Roma reach crisis point as Alisson heroics can't hide Di Francesco shortcomings
After weeks of uninspiring performances and bad results, Roma are finally, officially in crisis.
Given a chance to close the gap on Lazio, unjustly beaten at AC Milan, and Inter, who are in a similar rut, the Giallorossi slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home to Sampdoria that brought the full wrath of an infuriated Stadio Olimpico crowd upon them.
The fans took aim at club president James Pallotta before, during and after the defeat, and the match -- decided 10 minutes from the end by a Duvan Zapata tap-in -- was punctuated by whistles and boos from supporters who once again are watching their high hopes come crashing down around them.
The on-again-off-again sale of last season's top goalscorer Edin Dzeko, a ghost on Sunday night as so often under Eusebio Di Francesco, and the general feeling that nothing is being built, that nothing is safe from the financial fair play-dominated transfer policy, has pushed fans to the point that they don't have any idea where the club is going.
New stadium aside -- and who knows when that will finally be up and running -- nothing involving the team seems to have solid foundations, and that was exemplified by a team whose first shot on target was the 39th-minute penalty that Alessandro Florenzi missed.
In classic Roma fashion, Zapata struck just as the hosts had Sampdoria on the rack, consigning to Roma to their sixth match without a win, during which time they have picked up just three points and fallen back not just from the title conversation, but also the Champions League places.
The second half was a much better display from Roma after an appalling opening period, with Lorenzo Pellegrini and Stephan El Shaarawy in particular warming up, only to then both be inexplicably substituted.
Alisson was once again magnificent in goal, keeping Roma in the game long enough for Florenzi to miss the penalty and allow his team to recover their form after the break.
Where to begin ... Nervous at the back against a team missing its top scorer, overrun in midfield and stodgy going forward, Roma looked like a team scared to be on the pitch and one that had no confidence in the system it was being asked to play.
Where is the solidity and grit that so characterised the opening few months of the season? Without that, the chronic lack of goal threat that afflicts every match becomes an even bigger problem.
4 -- The first half-an-hour was simply embarrassing, and it's becoming increasingly clear that the worries about the players' suitability to Di Francesco's 4-3-3 were well-founded.
To make matters worse, once the team finally got motoring, he took off his team's two best-performing players and booted away all the momentum they had.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 9 -- Without him Roma would have been at least three down at half-time. A colossus in goal.
DF Alessandro Florenzi, 4 -- Played badly, missed a penalty. Enough said.
DF Kostas Manolas, 5 -- Exposed by a nonexistent midfield and awful with the ball.
DF Juan Jesus, 4 -- Lost Zapata for the goal, and transmitted an air of worry every time the ball was anywhere near him.
DF Aleksandar Kolarov, 5 -- Well off form and in need of a rest, his distribution was nowhere near its usual quality and that affected Roma's attacking potential.
MF Lorenzo Pellegrini, 6 -- A bad first half was followed by a good second, characterised by two poor shots and being wrongly substituted.
MF Kevin Strootman, 5 -- Playing in front of the back four is not his natural position, and it showed.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 5 -- The powerhouse who would charge through entire midfields has disappeared. When can we have him back?
FW Cengiz Under, 6 -- Got his head down and tried, even if very little came of it.
FW Edin Dzeko, 4 -- His head was elsewhere, as Di Francesco said. Duffed the only presentable chance that came his way.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, 6 -- Like Pellegrini, looked like the player who could get the breakthrough, and was then removed. Sampdoria must have breathed a sigh of relief.
DF Gregoire Defrel, N/R -- Never looked like he knew where he was supposed to be. A centre-forward never used in the right position.
DF Diego Perotti, N/R -- So often Roma's most effective attacking force, on Sunday the Argentine offered little from the bench.
FW Mirko Antenucci, N/R -- Failed to block the cross for the goal, but to blame the youngster would be churlish.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC's AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley