At 37 years of age, it’s hard to be surprised whenever Francesco Totti misses a match with an injury. But to see Roma continuing to be almost completely dependant on his influence and skills tells us a lot about how much he meants to the team and most of the city, while also giving us an indication of where Italian football is right now.
Roma lost to Napoli 1-0 which isn’t a horrendous result, as Roma are still three points above third, with a game in hand. But Juventus? They seem untouchable, 14 points seperating the two teams. And to think Roma had the best start out of all the European teams to start off this season before things started falling apart, relatively of course, when compared with Juventus running over everything in their path.
With Totti, regardless of how well he plays or not, Roma are a championship team, with 12 wins out of 15 matches, scoring 2.53 goals per game. Without him? They have lost only once in 11 matches, but the easiest thing to spot is their poor scoring record at only 11 goals in the 11 matches without him.
Why is that? Because Roma lack creativity. There’s leadership in Daniele De Rossi from behind, but once Totti is out of the picture, it’s up to Florenzi, Gervinho, Ljajic and Destro to fill in the blank. They’re all talented players, and both Ljajic and Destro might become a lot more meaningful in the future. But for now? There’s no replacing Totti’s passing, vision and overall touch and creating ability while playing behind the striker, even if he doesn’t move as quickly as the rest of his teammates. His intellgience and positioning allows him to make up for that.
What does this say about the league? Roma aren’t even in Europe, and it’s hard to determine how well they would have performed this season when Juventus didn’t make it out of the Champions League group stage and Milan are about to be knocked out. If a 37 year old player, as great as he might have been and still capable of influencing each and every match he plays in, is so meaningful to one of the top 3 teams, there’s still a long way to go for Roma and the Serie A until it can be considered an elite league again.