ROME: If a member of Sampdoria’s admirably large travelling support had ducked into a AS Roma fan bar on Sunday night to avoid the sudden spring storm, they might have found common ground with their hosts.
The chief grievance of both sets of supporters is the same – the lack of a reliable goalscorer. And for both clubs, it could cost them big time in the next couple of months.
A clash between the lowest-scoring side in the top seven and the lowest-scoring side in the entire division didn’t exactly suggest a thriller was imminent before kick-off. In the end, even a 3-0 win for the Giallorossi wasn’t enough to ease concerns about their bluntness in attack.
Roma huffed and puffed in the first half but couldn’t find a way past third-choice Samp keeper Nicola Ravaglia, their absence of a clinical edge highlighted by a half-time shot count of 15 and conversion rate of 0.
Jose Mourinho’s men required some help to finally make the breakthrough, and they got it when Jeison Murillo was shown a second yellow card early in the second half.
That quickly led to Georginio Wijnaldum’s breakthrough goal, before a Paulo Dybala penalty and a Stephan El Shaarawy goal late on gave the game a scoreline that looked more comfortable than it felt.
The performance is unlikely to silence grumblers in the capital. Once again, neither of Roma’s two strikers – Tammy Abraham and Andrea Belotti – were able to find the net, and patience is wearing thin.
On the morning of the game, Corriere dello Sport’s headline read ‘Wake up Tammy’ as they called on the Englishman to end his two-month goal drought. When he came off in the second half, there were audible boos from the home support mixed with applause.
There were hopes that Mourinho’s enforced switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation might liven things up in attack, and it did to an extent. Roma had no problem creating chances, with Ravaglia making a string of saves and Wijnaldum hitting the post as they had 22 shots.
But the fact that Abraham’s goal drought was extended – the Englishman is on six Serie A goals for the season compared to 17 last term – while Belotti went another day without opening his account for the season in the league is cause for concern.
The team relies heavily on Paulo Dybala to dig them out of trouble, and it took an 88th-minute penalty from the Argentina international to finally allay nerves of an improbable but not impossible late leveller from the 10-man visitors.
Wijnaldum’s goal threat from midfield will be a welcome sight – it’s something Nemanja Matic and Bryan Cristante are unable to offer.
But requiring the second-worst team in the league to have a man sent off before scoring against them says a lot about Roma’s attacking problems, and they will need Abraham or Belotti to find their shooting boots if they are to stick in this fierce top-four race.
Sky Sport Italia posted a league table of the clubs with the worst expected goal differentials in the league, and it didn’t make good reading for either side.
Roma are 17th, having scored 38 goals from an xG of 44.58 this season – meaning the Giallorossi should have netted around seven (6.58) more goals from the quality of chances they’ve created.
Only Cremonese (6.69), Fiorentina (7.35) and – you guessed it – Samp (8.03) have a worse figure in Serie A.
Sinking Samp face huge fortnight
For Samp, the problem is acute. Dejan Stankovic’s side have scored 16 goals in 28 games and no matter how well organised they are, they need to find goals from somewhere if they are to dig themselves out of a hole that has left them 10 points adrift of safety with 10 games to go.
Like Roma, the lack of an in-form striker has cost them. What Samp need is the Fabio Quagliarella or Francesco Caputo of old, not the ageing current versions who have mustered two goals between them this season. Caputo never delivered at the level expected of him in Liguria and was even sent away to Empoli in the winter window.
Manolo Gabbiadini is leading the way with six but has never been a particularly prolific forward, while Sam Lammers and Jese are yet to find the net.
It’s a desperate situation, and one that Stankovic will be scratching his head about ahead of a huge run of games coming up.
Samp face Cremonese (H), Lecce (A) and Spezia (H) in the next two weeks, a run that could confirm their relegation or spark a late surge.
Stankovic will hope it’s the latter, but he needs his players to find a clinical edge from somewhere if they are to stand a chance – and preferably keep 11 men on the pitch.