Saturday, July 19 th, 2014
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Reinventing the wheel: Totti's absence is a key factor for Roma
Without the number 10, giallorossi struggle to score and drew two games after ten wins in a row. How much does his presence influence Roma game?
by Stefano Marsiglia and Federico Formica
Since at least 1998, when Francesco Totti's star fully arose, Italian football journalists state the obvious saying that Roma's competitiveness strongly depends on him. In AS Roma's history, Totti is the strongest player ever and he's the second best goalscorer ever since Serie A started (1929). It can't be a coincidence if in the last three years the AS Roma got an average of 1.9 points per match with is captain on the field, against the 1.3 points without him.

It couldn't be any other way. It's clear that without its captain on the pitch, Roma is not – and cannot be - the same. And, now that he's 37 years old, things have not changed. Totti got injured on October 18th during Roma-Napoli 2-0 and he will probably be out until January. Since then, Roma's goalscoring average dramatically dropped from 2,75 goals per game to one per game.

The difference. Roma won against Napoli and the following games against Udinese (1-0) and Chievo (1-0), but the playing style expressed by Rudi Garcia's squad has never been the same; the shots conceded raised (the team conceded two goals in the last two matches, only one in the previous ten). In sum, the team is not looking anymore so devastating as it was in the first part of the season, when it defeated Internazionale at the San Siro (3-0), Hellas Verona (2-0) and Lazio (2-0) among the others. After having won against Udinese and Chievo, Roma drew against Torino and against the newly-promoted Sassuolo in its home stadium, the Olimpico. Both matches ended 1-1.

Now, coach Rudi Garcia will have to struggle to find a way to hold the position until his captain's back. If he will succeed, Roma could definitely lay its cards on the table for the final victory.

To talk about a crisis would definitely be inappropriate: Roma lead the Serie A with 10 victories in 12 matches. But without any doubt, in the last two matches the giallorossi have shown that they are not the invincible team admired during the first matches of the Italian championship anymore .

Conflicting data. We can talk about goals average and points average, but there are other numbers which could mislead us as well. Let's exclude Roma-Napoli. Taking in consideration the four games preceding Roma-Napoli (with Francesco Totti on the pitch). In the following four (without the number 10), Roma had more ball possession, completed more passes, attacked more and shot more towards the opposing goal posts while Totti was absent.

  with Francesco Totti without Francesco Totti
ball-possession  55,3% 61,5% 
passes completed  409 470,5 
attacking passes in the 3rd   118 149 
shots  12,2  15,5

Games with Totti on the pitch taken in consideration: Roma-Lazio 2-0, Sampdoria-Roma 0-2, Roma-Bologna 5-0, Inter-Roma 0-3; games without Totti on the pitch taken in consideration: Udinese-Roma 0-1, Roma-Chievo 1-0, Torino-Roma 1-1, Roma-Sassuolo 1-1.

What does it means? We can interpret the higher ball-possession with Totti's ability to play vertically: one of Roma captain's best skills is the first time pass from the final third. And he's clinical in this: his passing accuracy this season is at 81,8 percent and he completed six assists in seven games. An astonishing average. With such a player on the pitch, the team does not need to hold the ball so much.

At the same time, we can interpret the more attacking plays, passes completed and shots with a very simple explanation: after Totti's injury Roma faced weaker teams. Udinese, Chievo, Torino and Sassuolo are definitely less dangerous teams if we compare them to Internazionale and Lazio (the two matches which most influenced our comparison).

But it's not all about Francesco Totti. There are many reasons for the giallorossi's impasse: the absence of important players, some adverse decisions by the referees (but neither Rudi Garcia nor the management want to blame such circumstances), a bit of bad luck (which, according to the more hostile, Roma deserves) and a physiological slowing down for a team which has given his best for almost three months.

All of these reasons are definitely true, but beyond these, if you want to understand the reasons of this moment, you need to pronounce just two words: Francesco Totti.

Thanks to our reviewer Lorenzo Franceschi Bicchierai

Sunday, November 17 th, 2013
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