One game into the new season, one goal already scored. Our columnist takes a look at Edin Dzeko’s performance, and his role within Paulo Fonseca’s tactical system…
Fresh from signing a new deal after choosing to remain with AS Roma this summer, Edin Dzeko's sterling showing was a major positive from Roma's 3-3 draw with Genoa.
While it wasn't the result the Giallorossi wanted in their season opener, Dzeko shone brightly on his way to making a first repayment on the faith placed him in by the club and its supporters.
Scoring a goal and grabbing an assist, the Bosnian centre-forward was an integral component towards the home team's success going forward. Persistently asking questions with his movement, his aptitude in this regard provided the platform for him to be such a threat.
Picking his moments shrewdly when to drop deep to help link midfield and attack, he did a fine job of connecting moves. So good with his back to goal, where he can either turn his man, use his hulking frame to hold up the ball or fire off concise one and two touch passes, his work here was of a high standard.
Importantly, if he recognised an opponent didn't follow him, he'd turn quickly or position himself in ideal forward-facing body postures so he could continue his momentum forward. His checking towards the ball carrier not only saw him take up excellent positions between the lines, but also made him an ideal outlet to kickstart counter-attacks.
Indeed, Cengiz Under's opener served as a testament to his effectiveness in transitions. Here, he ventured towards the halfway line to provide an outlet to instigate the breakaway. With his man unwilling to track him, he was free to turn and subsequently pinpoint Cengiz, who did the rest.
Accompanying all that with his threat in behind, the 33-year-old timed and angled his runs smartly to exploit any spaces between Genoa's defenders. Using his nous on many occasions to exploit the blindside of his marker or stretch the away side, his intelligence here saw him be a real danger despite him not being the quickest.
Indeed, this feature of his game was the catalyst for his amazing solo goal, where his diagonal depth run initiated the passage.
After Bryan Cristante duly obliged Dzeko's run, he expertly controlled the ball before outfoxing three Genoa defenders on the dribble, with the highlight being his nutmeg on Cristian Zapata.
Once in a position to shoot, Dzeko then finished with aplomb by remaining balanced and composed to score with his right foot to round out an exceptional individual effort.
Performing slick, subtle rotations with his offensive colleagues was another method Dzeko used to cause issues for Genoa. With Paulo Fonseca instructing his four attackers to be positioned within close proximity to one another and interchange regularly, Dzeko thrived. He could link play cleanly with fast combinations and draw opponents away from space with his crafty movement.
This consequently altered the opposition's reference points and placed doubt in the Genoa backline on who should mark who.
Moving in and out of zones strategically, the way Dzeko, Nicolo Zaniolo, Cengiz and Justin Kluivert dovetailed so effectively offered plenty of promising signs for the future.
Dzeko also put his aerial prowess to good use, where he not only posed a threat on set pieces but gave his team an ideal out ball if they couldn't break the press. Recognising when a long ball was on its way towards Dzeko, his teammates would congregate around him to create 3v2 overloads, which enhanced Roma's chances of winning second balls in good areas.
Dzeko's statistics illustrate his quality body of work, as he completed 16 of his 19 attempted passes, four dribbles, six shots, nine touches inside the box, three aerial duels, one shot assist and was fouled three times.
In a performance that underlined what a vital player he's set to be within Fonseca's offensive framework, there was some optimism to be drawn that he could be on his way to recapturing his capocannoniere-winning form of the 2016-17 season.
Clearly a huge advocate of Dzeko's, Fonseca's words depict his delight at having the frontman at his disposal this term. "I'm happy he's stayed. From the very first day I hoped he would stay with us," he explained.
"I'm pleased he's extended his contract as that's what I wanted. Things have turned out for the best but I always felt quietly confident he would remain. He's a very important player for us and we're all happy that he's stayed.”
While there's still scope for improvement as Dzeko continues to adapt to the Portuguese tactician's philosophy, Dzeko appears the ideal candidate to lead the line in his system.
Experienced, multifaceted, a fine focal point and a player who'll greatly aid the younger players' development, the 2019-20 campaign certainly looks promising for Dzeko with Fonseca at the helm.