AS Roma vs. AC Milan: 6 Things We Learned
Zdenek Zeman's project has needed several months to get through to his players, but it finally seems like the Giallorossi are working as the Czech manager desires.
Roma cantered into a 4-0 lead, which certainly flattered the home side, but Milan scored two late goals to make it interesting in a candidate for game of the season so far.
Here are six things we learned from this engrossing encounter.
Do tell me your thoughts on this thrilling match in the comments section below.
Milan Can't Defend Crosses
Milan have a real problem on their hands, and it involves a fundamental of football that has been criminally neglected by Massimo Allegri's men of late.
Three of Roma's four goals came through headers, which is unacceptable for a side with such a rich history of great defenders.
The Rossoneri have prided themselves over the years on their imperious defenders, most recently Alessandro Nesta and perhaps the greatest centre-back in the world today, Thiago Silva.
Mario Yepes and Philippe Mexes let Milan down Saturday, as Nicolas Burdisso, Pablo Osvaldo and even the slender Erik Lamela rose high to head a goal for Roma.
Daniele Bonera will return to the starting lineup in the new year, while Cristian Zapata has hardly impressed, so the Rossoneri are hardly blessed with options at the back.
Reinforcements in January, or next summer, are a must for Milan if they are to return to being a title contender.
Marquinhos Is the Best Young Defender in the World
Marcos Aoás Corrêa, or Marquinhos for short, was a bit part player of the Corinthians side that won the Copa Libertadores only six months ago.
Now the 18-year-old Brazilian is a fixture in the Roma back line and the key piece in turning the Giallorossi from the leakiest defence in the league to something much more respectable.
Having already played more professional matches for Roma than he ever did for the Timão, his rapid progression is even more startling when you consider that he has so much more to learn in Italy.
It is no wonder then that the Brazilian is already dreaming of featuring for Brazil at the World Cup in 2014.
Italian Refereeing Needs to Improve Quickly
It has become a problem of increasing regularity this season, and this match typified what we have all had to endure over the first half of Serie A this season.
Many have criticised the decisions made by the referees, and once again there is more ammo to suggest that they either need to improve or video technology must be introduced at some point.
The red card for Marquinhos was ridiculous. Of course it hit his arm, but it was parallel to his body, almost on the half-way line, with Nicolas Burdisso covering as Stephan El Shaarawy attempted to knock the ball past the Brazilian.
Roma will also moan that Giampaolo Pazzini was offside in the buildup to the penalty that the former Inter striker earned in the dying moments of the match.
It was not costly this time for Roma, but we have already had other examples of refereeing mistakes that have had greater ramifications, such as Sulley Muntari's ghost goal against Juventus last season.
Something needs to be done.
El Shaarawy's Goals Papered over Several Cracks
Milan endured a torrid start to the season, and it seemed inevitable that Massimo Allegri would be sacked.
But eventually Milan managed to pick up a couple of morale-boosting victories and generate some momentum that saved Allegri for the time being.
The majority of the credit will go to Serie A's capocannoniere, Stephan El Shaarawy, who has scored 14 goals this season, none of which came through penalties.
His sudden rise to prominence cannot be emphasised enough, and Milan's position in the table, at the bottom of the pack of the league's biggest clubs in seventh, is a fair indication of where the side is right now.
They cannot continually rely upon Il Faraone's goals to succeed this season, which is worrying when you consider the likely departures in January.
Robinho and Alexandre Pato's futures are unclear, so Milan must look to buy a striker in January to ease the loan on the 20-year-old.
Roma Need to Keep De Rossi Until the Summer at Least
Roma's ultimate goal this season is to secure a Champions League place in the top three of Serie A.
While the talent of the squad suggests that they can eventually move into the title picture, the players have taken time to adjust to Zdenek Zeman's project, so next season will be a more realistic time to think about the scudetto.
Roma's midfield is formidable and while Daniele De Rossi has experienced a fall from grace as he has struggled to adjust to Zeman's ways, he is still a top quality player that can help the Giallorossi moving forward.
With Miralem Pjanic, Michael Bradley and Alessandro Florenzi in the midfield, De Rossi's place is not guaranteed, but to have strength in depth in the most important area of the pitch for Zeman's philosophy is paramount.
De Rossi's wages might be astronomical and not sustainable long term, but it will not hurt the club to wait until they have secured Champions League football for next season before they consider selling one of their greats sons.
Roma Have the Best Attack in Serie A
Roma provided a sensational attacking display for Milan on Saturday, and it only prompted discussions of how great their front three is compared to the rest of Serie A.
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo is something of an enigma, but there is no denying his ability, and maybe Edinson Cavani is the only striker who is clearly superior to the Argentine, although Diego Milito would certainly enter the debate.
The support strikers are sensational too, with Francesco Totti providing the guile, experience and awareness to seamlessly weave the midfield and attack together.
While Erik Lamela provides youthfulness, a certain naivety, or fearlessness to the game. The former River starlet is finding his feet this season and sharpening the tools to his game, which are plentiful.
As for backups, Mattia Destro, who was inside the top 10 goal scorers in Serie A last season with struggling Siena, is one of the best you will find across Europe.
So, is it fair to consider Roma as the most potent attack in the league? Let me know in the comments section below.