Roma’s brittleness was there for all to see at the Mapei Stadium on Saturday as they twice squandered the lead, allowing Sassuolo to earn a late 2-2 draw in Serie A.
Having been carved open time and again in the opening quarter of the match but clinging on, the Giallorossi went ahead against the run of play via Lorenzo Pellegrini’s penalty and were able to take control of proceedings.
Yet after the interval, Paulo Fonseca’s side came unstuck when Hamed Traore equalised and despite Bruno Peres restoring Roma’s advantage, the visitors still contrived to give Giacomo Raspadori the freedom of Reggio Emilia to tuck home a last gasp leveller.
Roma have now only picked up eight points from their last seven league matches and have gone from being in the Scudetto race to struggling to even make the Europa League qualification places in just over a month, amplifying the pressure on Fonseca.
With reports suggesting that only Champions League qualification will ensure the Portuguese is retained, a parting of ways is becoming increasingly likely.
The Lupi have endured miserable luck with injuries, but their atrocious record against challengers around them in the table has now been compounded by an inability to put teams lower down the table to the sword.
Perhaps even more so than the dropped points, Roma fans will be alarmed at the manner in which the team approached the match. Sassuolo dominated possession, as shown in graph below highlighting touches per minute played, and the Giallorossi were on the backfoot for large periods.
Roma often found themselves penned into their own half and were fortunate not to be a couple of goals down in the opening quarter of an hour, with Traore missing from close range and Maxime Lopez rattling the post.
Fonseca’s men were hounded throughout by their hosts and, as shown below, were forced to play backwards without ever utilising Pellegrini, Carles Perez or Borja Mayoral effectively.
In contrast, Roberto De Zerbi’s Sassuolo dominated the ball and operated a swift passing game, pushing high up the pitch to move beyond the ineffective Roma press and ensure they took complete control of midfield. Lopez and Pedro Obiang were energetic and involved throughout, giving wingers Jeremie Boga and Traore license to push forward.
Indeed, Saturday’s draw was another instance in which the squad’s mentality has been called into question and Roma are now in danger of missing out on European football altogether. Victories for Lazio, Napoli and Atalanta on Saturday ramped up the pressure further, leaving Roma languishing in seventh place with a worse head-to-head record than all of their rivals.
Lifting the Europa League this season could be their only hope, but staking their future on winning only a second European trophy in the club’s history, and indeed even reaching a first Final in 30 years, is quite the gamble.
A season that promised so much is now at threat of spiralling into disaster, with longer term ramifications should they fail to even make it into continental competition next term. With Atalanta, Inter and Lazio still to come, the pressure on Fonseca continues to mount.