With the first 19 matchdays behind them, Roma‘s first half of the season is done. Paulo Fonseca’s men have had ups and downs so far and will be hoping for a better second half. Injuries, disappointing results and internal conflicts plagued the club. What went right, what went wrong, and how could the side improve for 2021?
A Rollercoaster First Half of the Season for Roma
What Went Right?
Despite dropping points on a few occasions, Roma is still on track for a top-four finish. The club is currently fourth, two points behind third-placed Juventus. They could, however, drop to fifth depending on the outcome of Napoli‘s match against Parma. Fonseca’s objective at the beginning of the season was to compete for a Champions League spot, and he’s living up to this objective so far.
The switch from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-2-1 was highly beneficial for Roma. The new system allows more freedom to the fullbacks whilst attacking. It also relies less on them to defend, which is a positive considering that Leonardo Spinazzola‘s, Bruno Peres‘ and Rick Karsdord‘s defending aren’t their best attributes.
The latter formation also unlocks Lorenzo Pellegrini. Previously used in a double pivot, he can now be deployed as an attacking midfielder. After a poor season last year, Pellegrini’s resurgence was greatly needed at Roma. The Giallorossi will be hoping that Pellegrini’s current form will last for the entire season.
Roma are yet to be tested in the Europa League but haven’t disappointed so far. After easily finishing top in Group A, the club is on track for a successful campaign. They will face SC Braga in the round of 32. The two sides seem to be evenly matched, both currently fourth in their league and finishing with 13 points in the group stage.
What Went Wrong?
Roma’s first half of the season was ruled by injuries. Nicolo Zaniolo, Chris Smalling, Spinazzola and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, amongst others, all had to miss games. The club rarely seemed at the peak of its powers because of it. Roma have a history of injuries and will be wishing to snap this streak.
The side’s form against the top six just hasn’t been good enough. They are yet to get a single win against their direct opponents for Champions League football (draws against Inter, AC Milan and Juventus, defeats against Napoli and Atalanta). The club has to improve when facing the “big clubs” in order to finish in the top four.
Just like last year, Roma have been let down by individual performances. In the embarrassing defeat at the hands of Spezia in the Coppa Italia, Borja Mayoral missed five ‘big chances.’ A one on one in the last seconds of regular time could have put the game to bed. Since then, Mayoral has picked up his game, but Roma fans still haven’t seen enough from him.
His strike partner Edin Dzeko is in an even worse place. Not only has the Bosnian struggled on the pitch, but he is also in dispute with the coach. This resulted in Dzeko being sidelined in the last few games. Talks of a swap deal between Inter and Roma for Alexis Sanchez in return have broken down. The transfer window closes on February 1, leaving Roma only a few hours to make their decision.
The blame isn’t only on the players, but also the management. Roma have made two managerial mistakes that resulted in forfeits and the firing of staff members.
How Could Roma Improve?
Roma’s first half of the season has not been disastrous by any means, but the club seems to be missing something. To make it to the next level, performances have to improve both defensively and offensively. The return of Zaniolo and the arrival of Stephan El Shaarawy should help if he’s still the same player he was before he left for China. Roma are also very close to completing a deal for defender Bryan Reynolds.
A priority should be to get rid of the surplus of players at the club. Players like Juan Jesus, Frederick Fazio and Javier Pastore have not been needed for a while now, but are still being paid quite a lot, especially Pastore who’s on a big contract. Roma won’t be able to improve their squad if those players are not sold.