Driving home after work, anxious to see what was happening in the Champions League, I was lucky to miss seeing Roma fall 2-0 to Bayer Leverkusen. By the time I arrived home, Roma had scraped a point back, and as I went to take my tie off, De Rossi equalized it, right before the half. “Fantastic,” I thought; now an open match, Roma could start from scratch for the second-half, and really show these Germans a thing or two.
Wow, what a goal by Miralem Pjanić! His second freekick goal of the week! 2-3. A handful of minutes later, a wonderful play by Gervinho to Iago Falque, who puts it home! 2-4, Roma surely have it in the bag now. Surely….Surely, I was wrong. We were all wrong. In analyzing just what went wrong, and how Roma tied 4-4 in Leverkusen, we must analyze Garcia’s tactical and player choices, as well as personal mistakes and discrepancies by the players.
Starting the match with a diamond midfield, Rudi chose a youthful backline including Digne on the left, Rüdiger next to him, and Manolas to his right, with the addition of ole Greek warrior, Torosidis. De Rossi at the bottom of the diamond, Florenzi to the right, Nainggolan to the left, and Pjanić freed up to send Gervinho and Salah on their way to net. A good tactical idea by Rudi, sans a fit Edin Džeko.
3′: Rudi’s only realistic rightback choice of Torosidis makes a mess of things. A lunge to fight off a clearance, Toro left his arms way high in the air behind his body. A penalty kick if I’ve ever seen one. A personal error, another “this could only happen to Roma” moment. 1-0
18′: Manolas and De Rossi are dumbfounded, as Chicharito trails in behind them, unmarked. Rüdiger keeps him onsides, completely tactically unaware of the backline’s movement. What is worse, is that Szczesny saves the first shot, but the five players surrounding Chicharito allow him another shot, and even time to have a nice cup of espresso. 2-0
29′: De Rossi shows why Roma pays him tons of money, leading the Serie A salary chart. 2-1
36′: Hernandez surely should have put Bayer up 3-1. Rüdiger is beat out by Bayer’s right winger, and Manolas loses sight of Chicharito. An incredible miss.
38′: De Rossi scores yet again, true gladiator. Ci sono due capitani. 2-2
84′: Rudi Garcia changes to a 6-3-1 formation, inviting Bayer to apply pressure. Kevin Kampl makes Rudi’s Roma pay, with a magical brace outside the 18 yard box. Roma were losing possession for some time leading up to the goal. 3-4
86′: A fascinating loss of control. Rüdiger keeps the last man onsides, Torosidis stumbles under his feet, Digne loses sigh of his mark, and De Rossi hangs his head in fury. We were all equally disgusted. 4-4
If you followed the timeline chronologically, you will read that Antonio Rüdiger was responsible for destroying the offside trap, resulting in two goals. Rüdiger is not renowned for his tactical sensibility, but even so, the German international surely knows how to play in an offside trap. There is more to the story: Rüdiger was one of the last to arrive this summer, entering Trigoria on the last days of the mercato. With the least amount of time to prepare, he then suffered from the injury he came from Germany with, meaning he had the least amount of time out of any player in the squad to physically and tactically prepare. In addition, Rüdiger is a centerback, meaning his chemistry in the backline is most critical. I can, but we also can’t completely blame Antonio Rüdiger. He will continue to learn the backline, but Rudi should have read this; Castan was coming off a wonderful game, and surely should have given him the start.
To conclude, Rudi must make better choices in his starting XI. The formation was a great adjustment in the midst of Džeko’s absence, yet choosing Rüdiger over Castan in such a crucial match was a major blunder. On top of the personal mistakes mentioned by Torosidis, and Rudi’s choice to invite pressure, Roma tied a game that should have been won. At the bottom of their Champions League group, the Frenchman will now need to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
And just for the record, that cover page is totally not my property.