Aside from the mercurial Francesco Totti, Roma have one more ‘Roman Gladiator’ in the form of Daniele De Rossi; an aggressive yet technically superb Italian. Inevitably, Totti fulfils a massively important role with the Giallorossi, not only as captain but as an experienced member of the squad who is still capable of reaching the performance levels which he previously reached earlier in his glittering career. Yet arguably, De Rossi’s position as vice-captain is just as important as the aforementioned Totti, with both having a huge task in guiding and spurring on what is a fairly inexperienced Roma side. Having opted to remain in the Capital in the summer despite rumoured offers from elsewhere, the 30 year-old has been outstanding and has been a major part of Roma’s current unbeaten run.
In a summer consisting of whole-sale changes at Roma, with a new manager instated and numerous players coming and going, it seemed De Rossi was on his way out along with several other players. ‘Capitan Futuro’ had admitted he had regular thoughts of looking for a fresh challenge; that any offers made for him would be evaluated and taken into consideration, unlike in previous seasons. Yet despite the willingness to leave, there was one thing etched in his mind – and would be forever had he chose to depart the Stadio Olimpico. Should the midfield general have left Roma in the summer, it would have meant that his last game in Giallorossi colours would have been the Coppa Italia final defeat to arch-rivals Lazio; something that forced De Rossi to have a major rethink.
De Rossi – “I couldn’t bear to think that my last game in a Roma jersey would be that Coppa Italia Final lost to Lazio. I could imagine myself in any team in the world, lifting any trophy, but to think my last match for Roma was a lost Final Derby was the wrong ending for one of the greatest love stories between a club and a player. I couldn’t do it.”
Such an ending was clearly not the way to end his stint with his devoted and beloved Roma, and so De Rossi is now more focused, driven and hungry than ever; which is evident to see in his displays. Consistent, reliable and passionate, he has been a regular fixture in the side with 16 appearances; regularly deployed as a defensive midfielder –shielding the Roma backline. It is quite remarkable how a player who was almost certain to leave in the summer to remain with the club and perform so well, but after all this is Daniele De Rossi we are talking about. From the very first game of the Serie A season, De Rossi set the tone with a wonderful driven effort to give Roma the lead in an opening victory over Livorno. Since then, Roma’s number 16 hasn’t managed to get on the scores-sheet again, yet has still maintained a excellent level of performance – delivering all-action displays to ensure Roma’s unbeaten record stays intact.
De Rossi is an essential part of Rudi Garcia’s vision at Roma, not merely because of the experience he boasts, but also because of what he offers. So in this section, I’ll give a bit of analysis as to why De Rossi is such an integral part of the current Roma side.
Here we can see De Rossi positioning himself in-front of the two defenders Castan and Benatia, and in possession of the ball. This is a regular occurrence for De Rossi who is able to spray the ball around with ease, as someone like Xavi, Pirlo or Gerrard do. Because of his exceptional ability to produce a cross-field pass, it means that even with him playing so deep, De Rossi is in an extremely dangerous area, where he can change the tempo of the game in an instance, and remove a number of players from the game. It is a typical trait of deep lying playmakers, but one which De Rossi does not get enough credit for, as opposed to the likes of Xavi, Pirlo and co.
This image is a little different as De Rossi is not in possession of the ball, nevertheless he still plays a key part in how Roma set up and how they defend. As Dodo, presses the ball and tracks the run, there is a great deal of space for Milan to exploit. So in order to combat this, Castan shifts over, while De Rossi drops in and acts as the third centre-back, reducing the space which Milan can work in; thus making it more difficult for them to carve out an opening. It is intelligent play from De Rossi, who is more than competent at slotting in as a CB, as he has in the past with Italy.
Finally this is another example of De Rossi’s formidable positional play. Maicon gets caught out of position at Right-back, and so De Rossi covers the space and denies Montolivo a clear route to goal. Nowadays defensive midfielders covering the space in behind defenders is something of a rarity, although in De Rossi’s case, he frequently positions himself in there to diminish the space in which the opposition tries to work in. Without his presence, Montolivo would have a great amount of space to work dangerously in. Ultimately, by De Rossi being there and carrying out the duties he does so well, he relieves pressure of other players; that defensive stability he offers enables the more attacking-minded players like Pjanic, Ljajic and Totti to play with freedom and invention.
Aside from watching a fair amount of Roma and De Rossi this season, I have paid close attention to the statistics of the Italian international; which are equally as impressive as his performances would suggest. Now as we know stats don’t always tell the story, however they give you further insight into how well a player/team has performed, and so it was useful when looking a bit more in-depth as to how De Rossi has actually fared this campaign.
On average he has won 55% of his duels, which may not seem mightily impressive but just goes to show his intelligence with/without the ball. Passing has always been strength for the one-club man; so it comes as no surprise to see De Rossi have such high passing statistics; 89% average pass accuracy to be exact. Yet what makes that stat even more telling is the fact that De Rossi tops the passing charts, with a passing performance score of 1,081. In addition to this, De Rossi’s average pass length in 20m; indicating that he passes with purpose as opposed to just playing it safe.
Swiftly moving on, De Rossi has created a total of 13 chances this season; evidence of the incredible vision he has to find the run of a team-mate, even when playing in such a deep role. Lastly, De Rossi has made no defensive errors and has also made 36 interceptions as well as 44 clearances; demonstrating the fundamental role he plays when the opposition are in possession of the ball.
Should Roma be able to defy the pre-season odds and claim the Scudetto, while Rudi Garcia does deserve credit, his biggest masterstroke was keeping hold of De Rossi and utilising him adequately.
This post was originally published on The Disguised Pass. It has been published here with permission from the author. Click here to view.
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