It wasn’t easy, but on 31 October they did it— Roma made history by powering past bottom-ranked Chievo to become the first side to win 10 consecutive fixtures in a Serie A season. The Flying Donkeys had attempted to escape with a point by parking the bus for well over an hour at the Stadio Olimpico, only to see their valiant efforts come undone thanks to an unlikely source—often vilified striker Marco Borriello’s header in the 67th minute. Devoid of the creativity sparked by talismanic captain Francesco Totti, it was the second consecutive fixture that the Giallorossi had failed to score more than one goal as they also labored to a slim victory over Udinese, having being reduced to 10 men as a result of Maicon’s second yellow card midway through the second half. American international Michael Bradley was the hero on that day in Udine, with his 82nd minute strike enough to give Rudi Garcia’s their-then 9th win and equal the record set by Juventus during the 2005-2006 season.
But, following these two slim victories, Roma experienced their first hitch when Alessio Cerci did what no other player since Jonathan Biabiany had done on 15 September—to successfully score against goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis. And to make matters worse, the Torino attacker’s goal in the 63rd minute was all the Granata needed to become the first side to successfully snatch two points off a steamrolling Roma and snap a winning streak that no one, not even their biggest supporters had anticipated coming into the season.
After all, they had sold several key players, notably striker Erik Lamela, troublemaker attacker Pablo Osvaldo and rising young defender Marquinhos to Tottenham, Southampton, and PSG respectively. With the funds, they had brought in PSV’s Kevin Strootman, veterans Morgan De Sanctis and Maicon, Arsenal striker Gervinho, Udinese defender Mehdi Benatia, and Fiorentina’s Adem Ljajic among others. Certainly, with the exception of the Ivory Coast international—who was largely disappointing in England following a successful spell in France—all players that weren’t bad options for the capital outfit, but with new manager Rudi Garcia assuming the helm, many didn’t expect the side, who had missed out on European competition to be at the top of the league table heading into the quarter-way mark of the season.
And, certainly not running on a 10 game winning streak that saw them comfortably deal with sides like Inter and Napoli, all while not conceding anything at the back. Even Gervinho, considered a flop by Premier League fans saw a brief uptick in form scoring three times in two games before being sidelined with injury, and the evergreen Francesco Totti was on fire, having been involved in nearly 50% of the team’s goals at one point with three strikes and six assists to his name.
In fact, Roma up until the last few matches was not only the highest side in the league but also had the strongest defensive record of all league leaders in Europe’s “Big 5” leagues. So while they’re not the highest scoring side in Serie A currently—that honor now has been taken over by Inter’s 29 goals, their backline is still the strongest in Europe as despite their giving up two goals in their last two matches, their three conceded is still much less than fellow leaders Arsenal (10); Barcelona (8); PSG (8); and Bayern Munich (7).
Naturally, following his side’s draw with Torino—which was ironic in that goal scorer Cerci had spent his youth career with the Giallorossiand even made a few appearances for the senior team—Garcia conceded that it was inevitable that his side would drop points at some stage during the season. And the Granata, despite finishing in 16th place last season have so far this season been able to frustrate some of Italy’s biggest clubs: holding the likes of Inter to a draw, nearly making off with all three points against Milan, and making Juventus have to work hard just to score one against them in the Derby della Mole.
Sassuolo, of course, was a whole other story, with the Neroverdi making the first ever appearance in the Italian top flight, many would have expected that Roma should have had no difficulty in dispatching their visitors, who have consistently been in or hovered around the relegation zone all season. But, football indeed is unpredictable, with Sassuolo’s players being the only ones able to put the ball in the net—both for and against—and Rudi Garcia’s men had to contend with their second consecutive draw. This, combined with Juventus cruising past Napoli 3-0 later the same day, now means that the comfortable five point lead that they enjoyed over the Bianconeri had now been cut to a too-close-for comfort one.
With sides taking a temporary hiatus for the international break, certainly Roma will have much to think about ahead of their clash with Cagliari in approximately two weeks as to how to get back on track after a high-flying start to the season. Will it be a case of the proverbial character Icarus, who flew too high too quickly and subsequently fell into the sea and met his demise via drowning? Or is this a natural progression of things that one usually sees over the course of a long season?
Well, one thing is certain: for Giallorossi fans, they’ll certainly be hoping that these past two draws are just a minor blip in their team’s Scudetto campaign, and nothing more.