Roma’s 3-1 victory over Atalanta at home was a fun, comprehensive argument against many of the hollow criticisms -- most with some merit but all rather overstated for various reasons -- that have been levied against the side this season. You know them by now, but just to rattle off some of the more intriguing ones to look back on in hindsight:
- Mattia Destro is not capable of leading the line for Roma - Morgan De Sanctis and Douglas Maicon were too old and a waste of money - Francesco Totti is too old and injury-prone - Gervinho can’t finish and is a flop - Leandro Castan is not good enough - Roma should have sold Daniele De Rossi when they had the chance
There are many more that could be stated, and again, given a particular set of time and circumstances, a number of these concerns have some merit -- but Roma have shown this season that they're mostly just empty teasing. For example, the side played as well as they have done all season -- maybe even better -- for nearly the entire match against Atalanta, which flies in the face of two well-stated Roma clichés: Rudi Garcia’s men only have one good half in them, and that the side have no depth. This myth about depth is crucial. It’s been argued that Roma have failed to win the Scudetto this season because of squad depth, but that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. Yes, the team failed to score when Francesco Totti, Mattia Destro and Gervinho were sidelined -- and all of them were out for significant stretches this season -- but the side have 79 points from 33 games this season. That’s a sensational tally, and nearly every other season, they'd be top by quite a long distance. The reason they aren't now has more to do with Antonio Conte than Rudi Garcia. It’s not as if Atalanta are a bad side; they're currently ninth in the league, with as many points as Hellas, one less than Lazio, and one more than both Torino and Milan. They've defeated Napoli, Lazio twice and Inter this season, as well as tying the reverse fixture way back in December. Combined with Roma’s list of absences, which reads like a “Who’s Who” of seasonal protagonists, and the win at home was thoroughly good -- and never really in doubt.
No Federico Balzaretti, no Mehdi Benatia, no Kevin Strootman, no Miralem Pjanic, no Alessandro Florenzi, no Mattia Destro? No problem. First came a sensational Rodrigo Taddei strike within the opening 15 minutes, with the Brazilian forgetting how far down the pecking order and how poor he was just a season or two ago.
Then came a second from Adem Ljajic just before half-time, with Daniele De Rossi playing a gorgeous dink over the defence to leave the Serbia international with an easy finish for his sixth goal of the season. Between that, Ljajic's assist for Gervinho to add Roma's third, combined with his hustling display suggests that he may become more integral to Rudi Garcia’s plans. A kiss on the head after the customary tap on the bottom following his late substitution suggested as much. The depth was tested even further as Michel Bastos, Alessio Romagnoli and Federico Ricci were all introduced late on. Though Atalanta pegged one goal back from Giulio Migliaccio with 12 minutes to go with a fantastic header, the result was truly never in doubt. The only other genuine chances the visitors had were through German Denis, and De Rossi did enough to nullify his threat on both occasions. Roma did what they've done so often this season -- win, and win convincingly -- but the victory will taste even sweeter given the absences the side were dealing with. This is not merely a collection of talented individuals: it is a collection of talented individuals playing on the same wavelength, under a fantastic coach, toward a common goal.