25th August 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
When Aleksandar Kolarov ended his successful seven year association with Manchester City, where he won two Premier League titles, two league cups and an FA Cup, to join AS Roma, his decision was met with disgust by the Lazio fans who labelled their former star a traitor and a worm.
Upon deciding to join Roma, he must have known the Lazio supporters that used to cheer him on wouldn't be happy, but instead of calming the situation, his comments on the move only added fuel to the fire. "I cannot, and do not want to, deny my past. But now I am with Roma and just as I gave 100 per cent when I was at Lazio I will now give 100 per cent and more for Roma," he proclaimed.
"Lazio was a good experience for me, but from today they are my rivals on the pitch. My aim is always to win. I will give 100 per cent to win every game and try and win some trophies."
Joining in a deal worth €5 million, the Serbian international represents a smart piece of business for the Giallorossi and brings oodles of high level experience, tremendous quality and much needed leadership, which should all prove especially vital for Roma's Champions League ventures this term.
Kolarov wasted little time demonstrating his class in Roma's season opening win by scoring a sublime, Ronaldinho-esque free kick to secure all three points over a dangerous Atalanta side who, heading into the match, hadn't lost at home in 2017 and defeated Roma twice last crusade. Although this was the undoubted highlight of his performance, his man of the match display offered many more reasons for excitement.
Starting in his familiar left back slot, the 31-year-old was particularly influential in the Wolves' offensive phases. With Eusebio Di Francesco instructing his side to funnel the majority of their attacks down the left, they attacked this area 49% of the time, Kolarov was key in their success here. By regularly taking up slightly infield positions in the left half space, he was able to offer his teammates a fine passing outlet to help in the construction of their offensive moves.
Whenever the ball was on the opposite side of the pitch or in the middle, which meant Atalanta's defensive structure was oriented away from him, once Roma switched the play, he had plenty of space to motor upfield and use his pace, inventive dribbling and exemplary passing in more advanced areas. In addition, his occupation of this zone importantly allowed Diego Perotti to be placed in a favourable 1v1 duel with his direct opponent, Hans Hateboer, out wide.
The way overloads were used down the left was another vital ingredient of Roma's attacking dynamics, with the away side populating this area heavily to manufacture 4v3 or 5v4 overloads vs Gian Piero Gasperini's side. Whether it was supportive movements from Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan or Kevin Strootman, Roma did an excellent job of progressing in this area of the pitch through this method.
The fact Perotti and Kolarov combined for 16 successful dribbles owed much to this structure, but also to their excellent technical qualities and clever, complimentary opposite movements to create space for one another.
Full of customary aggression and intensity on the defensive end, Kolarov never let his opposition enjoy an easy ball, for he pressed, harassed and physically imposed himself throughout on his way to completing four tackes, four clearances, two interceptions and two blocked shots.
A delighted Kolarov, who couldn't have dreamt of a better way to mark his Roma debut and return to Serie A, was just happy his side showed their fighting spirit to hold on for a crucial win. "It was important to win the game. We were under pressure in the second half but we also had one or two chances ourselves to kill the game off," Kolarov told Roma's official website.
"Atalanta are a very good side, but for us it was key to get off to a good start. We feel confident."
Adding a demonstrative leader and a player that'll be a significant presence on the training ground, in the dressing room and out on the pitch, Roma's capture of Kolarov could be one of the most astute bargains of the summer.
Roma Capture Aleksandar Kolarov - Could it be the bargain of the season?
25th August 2017. By Edward Stratmann.