez that "if he only learned how to pass", he'd be so much more dangerous. So he did, and added a fantastic assist to his arsenal. Then they said that "if he only learned how to shoot". So he did. All that remains, I gather, is to say that "if he only was this good consistently..." and hope for as good a demonstration. I suspect he's a lot better than almost everyone realizes.

• A red card for Burdisso felt like an over reaction. A yellow for Burdisso, or both players, would probably have been more appropriate. Still, Burdisso was completely at fault. He got away with his initial shoves, and would have been wise to let it rest. Instead it was one of the rare reappearances of Inter-Burdisso, first seen in Sardinia earlier this fall. That Burdisso was always easy to provoke into committing a red card foul, and the transformation he made last year into someone who always stood on the line, but never blatantly crossed it was both unexpected, welcome and necessary with Mexès filling that role on the team. Now he's suspended for Palermo away, and he and we had better hope both Juan and Mexès stands up over the next week. The prospect of playing Pastore with Burdisso Jr. does many things to my being, none of them good.

• The point made above, about this Roma somehow managing to feel solid even in the face of evidence to the contrary, connects this Roma to the one of last spring. Then, losing seemed unthinkable and it was done somehow (I'm sure many artists' renditions would be a picture of Vucinic carrying a wolf on his back for large stretches) without really sparkling play. There are some differences to me, not all easily explained by the leaving of Luca Toni and entrance of Marco Borriello. To be sure they move differently and interact with their teammates in decidedly different manners, but the entire team runs in another way compared to then. This Roma seems more passing oriented, and is not afraid to keep the ball at long stretches without forcing the issue. Even on Saturday with all midfield starters missing, Roma could easily and consistently outplay the visitors by passing the ball. The least difficult, most difficult thing there is.

• While the club is involved in what could derail into a trivial auction and bidding war, thrown from one extreme to another, the effects of this on the performances of the team has been...inexistent. Which, particularly in Rome, seems implausible. Yet it's holding up so far, over the last few weeks, and the team is showing a charming sense of unity to its individual members (see Totti once again cheer-leading through his blog, this time Adriano in honor of his cameo appearance off the bench; the palpable sense of respect between Ranieri and Ménez after his goal and Totti after his substitution).