It was the perfect header. Iago Falque, chasing a chipped pass down the left channel, hooked a hopeful delivery towards the back post where Edin Dzeko was waiting. Giorgio Chiellini, Juventus’ tough, snarling centre-half was there too, but there would be no stopping Roma’s headline summer signing.
After glancing over his shoulder to clock the whereabouts of Chiellini before using his hefty frame to prevent the Italian from getting near the ball, Dzeko rose highest to nod it past Gianluigi Buffon and into the back of the net.
It would turn out to be the game’s crucial goal, Roma securing a huge 2-1 win over the Serie A champions at Stadio Olimpico. It was a result – and, perhaps more significantly, a performance – that convinced many that Rudi Garcia’s side have what it takes to lift the Scudetto this term.
With 36 matches left, such thoughts cannot yet be expressed with any certainty. What can be said with confidence, though, is that Dzeko will be absolutely central to Roma’s title aspirations.
The Bosnian international had an impressive scoring record at Manchester City, despite spending long spells of his four-and-half-year stint at the Etihad playing second fiddle to Sergio Aguero. 50 goals in 130 Premier League appearances is a very decent return, particularly given that Dzeko started only 74 times in the English top flight.
He is not only a fantastic striker, but the ideal fit for this Roma side. The Giallorossi lacked a focal point up front last season, with Francesco Totti and Seydou Doumbia sharing the role in the latter half of the campaign but interpreting it in very different ways.
Whereas Totti is a quintessential trequartista who looks to drop deeper and pull the strings between the lines, Doumbia’s movement tended to be beyond the opposition backline. Dzeko is more of a natural, all-round No. 9 – something that should help Roma this season.
— AS Roma (@OfficialASRoma) September 2, 2015
With Falque and Gervinho on the wings, it is likely that crossing will become a key weapon for Rudi Garcia’s charges. Dzeko’s strength and aerial ability makes him a fine target for deliveries from out wide, with Miralem Pjanic and Radja Nainggolan also likely to benefit from knockdowns when arriving late in the area.
Roma have sometimes found it difficult to break down deep-lying defences in the last two years – dropped points at home to Sassuolo, Empoli, Parma, Atalanta and Palermo proved costly last term.
They have also missed a penalty-box presence to convert territorial dominance into goals. Dzeko should provide exactly that, with the majority of his strikes for City coming from within 18 yards.
Crucially, Dzeko is also excellent technically and more than capable of involving himself in Roma’s intricate build-up play. He is adept with his back to goal and at bringing others into the game, and should act as an important focal point for Roma’s forwards and midfielders to pick out.
With the creativity that Roma possess, however, Dzeko’s main role will be simply to provide the finishing touch to his new side’s moves.
Although 20-goal-a-season frontmen are becoming rarer in the modern game, that total is certainly well within Dzeko’s capability.
Totti and Ljajic were Roma’s top scorers in 2014/15 with eight goals apiece; putting the ball in the back of the net was the capital club’s major weakness as they finished 17 points adrift of Juventus, with the Bianconeri, Lazio, Fiorentina, Napoli, Inter, Genoa and Milan all scoring more times than the division’s runners-up.
Should Dzeko get his name on the scoresheet on a regular basis, he could be the difference between the disappointments of Roma’s last two campaigns and a first Scudetto since 2001. The early signs are overwhelmingly positive.