Sassuolo vs. AS Roma: 6 Things We Learned
Another weekend, another win for Rudi Garcia's Roma. The Giallorossi's latest victory came away at Sassuolo, who are currently second from bottom in the Serie A table with 20 points and just five wins all season.
It wasn't a vintage Roma performance and the scoreline is slightly deceptive. They looked a little off-the-boil at the Mapei Stadium, and though they were undoubtedly in control, Sassuolo looked like they might find a goal and hold the usually free-scoring Lupi to a draw for long periods of the game.
In the end, it wasn't to be. Goals from the in-form Mattia Destro and Michel Bastos—who netted for the first time in a Roma shirt—won it for the visitors.
Mattia Destro Deserves a Place in the Italian Team for Brazil
Though Italy manager Cesare Prandelli has got plenty to choose from, on current form Roma's Mattia Destro deserves a place in the squad that will travel to this summer's World Cup.
Injuries have hampered his development somewhat, but since returning from the sidelines in December—he scored a vital goal in his first game back, against Fiorentina—he's proven himself to be one of the best young players in Italy right now.
Four goals in four games attests to his form. Regular appearances under Rudi Garcia have done wonders for Destro's confidence, and he now looks like scoring all the time. He's good on and off the ball, works hard and has a habit of getting himself into the right positions in the box. Italy need a player like him.
Serie A Refereeing Needs to Improve
Mehdi Benatia's tackle on Nicola Sansone provided one of the talking points of the game. The Roma defender was typically incisive and physical, but replays showed that the challenge was legal.
Unfortunately, none of the referees in the Mapei Stadium could agree on that and the game was delayed for several minutes as an embarrassing debate ensued.
There was no penalty given originally by the man in charge, Nicola Rizzoli, but on the advice of his assistant he changed his mind and awarded the spot kick—only to cancel his decision again after a long debate.
Incredibly, there are suggestions that he even asked Sansone for an opinion. The striker owned up to slipping but demanded a penalty for an earlier pull of the shirt.
Referees can't ask professional players desperate for a result for an unbiased opinion in the heat of a game. It's something that would be unacceptable at amateur level and the league has to act.
This season has seen more than its fair share of poor calls, and while it's easy to defend the referee in most cases as being, like everyone else, a fallible human being trying his best to do a difficult job, this kind of nonsense makes the Italian Football Federation look foolish.
Rodrigo Taddei Is a Model Professional
Rodrigo Taddei is 34, coming to the end of his contract and career, and he has found game-time difficult to come by in recent seasons. Plenty of players in similar situations switch off, sulk or just throw in the towel. But the versatile Brazilian chose instead to keep his head down and work hard—and it's paying off.
He was the man-of-the-match in the last round against Chievo, and though he's started just three games this season, now looks likely to land a contract extension on the back of a number of fine substitute performances in defence and in midfield.
In this game, the Giallorossi have the substitute's work in winning the ball back to thank for the Michel Bastos goal that secured the points. Taddei brilliantly picked out Francesco Totti, who in turn showed his ability and class by setting up the Brazilian winger with a seemingly effortless through ball.
Roma Must Become More Ruthless for Next Season
Roma were dominant in this game and yet looked like slipping up several times throughout the 90 minutes.
The visitors never got beyond second gear at the Mapei, and while that's a testament to their obvious ability, it's also something that should worry Garcia, because his side will have to become more ruthless if they want to win the Scudetto.
The Giallorossi were caught napping on a few occasions against Sassuolo and escaped a dangerous-looking Domenico Berardi attack only because the forward was incorrectly flagged for being offside. They switched off again in the 75th minute, when Sansone made a delightful slalom run through the dozing Roma back line. On another day, it could easily have resulted in an equaliser.
Garcia's been excellent at motivating the players this season and there's no doubting the quality at his disposal in the Roma dressing room. They should be capable of challenging for the title next year. To do so, however, they'll have to act like serious contenders and put smaller teams like Sassuolo to the sword.
Nicola Sansone Deserves More Attention
He's not grabbing as much attention as his younger team-mate Domenico Berardi, but Nicola Sansone looks an exciting prospect and was Sassuolo's best player against Roma.
A good passer who likes to make darting runs, the German-born Italian is co-owned by Parma, where he had a breakthrough campaign last year—playing 26 times and scoring six goals.
The Crociati chose to sell 50% of his rights to Sassuolo to provide the player with more game time, and he seems to have found his feet with his new club—scoring one of their three goals against Catania in the previous round.
Sansone should only get better, and there will likely be a place back at Parma for him next season.
Sassuolo's Recruitment Policy Hasn't Been Successful
Sassuolo brought in 15 players last summer to bolster the squad for their first-ever foray into the top flight of Italian football. And when the winter transfer window opened, they recruited more. The club's net spend in those two periods was over €23 million—a huge amount for one of the smallest clubs to ever reach Serie A.
If there was a plan behind the turnover, it hasn't worked. That isn't to say that all additions have been unsuccessful—Roma's Luca Antei, who is currently at the Mapei on loan; goalkeeper Gianluca Pegolo; the aforementioned Sansone; and Lorenzo Ariaudo for example—but there's too much talent going to waste right now.
Players who have been at the club since Serie B have performed well, including Francesco Magnanelli and Domenico Berardi, and perhaps those in charge at the Neroverdi should have had a little more faith in others because there is little to show for the money they've spent.