Alasdair Mackenzie Date: 25th November 2019 at 10:54am
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Chris Smalling didn’t take long to get the Roma fans on his side, and his starring role in their win over Brescia is sure to further cement his place in their hearts.

It’s not often that a centre-back can boast that they’ve produced a goal and two assists in a match, but that’s exactly what the on-loan Manchester United man did to turn the tide against the Rondinelle.

Fabio Grosso’s side frustrated the Giallorossi in the first half by restricting them to few clear-cut opportunities, but it was a different story after the break.

Nine Roma corners came and went in the opening 45 minutes without causing much concern to the visitors, but by the end of the game the capital club were celebrating a 3-0 victory courtesy of three goals that started at the corner flag.

While Smalling will be the man to dominate the headlines for his role in aerially battering his opponents from set pieces, his success also highlighted what has been a fruitful route to goal for the Lupi under Paulo Fonseca.

Roma now have 11 set piece goals this season, a tally which Inter can match but no team in the division can better.

They have the highest number of goals from corners with six, although Sunday’s victory was the first time since Opta started collecting such data in 2005/06 that they’ve notched as many as three in a single game.

Many Giallorossi supporters have been taken by the swashbuckling football that Fonseca has tried to promote since taking the reins over the summer, but their ability to break down determined defences from dead ball situations could prove invaluable in their Champions League quest.

Another promising sub-plot to their victory was the fact that three different players found the net in Smalling, Gianluca Mancini and Edin Dzeko.

This has been another theme of the campaign under Fonseca. While Roma haven’t been as prolific going forward as the likes of Atalanta or their neighbours Lazio, they have done a good job of sharing the burden when it comes to putting the ball in the net.

Dzeko currently leads the club’s Serie A scoring charts with six goals, followed by fellow veteran Aleksandar Kolarov on four.

In total, 10 of Fonseca’s players have found the net this term to contribute to their 23-goal haul.

This has been particularly valuable during a crippling period of injuries for the club – one which is finally abating now that Lorenzo Pellegrini and Amadou Diawara have returned to the side.

Grim start for Grosso

So much for the new coach bounce.

Grosso’s task at Brescia was never going to be an easy one when he picked up a team low on confidence, with just seven points to their name after 10 games.

But starting off his first experience as a Serie A coach with two humbling defeats – 4-0 to Torino and 3-0 to Roma – will only raise the volume of the doubters who criticised whether his appointment was right in the first place.

Things were undoubtedly made worse by the sideshow of Mario Balotelli’s exclusion, as the striker was left at home for the trip to Rome for not putting enough effort into Grosso’s training sessions.

Whether you think that was an admirably authoritative gesture or simply a case of Grosso shooting himself in the foot, it’s a conundrum that the coach simply must resolve.

Balotelli possesses more ability than anyone else in the Brescia squad, arguably bar Sandro Tonali, and if they can get him to rediscover the form he has shown in previous Serie A seasons, they could soon be climbing the table again.

But there is no escaping the fact that conceding seven goals and failing to score any in your opening two games is nothing short of a disaster, and this at a time where the Rondinelle faithful might have been hoping for a new era to spark some life into the team.

A crucial period awaits for Grosso. Before Christmas Brescia face Atalanta, SPAL, Lecce, Sassuolo and Parma.

They go into that run of games on the back of five consecutive Serie A defeats – their worst run since October 2010.

And if they don’t find the answers fast, their top flight status will be in serious doubt by the time the New Year bells are ringing.