Three takeaways from AS Roma 7-0 Empoli: Dybala dazzles, Lukaku off the mark, time up for Zanetti?

AS Roma answered their early-season critics with a resounding hammering of Empoli for their first win of the Serie A campaign, with both Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku getting themselves on the scoresheet.

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A much-improved performance from AS Roma produced a 7-0 win for the Giallorossi against a hapless Empoli on Sunday evening, earning Jose Mourinho’s team their first Serie A victory for the 2023/24 season in some style.

It was a much-needed victory for Mourinho, and the pragmatic Portuguese coach decided to let his players express themselves. Goals from Paulo Dybala, Renato Sanches, an own goal from Alberto Grassi, Bryan Cristante, Romelu Lukaku, and Gianluca Mancini sealed the emphatic victory for the Romans.

While AS Roma earned a win, Empoli still have no points and coach Paolo Zanetti is surely running out of time to save his future on the Azzurri bench.

Dybala demonstrates his quality and importance to AS Roma

AS Roma’s Paulo Dybala. [@ASRomaEN]

Since arriving at AS Roma in the summer of 2022, Dybala has not been able to shrug off his injury woes, but he has displayed his quality whenever he is fit enough to play. The 29-year-old started in attack beside Lukaku, and he was given the freedom to roam by Mourinho.

The Argentine scored his first goal against Empoli from the penalty spot, and scored another in the second half after receiving a pass from Cristante, then beating two defenders before calmly slotting the ball past Etrit Berisha in the Azzurri goal. He was close to scoring a hat-trick, but his free-kick just missed the target.

Mourinho replaced him with Andrea Belotti in the 64th minute, but Dybala did plenty to influence the game. His passing and dribbling in open play provided some much-needed flair, and his goals were crucial in earning the victory.

Cristante shows offensive qualities rarely seen at Roma

AS Roma’s Paulo Dybala and Bryan Cristante. [@OfficialASRoma]

Often criticised for his performances in the AS Roma midfield, Cristante displayed qualities not often seen from the 28-year-old midfielder throughout his time in the Italian capital. He was given more freedom to attack against Empoli and this allowed him to be more involved in the goals.

He tried in vain to claim the third goal, but it was credited to Azzurri midfielder Grassi. Cristante had surged into the penalty area, Bartosz Bereszynski attempted to clear the ball, but it was deflected by Grassi and the ball looped into the net. He then supplied Dybala with the assist for the fourth Giallorossi, scored a beautiful goal from long range, and after a corner, he flicked the ball into the direction of Mancini, to finish the rout.

Since his arrival in 2018, Cristante has played in a deeper role in midfield than what he has been used to in the past, and even played some matches in defence. Although Empoli were a lacklustre opponent, the Italy Men’s National Team midfielder demonstrated that he can do some damage in the attacking third.

Romelu Lukaku at AS Roma. [@OfficialASRoma]

Empoli coach Zanetti running out of time

It has been a nightmare start to the 2023/24 Serie A season for Empoli, who have lost all four matches so far, failed to score a goal, and have conceded 12 goals, which should be very concerning for their coach Paolo Zanetti.

He guided the team to safety last season, but they have looked out of their depth so far. The defence is leaky, and despite an array of promising youngsters like Matteo Cancellieri, Nicolo Cambiaghi, Tommaso Baldanzi, and Jacopo Fazzini, he cannot create a cohesive unit to utilise their talents.

If Zanetti is not sacked shortly after this humiliation from AS Roma, then surely he will be gone some time in the near future.

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