Roma's struggle for identity and the hunt for a trophy

Posted by Julian De Martinis

Despite the pain and the agony of the first half, the disappointing roller coaster of a season that's been so far, the coach and players who have shuffled through the side like grandparents at a dance off, Roma are one game away from silverware.

Roma eventually beat Inter 3-2 in the Coppa Italia semi-final and the enormity of the final on May 26th cannot be underestimated. It's against Lazio. It's in Rome. And it's for a trophy, a shiny chalice of redemption for another poor season.

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After the first half, it did not look like the Coppa showpiece would be a Roman derby. Inter were thoroughly dominating Roma, who had shifted to a 4-3-2-1. In theory, the formation should have been a stable one; a trio of Daniele De Rossi, Michael Bradley, and Alessandro Florenzi is hardly a well of creativity, but should nevertheless offer a solid shield in front of the back four.

Up front, Francesco Totti, Erik Lamela and Mattia Destro are all skilful and intelligent players and thus should have been able to score a goal. Nevertheless, the switch to a back four from Andreazzoli's usual back three and not replacing Miralem Pjanic with Panagiotis Tachtsidis suggested that Roma were looking for stability, not necessarily full-out attacking football.

This side however are not built to defend; it's simply not in the red and yellow DNA. Without Pjanic the side does not have another way to construct attacks besides "Hoof it to the 36-year-old captain and hope he conjures his usual magic". This resulted in an entirely embarrassing display: Inter, missing so many key players and starters, took full advantage of a side missing just one starter. They were faster to the ball and certainly did more with it in the midfield, culminating in a goal that shifted the momentum of the tie to Andrea Stramaccioni.

Jonathan and Tomasso Rocchi simply should not be able to complete the admittedly very good looking one-two they did to split the heart of the away side's defence. In particular, De Rossi's failure to track the Brazilian full-back into the box allowed him to slot the ball into the back of the net. Suddenly it was typical, typical Roma: a terrible first half and losing a must-win game. The Roma of the past would have lost this game. They would have become frustrated, petulant and ineffective. Unable to pick themselves up, a defeat would be inevitable. If not in this game, then surely in the final.

Perhaps we're beginning to see a new Roma.

Luckily the other side of "typical Roma" also showed up: following one bad half with one magnificent one. Samir Handanovic tried his best but ultimately was unable to contain the away side as Mattia Destro scored twice on the back of two fantastic passes from team-mates Lamela and De Rossi. Marquinho's superb volley at the end and Ricky Alvarez's deflected shots were merely footnotes in the history of the match that was all but decided with Destro's brace.

Asked after the match if he felt as though he had his revenge on Inter, the young Italian's answer was genuinely refreshing: "No. I never played for Inter's senior side." Thus had no problem scoring and celebrating against his former team. He has become Mr. Coppa Italia for Roma, with five goals in the competition this season and three against Inter in the two semi-finals.

Is it any surprise that the rumours of Pablo Osvaldo's departure grow day by day?

What's left now for Roma is simple: win. Two tracks await by the end of May. This season could very easily be turned into a very salvageable one with both a trophy and a European spot. Conversely, losing in the final and missing out on the Europa League would be the cherry on top of a sundae of continual disappointment and false dawns. With this win away at the San Siro, Roma have put themselves in the course for the former.

But there's a long way to go yet.

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