New owner, new players, new manager, new mentality and renewed hope, paired with a great start to the season. Roma fans had all the reasons to be optimistic for the upcoming season. A rocky start to the campaign and a humiliation in Europe later, Jose Mourinho’s honeymoon seems to be over. The Giallorossis are back to their old selves, for the worse.
Same Old Season for Roma
Three games into the season, Roma seemed like real contenders for the Scudetto, or at least the top four. Six games later, including three losses, and Mourinho’s men are already nine points behind first-placed AC Milan.
A very tough win away at bottom of the league Cagliari keeps them in the race for Champions League football so far, but that kind of performance against the current weakest team in Serie A is not a good sign. A small positive is that, contrary to last season, Roma haven’t looked completely outmatched by other top sides like Lazio, Juventus and Napoli. However, they still come out of those games with one point out of a possible nine (one draw and two narrow losses). This squad desperately needs to find a way to get over their hump against Serie A’s top six.
Following an electric start to his Roma career, Tammy Abraham has failed to make an impact in his last five appearances (although it has to be said that the Englishman has been extremely unlucky, hitting the woodwork six times already). Lorenzo Pellegrini is currently in the form of his life, but it has failed to translate to his teammates, and the captain has shown signs of slowing down. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is half the player he was last year. Nicolo Zaniolo is understandably struggling to get back to his very best after two devastating injuries that kept him from the field for a year or so. When key players underperform, the whole team underperforms.
Jose Mourinho is already back to his Mourinho-esque antics, falling out with half the squad upon his arrival. In his first month back in Italy, he excluded eight players from the first team. Now, following a 6-1 thrashing in the UEFA Conference League at the hands of Norwegian side FK Bodo/Glimt, the Special One publicly pinned the blame on bench players Marash Kumbulla, Gonzalo Villar, Bryan Reynolds, Borja Mayoral and Amadou Diawara, whilst simultaneously pretending to take the blame upon himself.
He isinuated in the following press conference that among the starting 11, many were not up to Serie A standards. Since then, those said players have been sent to the stand for games, not even appearing on the bench, apart from Kumbulla who made an injury time cameo against Cagliari.
This is not the first time Mourinho has used a scapegoat. United fans will remember the Luke Shaw saga. It creates a toxic environment in the team between the players and the manager, and a division between players themselves.
Where Roma Can Go From Here
Roma have to make a move in the January transfer window. A first team right-back and experienced centre-back would come in handy, but more than anything a true number six is needed. The double pivot of Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante lacks defensive capacities and is responsible for too many goals this season. For example, Cristante’s positioning is partly responsible for the second and third goal in the away loss at Hella Verona. Completing the signing of proven midfielder Denis Zakaria could be the key.
This team has potential, and the owners made it clear that they needed three years to bring success back to Roma. In year one, glimpses of what could become are already visible. It is crucial that Roma make the most of it, starting this season.
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