Two-hundred and One

When Totti celebrates his two-hundredth goal in serie A, of course it had to be while chartering new land. The mundane simply could not do for such an achievement. So in becoming the sixth player to hold his own bicentennial, Totti laid waste to his final ghost by scoring for the first time in his career at the Artemio Franchi. Yesterday he moved with poise, scored two goals and very nearly more than that. He hit nutmegs and pulled defenders out of their comfort zones. His greatness cannot be summarized in goals alone, that would be to shut one's eyes to his vision, his passing, his swagger. Why rob yourself of all that?

There was rain on the parade Totti had thrown together. The 2-2 result does little to aid Roma in getting a spot in next season's Champions League, and while the distance to fourth place is not impossible to bridge, things look bleak. Two years ago we were in a similar situation, trailing Fiorentina and Genoa in a hunt for that final CL-spot. Then, as now, the gap wasn't very big. Then, probably as now, Roma never stood a chance due to having a defense fully comparable to those of teams fighting relegation. Yesterday there were mistakes in marking and a lack of swiftness in reacting, as there has been all throughout the season. This needs immediate addressing, which is hard to do with defenders and goalkeepers as out of form as they've ever been.

Still, it could have worked yesterday. If not for... 

Pek was stifled by a compact Fiorentina midfield, and that can't happen without it affecting Roma as well. Even more than Totti, Pek sets the agenda for the team: a percussionist serving as foundation for the others, without him everything else gets thrown off rhythm. And it did. He's all the more vital now that two pillars of the 4-2-3-1 of the Spallettian era, Perrotta and Taddei, are much less threatening than they were way back when. De Rossi tried to help him out, and did send out a few great crosses that opened up space. One of them was to Riise who then set up Totti's second goal, so there were good things and attempts to counter-balance. Just too little of it, and at too random intervals. I'm convinced games like these (or away to Palermo) are the best examples of Pek's importance to this team; not because they showed him doing everything right, but precisely because he suffered in them. If his work often passes by unnoticed, it is by showing what it looks like when he's off game that we really see his impact. Don't know what you have until it's gone, etcetera.

Which is also an apt reminder about Totti.