AS Roma continue to show signs of being dependent on Paulo Dybala for a creative spark, with the injured Argentina international’s absence felt despite a 1-0 win over Hellas Verona in Matchday 23 of Serie A on Sunday.
A marquee signing from Juventus on a free transfer last summer, Dybala has been hugely influential in his maiden season at the Stadio Olimpico and has laid on seven assists to add to his eight goals in the league. Given that Roma have only netted 30 goals all term, the forward’s impact cannot be overstated.
Roma lack Dybala spark
Struggling with a flexor injury which forced him off at half-time in Roma‘s 1-0 defeat to Red Bull Salzburg in the Europa League on Thursday, Dybala was not risked and was left in the stands for the visit of Verona.
Unable to influence proceedings from his lofty vantage point, Roma lacked a cutting edge in the final third without Dybala and their overwhelming dominance against the Gialloblu was crying out for a spark to boost their goal difference.
It was a similar story when the 29-year-old picked up a hamstring injury whilst taking a penalty in a 2-1 win over Lecce in October, with Dybala missing nine matches and Roma winning just four.
Solbakken and El Shaarawy offer hope
Roma certainly have some positives to take from the victory, with January recruit Ola Solbakken netting on his first start for the club. The Norwegian striker had only featured in six minutes of action since November and is clearly short of match fitness, but a bright start to his Olimpico career bodes well.
Similarly, in the absence of Dybala, Stephan El Shaarawy stepped up and showed precise and direct running, as well as the ability to link up well with Andrea Belotti. The former AC Milan forward is fighting for a new contract, and his versatility and maturity over the last few weeks will certainly do his case no harm.
With a spate of injuries this season, Roma‘s strength in depth in the final third has been necessary, and the likes of Solbakken and El Shaarawy are likely to be required for a final push for Champions League qualification over the coming months.
Unconvincing attack yet to click
However, the loss of Tammy Abraham in the opening quarter of an hour to a nasty facial injury only added to Roma‘s attacking concerns. The England international has been far from his best this season, but is a threatening and technically gifted striker, with evidence of an upturn in form recently.
With coach Jose Mourinho still struggling to get his attack to click, being unable to call upon Dybala, Abraham, and the injured Lorenzo Pellegrini is making the task all the more difficult.
Substitute Belotti worked hard and showed some good turns to cause Verona‘s defence trouble at times, but the striker has failed to bring his shooting boots with him since joining from Torino in the summer, and Mourinho may need a rethink in attack in the coming weeks.