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Life after Pjanic at Roma

Roma
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Season Review: AS Roma

AS Roma
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 By Terry Daley

Roma average across the board in Luciano Spalletti's debut

Luciano Spalletti started his second reign at Roma in the same way that Rudi Garcia's ended; submerged with boos and whistles from a half-full Stadio Olimpico after a deeply disappointing home draw that leaves his team way off the pace in Serie A.

Roma's 1-1 draw with rock-bottom Hellas Verona was a distillation of every problem that has dogged Roma so far this season: from Edin Dzeko's chronic lack of form in front of goal, to uncertainty at the back that allowed the league's worst side -- one that is yet to win a game this season -- way too many chances at goal.

Spalletti's team stay fifth but are now nine points behind league leaders Napoli and seven away from the second automatic Champions League slot, currently occupied by Juventus. With each week that passes by, Roma drift away from the leading pack.

Roma hit the post twice, first through Dzeko in the lead-up to Radja Nainggolan's neatly-taken opener five minutes before the break, then 10 minutes later through Mohamed Salah, who was unlucky to see his well-struck volley pushed onto the woodwork by Verona keeper Pierluigi Gollini.

However, Verona forward Ante Rebic, who had already forced Roma goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny into a fine save after 17 minutes, struck the inside of the post 50 minutes in, and the Pole also had to be at his best to tip away Artur Ionita's left-footed effort just two minutes before.

Roma's sluggish defending was summed up by Leandro Castan, who in his first start since late November clumsily chopped down Pawel Wszolek on the hour and allowed to Giampaolo Pazzini to score just his second of the season from the penalty spot.

Roma's wonky attacking, meanwhile, is personified in Dzeko, who after making the worst of a host of opportunities, capped his afternoon by fluffing the chance to win the match, somehow heading Miralem Pjanic's injury time corner over from just six yards out when completely unmarked.

Next Sunday, Roma have to travel to Juventus, who strolled to their 10th straight win at Udinese while Spalletti's side toiled against Verona. Spalletti has a lot of work to do if he wants to avoid an embarrassment.

AS RomaAS Roma
Hellas VeronaHellas Verona
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Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Wojciech Szczesny, 6 -- Made two excellent stops from Rebic and Ionita on either side of half-time, saves that kept an already bad afternoon from being a complete disaster.

DF Vasilis Torosidis, 5 -- It's hard to remember a significant event in the match that Torosidis played a part in. Made no major mistakes but contributed very little overall.

DF Kostas Manolas, 6 -- You get the impression that the Greek is suffering terribly for the deficiencies in the rest of the team, with neither Antonio Rudiger nor Castan working as his partner. The lack of quality to his right must make his work doubly hard.

DF Leandro Castan, 4 -- Not a good return for the unfortunate Brazilian, who gave away Verona's equalising penalty with an ill-judged tackle and never seemed to be able to get his timing right.

DF Lucas Digne, 5 -- The French international spent most of the match going forward at the behest of Spalletti, but failed to create enough to justify the gaps he left at the back.

MF Miralem Pjanic, 6 -- Probed and pushed as much as usual but lacked the imagination that has made him one of Serie A's most dangerous players. However, he was unlucky to see his last-ditch corner headed over by the unfortunate Dzeko.

MF Daniele De Rossi, 6 -- The Roma captain was extremely slick in his backheel assist for Nainggolan's opener, but while his distribution was much compared to the draw with Milan, he is sluggish and doesn't offer enough protection to the back four.

MF Radja Nainggolan, 6-- Calmly slotted his first of the season when brilliantly fed by De Rossi, but always seems angry at the world and dying to hurt an opposition player.

FW Alessandro Florenzi, 6 -- Hustled and harried as best he could, but the Italian international didn't quite get the hang of any of the many positions Spalletti had him playing in.

FW Mohamed Salah, 5 -- Unlucky to hit the post, but otherwise the Egyptian was his usual frustrating self, his failure to give the ball his teammates at the right times cost Roma goalscoring opportunities that they can sorely afford to pass up.

Mohamed Salah and Roma were unable to secure all three points vs. winless Hellas Verona.
Mohamed Salah and Roma were unable to secure all three points vs. winless Hellas Verona.

FW Edin Dzeko, 5 -- It's sad to see such a good play toil so fruitlessly. A more confident player would have had a hat-trick.

Substitutes:

DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- Came on for the struggling Castan just after the hour mark, and the defence immediately seemed more at ease.

FW Iago Falque, NR -- Replaced Torosidis in the 73rd minute as Spalletti looked for the winning goal, but made almost as little impact as the Greek.

Terry Daley is based in Rome and has covered Italian football for both Reuters and AFP. He has written for Vice Sports and Mirror Football. Twitter: @T_Daley

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