It Started in Naples?

The turning point for Luciano Spalletti's Roma has become such a part of the discourse of this season, that one would be forgiven for forgetting that the turning point was no grand declaration. There was no flag planted. No sumptuous blow-out. The turning point was a modest 1-1 draw away to Sampdoria in freezing December weather. But it was enough. So despite a couple of Roma's goals tonight being lucky, despite Napoli pulling Roma apart at the seams for a prolonged period in the first half, despite the fact that the fourth goal Roma very nearly scored would have been one of the clearest cases of numbers being deceitful (sorry, Jay)—despite all of that, for now there is every reason to maintain hope that the past six days represent Roma's turning point. It might not be, but right here and now all we know for sure is that Roma will close out the year with two of its three best performances of the season. Jumping ahead and imagining that the worst possible might not happen against Bologna on Wednesday, 2012 will start off well. Because if the point against was a mouthful of oxygen—as Franco Baldini branded it—this win away in Naples is like spending a week in one of those oxygen tents Michael Jackson slept in.

It wouldn't be out of place to spend a paragraph on Stekelenburg, who's precisely as anonymous as I want my goalkeeper to be. He's just there when he should be, and for a team like this that's no small thing. Nor would it be unbecoming to highlight DDR, six days ago provoking questions like whether he should in fact be turned into a full-time defender now, and following it up by playing another great game in a different position. New day, new job, same DDR. Lamela is special and deserves attention, and Totti wore the armband with style and grace. The individual I would like to shine the light on is, however, neither of the aforementioned. Fabio Simplicio, though. As a character or modern elite athlete, he readily lends himself to caricature and far too easy jokes, but he adds something unique to this Roma. (For further reference, see Michael Cox's column on Cesc Fabregas but be careful to cut out all adjectives and divide perceived praise tenfold). Watching highlights of Roma games in which Fabio Simplicio plays is often like watching a sitcom, or film, showing scenes we the viewers have already seen, but with a new character cut into the old footage. You could swear he wasn't there earlier, but still...there he is now. Simplicio adds a trait to this Roma no other midfielder does, in that he goes goal-bound whenever he can. Whenever there's a chance for a cross to come in, for the chance the goalkeeper might spill a shot, Simplicio is there. He even scored tonight, but if we're honest that had little to do with innate ability or hard work. It was, however, a nice touch for an honest player who did have a very good game for the 89 minutes leading up the that goal as well.