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Opinion: Dzeko has proven he’s an elite centre-forward

Roma fans went into the 2017-18 season not quite knowing what to expect from Edin Dzeko

The number nine was emerging from an electrifying season, in which he scored a massive 39 goals. Those figures saw him eclipse the club record for most goals in a season, beating the achievements of Rodolfo Volk, Pedro Manfredini and Francesco Totti.

But despite his impressive campaign, there was still an air of uncertainty as to what the new season would bring for Dzeko. His first season in Rome had been far less inspiring, so time would tell which represented the real Edin Dzeko.

Would he struggle again like he did when he arrived, or would he continue his excellent form into his third season in the Roma shirt? How would he adapt to the methods of his new coach, Eusebio Di Francesco? It was time to see what the striker’s legacy at Roma would be. This was always going to be the season that defined Dzeko’s stay in Rome.

Thankfully, 2017-18 got off to a good start. Dzeko scored eight goals in his opening eight games, as he featured heavily. While some of those goals were against weaker opposition, many others were important – such as the second goal in a 2-1 Champions League group stage win over Qarabag, and a goal in the 2-0 win against Milan.

Opinion: Dzeko has proven he’s an elite centre-forward

A couple of weeks after the triumph against Vincenzo Montella’s Rossoneri, Dzeko stepped up on the biggest stage. Roma travelled to London to face Chelsea in a tough Champions League clash, and when the Blues took an early lead through David Luiz, few gave Di Francesco’s side hope of getting a result. That night though, Edin Dzeko showed his true colours as a champion, a gladiator that cannot be kept down.

Roma found themselves 2-1 down at the break, but optimistic of a turnaround. The second half would belong to Dzeko, who was about to score arguably the greatest goal of his career.

Twenty minutes into the second half, Federico Fazio played a beautiful aerial pass forward to the number nine. Dzeko timed his run to perfection as he tracked the flight of the ball. Then, the moment came. Latching onto the pass with a rocket of a volley, on his weaker left foot, Dzeko sent the Roma fans wild as he levelled the scoring in remarkable fashion. He demonstrated elegant technique, pinpoint accuracy and lethal power, leaving Thibaut Courtois helpless in the Chelsea goal. It was a majestic moment, symbolic of the player’s greatness. Time seemed to stand still, in awe of what had just happened.

Dzeko wasn’t content to stop there though, as he knew there was a game to be won. Six minutes later, he put Roma ahead with another great goal – this time heading into the far corner to make it 3-2.

Chelsea may have equalised soon after, but the night still belonged to Edin Dzeko. He had reached the pinnacle of goalscoring prowess with his brace, reminding the wider football world of his sheer talent.

For whatever reason, things slowed down from that point. The Bosnian went the next eight games without scoring a goal, and was seeing less of the ball than he would’ve liked. Perhaps he was fatigued; he was playing a lot of football for a man of his age, as Patrik Schick wasn’t yet fit enough to rotate with him. Dzeko played every minute of 13 consecutive games between the end of September and mid-December. Clearly the team were reliant on him, but perhaps they were asking too much.

A player of Dzeko’s level can quickly leave barren patches behind though, and in the second half of the season, he became a Roma hero. Having had a winter break to recuperate, and with Schick now fit to start games too, Dzeko was able to reach his peak levels once again in the New Year.

Opinion: Dzeko has proven he’s an elite centre-forward

He scored a stoppage time equaliser against Sampdoria in January, heading home a Mirko Antonucci cross to rescue a point. And it wasn’t the last time he would have a major impact on the outcome of a game.

In March, his goals were once again crucial in the 4-2 win over Napoli. In a man-of-the-match display, Dzeko scored another brace in one of Roma’s best performances of the Serie A season. His second goal was another fine example of his ability with either foot, as he curled an amazing effort from outside the box right into the far corner on his left side. Roma derailed the Scudetto contenders that night, and Edin was pivotal to that success.

He saved his very best, however, for the Champions League. Following on from his glory in the group stage, he was instrumental in Roma’s run to the semi-finals. It was Dzeko’s goal that put Roma past Shakhtar Donetsk and into the last eight, as the Giallorossi beat the Ukrainians 1-0 at home to advance on away goals. Receiving a pass from Kevin Strootman, Dzeko calmly slotted the ball past the onrushing keeper to send his side through.

Dzeko was delivering important goals at important times, even in games where he wasn’t getting many touches. Instead, he was relying on his primal striking instinct, proving how clinical he can be. The sign of a world class striker.

In the next round, he scored a late goal away at Barcelona in a 4-1 loss, an away goal that gave his team a glimmer of hope. Still, not many could have predicted what would happen next.

On a tremendous April night, Roma recorded one of the greatest upsets in Champions League history by overturning the three-goal deficit from the first leg. The comeback was set in motion by none other than Dzeko, whose early first goal inspired his team with the belief that they could do something special.

Roma built on their talisman’s goal to eventually eliminate Barcelona with a 3-0 win, a result that shook world football. And, like many other times this season, it wouldn’t have been possible without Edin Dzeko.

Di Francesco’s men couldn’t get past Liverpool in the next round, but Dzeko was on target again in both legs. He had scored in five successive Champions League games, showing his ability to perform at the very top level. It takes a special kind of player to record that kind of feat.

That’s what type of player Edin Dzeko is. This season, he has become a Roma hero. His 24 goals have seen him overtake the likes of Rudi Voller and Agostino Di Bartolomei in the club’s all-time goalscoring charts. Just two more goals will see him break into the top ten.

When he was signed in 2015, many fans hoped he could have a similar impact to another tall striker, Gabriel Batistuta, who immediately inspired Roma to the 2001 Scudetto. And over his three seasons with the club so far, Edin has gone some way to matching the Argentine’s reputation. Lots of supporters regard him as the club’s best foreign striker since Batigol, and his figures don’t lie. His humble personality off the pitch further adds to his endearment with the fans.

So great is their affection for him, that he was recently voted as their player of the year for 2017-18. Considering the outstanding levels reached by Alisson Becker and Aleksandar Kolarov during the campaign, it is a remarkable accomplishment by the 32-year-old. His influence on the team has not gone unnoticed.

In 2017-18, Edin Dzeko showed who he really is to Roma fans. He is a lethal goalscorer, and although he may have the occasional off-day, his positive attributes are too great to ignore. He steps up when it matters most, able to deal with pressure in a way few others can. He is a leader on the pitch, through his actions and his character.

Last season, Edin Dzeko proved he is an elite level centre-forward – one intent on making history with Roma.