Ever since the capture of Edin Džeko in the summer of 2015 (initially on loan), Roma have had a striker who has consistently provided good performances every week. For the most part, Džeko was a squad player at Man City, which led to many questioning whether or not he was up to challenge to lead the line in Rome. He, though, stepped up to the plate, and then some.
Arguably one of Roma’s better signings in recent years, in amongst the Monchi era of savvy youthful signings, he stands at the top of a comprehensive pile. He had shown in spells at Man City that he could produce output which only a select few could replicate. Yet, this season, at 34 years old, he has adjusted his game once again to a new coach who has brought along new tactics.
Switching from Eusebio Di Francesco’s style of football to Paulo Fonseca’s tactics (with an interval of Claudio Ranieri sandwiched in-between) must have made for a tough adjustment period. Briefly, Di Francesco preferred a counter-attacking style of play whilst Fonseca likes his teams to keep possession of the ball and press aggressively. This brings new challenges to Džeko and the way he likes to play.
In this tactical analysis scout report, we will do an analysis of Džeko’s performances for Roma and how he has adapted his game this season. In this scout report, we will also discover which side of his game he could improve upon.
Style of play
The Bosnian is a composed centre forward who is great at building chemistry with his teammates through flick-ons and layoffs. His passing ability and decision-making are impressive, especially when breaking down an assured defence who are typically difficult to break down. He does not typically attempt to dribble past defenders all too often, although this is an asset, he does have in his footballing inventory.
This is not to say that he is a false nine as he is being described, as he fits the role of a traditional #9. He is a player who takes plenty of shots and is often the player to take the most shots in his team. This is to be expected of a striker and should come as no surprise. However, it should be noted that he has much more to his game than just a volume-shot taker.
He fits in pretty well with Roma’s style of play this season. Roma tend to keep a high amount of possession and they like to control it in the opposition’s half. On top of this, they play a high line which supplements their aggressive pressing quite nicely. Fonseca’s favoured formations are 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 which suits Džeko’s strengths very well. They tend to attack down the middle and use inside forwards to complement this style of play, though interplays of short passing.
Passing and build-up
Roma do not focus on play counter-attacking football like they used to. They prefer to attack at speed and distribute the ball forwards where possible. Due to this desire to play through balls often, they sometimes struggle to maintain possession as they may like to. Roma’s centre-backs tend to play it safe with their passing, while their midfielders are more adventurous with theirs. This results in a team that keeps 53% possession on average, generally flexible to who their opponents are.
Džeko leads the line for Roma and tries to always be in the space for a pass with his movement. The Bosnian helps during the build-up and is always looking for a teammate to come in close for a layoff or a flick-on. Roma most frequently attack down the middle, meaning that he is vital in the latter stages of the build-up. Although, he does sometimes utilise his wide runners, such as a bombing full-back.
He came towards the ball to receive it and brought the defender out of position in the process.
He played a successful first-time through ball for Nicolò Zaniolo, which ends up in a headed effort from Džeko.
He often plays a vital role in linking the midfield to the attack. He is most commonly positioned in and around the box, however, it is not an irregular occurrence to see him come deep to pick up the ball. Out there he tends to do rotations with his teammates, trying to open the passing lanes by dragging the opposition players out of position.
Impact on their final third and attacking approach
As mentioned, the team’s 4-2-3-1 formation fits Džeko’s abilities very well. He is quite versatile when it comes to contribution in the final third.
He could be used as a target man upfront due to his good off-the-ball movement and strong aerial ability. He and his teammates combine to drag defenders out of position, to allow one another to create scoring chances.
A testament to his match intelligence, he drops deep to collect the ball which drags the attention of three defenders. From here, he is in a strong position to lay-off the ball to a fellow attacker or turn his man and take a shot on goal.
On this occasion, he decides to shoot, unfortunately straight at the keeper. A touch closer to the box would have left him in a better position to score, though he did well in the build-up to the goal.
He does have a greater impact in front of the goal itself, though. His capacity to find space in the box and scoring ability are truly the attributes that define him as a player and his role within this side. His first touch and key decision-making under pressure are extremely important in many scenarios, especially against sides who press aggressively against Roma. This is often a key reason why Roma can take as many shots as they do within games. Roma manage 17.3 shots per game in Serie A, which currently stands as the fourth-highest in the division, with Džeko being a key factor in this statistic.
Džeko picks up the ball from a long ball by Aleksandar Kolarov. His awareness in this situation allows him to pick the right option. He is wary of the pressure put on him and he is aware of the run being made by Cengiz Ünder.
His rapid decision making manages to exploit the opposition’s defensive positioning. A couple of touches followed by one swift through ball into the path of Ünder takes out the opposition defence and ends in a goal to Roma.
These actions on the field are hard to quantify. This goes to show his importance to the side outside of goals and assists. He is Roma’s key player when it comes to creating chances and scoring them. On top of being Roma’s top goalscorer with 12 Serie A goals this season, he also has a colossal xGChain per 90 minutes of 0.92. In some conceivable way, that means he is involved in 92% of Roma’s goals, which suggests that he will not be easily replaced soon, due to his prestige within this side.
When it comes to traditional attacking actions though, things do not change. If we look into the forward’s individual performance, we’ll see that thanks to Džeko the team not only creates more shots but more of them are on target. He offers many possibilities in and outside the box, which increases productivity. He tends to take fewer shots than previous seasons, which is evidence of his increased importance in other roles. Though, he still takes a high proportion of shots for an attacking team.
During this attack, Džeko stands still, which switches the focus of the defenders entirely on Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Thanks to his off-the-ball movement, Džeko got in a fantastic opportunity to score from within the six-yard box, which he does.
He has 3.7 shot attempts per 90 minutes in Serie A, with 3 of those efforts coming from inside the box. This a good proportion of shots coming from inside the box, suggesting he now only takes efforts that are worthy of a strike.
Džeko has evolved into a more complete forward for Roma, as they transition fairly smoothly into the Fonseca era. He is the team’s main source of goals and one of the top creators as well, as he can support his wide attackers. With a player like him, Roma can rely on him to bring them out of the dirt whenever they are in a tough situation with his individual talent. Barring that, he can add to a fluid attacking unit which is starting to truly find their feet under Fonseca.