AS Roma, A New Dance Partner
Chelsea could draw AS Roma in the quarterfinals of the UEFA Women’s Champions League. AS Roma is making their first appearance in this competition. As such, the two sides have never faced each other in a competition. Chelsea has faced Italian opposition before having faced Juventus in last season’s edition of the tournament.
How They Got Here
AS Roma entered the competition in the first-round semi-finals, facing Scottish opposition Glasglow City. Comfortably getting by them 3-1 in the one-off match, they moved on to face Paris FC in the first-round finals. Here Roma squeaked through 5-4 on penalties. Moving onto the second qualifying round, they came up against perennial Czech side Sparta Praha. Over the two-legged affair, they dispatched them 6-2 on aggregate. This helped them reach the group stage, an excellent result for the newcomers.
In the group stage, they got off to the perfect start, winning their first two matches, 1-0 and 4-3, respectively. Taking on Slavia Praha and St. Polten let them ease into the group stage of this competition. Once they reached the middle of the group, they had their two matches against WFL Wolfsburg, and some reality came back. Drawing 1-1 at home, they then lost the return match 4-2. They ended the group stage similarly to how they started with two victories again over Praha and Polten, this time 5-0 and 3-0. The overall results led to them finishing 2nd in their group.
One of the high-flying offenses of the group stage, AS Roma, scored 16 goals over the course of their six matches. A pleasant surprise, their attacking style won them plaudits from fandom around the world. What was also impressive was that the goal-sharing load did not fall onto one player. Two players lead the way with three goals apiece, Manuela Giugliano and Valentina Giacinti. In total, they got goals from ten different players. Being able to spread the wealth around is always good, as it does help ensure the defense is not focused on one specific player. They also outperformed their expectations as the xG was 14.5, giving them a 1.5 in g-xG.
Roma was also highly successful at creating chances. Over the group stage, they have 137 attempts, of which 60 were on target. This 43.8 percent accuracy could have resulted in even more goals, but they only converted on 26.68 percent of those attempts on target. They would be extremely dangerous if they could find a similarly high conversion rate for goals to shots of targets as their attempts to attempts on target. Stills knowing that they can get their shots off accurately means that a goalkeeper must always be prepared.
Finding Ways to Control the Game
Roma’s success in the group stage was aided by their ability to control the ball. Averaging 54.84 percent possession over the six fixtures, Roma only struggled in the two matches against Wolfsburg. Having a high of 66 percent possession to close the group against Slavia Praha shows how much they relied on controlling possession to find ways through their opposition. Their touch map does show that they tactically prefer to build and play through their opposition, as 1553 of these were in the defensive third and only 1069 in the attacking third. These statistics show Roma’s ability to make the most of their opportunities, as almost 20% of the offensive possession was in the opposition’s penalty box.
With all this possession, there is a worrying issue with Roma’s passing accuracy. Averaging 75.67 percent throughout the group is not very good, especially when considering their opposition in the group. Most of their passing that got them in trouble was their long passes, as they only completed 228 of 425 for 53.6 percent. Ironically, their crossing accuracy was good at 38.34 percent, showing that closer to the opposition, they were able to get onto the ball. Tactically, they needed smaller and shorter passes to build the play-up before getting into the final third. They did have 13 assists on their 16 goals scored, again showing the ability to convert in the end of the pitch where it matters.
Allowing eight goals throughout the group stage is no easy feat, but one does need to look at the competition they were facing. While you can only defeat the teams put in front of them, the group was not the most difficult. It is telling that 5 of the goals allowed were against Wolfsburg, their toughest opposition. The good news for them is that their G-xG is .3; essentially, they gave up what they were expected to. These eight goals came from 24 shots on target, a below-average save rate.
While their save percentage is not good, their tackling percentage is, winning the ball in 80 of the 117 attempted tackles or 68.39 percent. This gives the backline and team confidence in their ability to stop opposition attacks. With 20 of the attempted tackles in the attacking third, it is a small number, but they did have a lot of possession in the rest of the pitch primarily. When you add interceptions into the mix you are looking at 137 successful tackles and interceptions from 174 attempts or 90 percent, which is fantastic.
AS Roma surprised a lot of people with both their success and play style throughout the group stage. In my opinion, some of their results need to be taken into the group they were drawn into. While Slavia Praha and St. Pölten are good sides, when they came up against better opposition, they were outclassed. That does not mean they are not someone who can come out and get a surprise result. It is more that their results need to be looked at with everything, including the opposition. AS Roma can score goals and get their shots off, which will always give them some shot at advancing.