To say that Edin Dzeko and Mohamed Salah have taken the league by storm this year would be a gross miscarriage of words. The Bosnian Batistuta and Silky Smooth Salah have combined for an impressive 18 goals thus far (with an even more impressive goal per 111 minutes), more than any other combination in the league, while also throwing in six assists for good measure. Beyond their gross total, each man is putting well over 50% of their shots on target, with Salah converting nearly 30% of his shots into goals.
We ended that paragraph with a Salah mention for a reason, he’s leaving. Not for good, of course, just for a brief respite as he attempts to lead Egypt to glory in the African Cup of Nations, which runs from mid-January to mid February, meaning Salah could miss as many as five league matches.
Naturally, then, Roma has begun looking for short term replacements. While the initial sweep seemed focused on Xherdan Shaqiri, football pundits have turned their attention towards Manchester United winger Memphis Depay, one of the many disappointments culpable in United’s ignominious fall to mediocrity, a much deserved fall depending on one’s view.
Depay, you may recall, was one of the breakout stars of World Cup 2014, thanks in large part to his match winning goal over Australia in group play. Depay would add another goal to his haul when he got on the end of an Arjen Robben cross to solidify the Netherland’s 2-0 victory over Chile, making him one of the “it” kids that summer.
And, as is so often the case, Depay’s World Cup heroics led (eventually) to a high priced, high profile transfer, a twenty six million pound move to the newly transformed Manchester United to be exact. However, to pin this transfer solely on his performance in Brazil is to sell his PSV career short. In the two years preceding his move to Manchester, Depay amassed an impressive 34 goals and 12 assists in Eredivisie play.
Whether he was an out and out striker or an inverted left winger, Depay was proving to be one of the most successful and prolific young players in Europe, particularly at set pieces, where he scored seven goals in 33 attempts during the 2014-2015 domestic season.
So, considering that foundation, following Louis van Gaal to United was a recipe for success, right? Hmm, yeah, about that...
First off, hat tip to our reader Wayne for digging this one up, but as you can see, Depay’s production has taken a precipitous drop since moving to Manchester. Seriously, take a look at that, nearly across the board his production has fallen by at least 50%. So if you’re United, you have to start wondering, is this merely an aberration of youth or a legitimate and worrying trend? Many a star player has faltered at the Theatre of Dreams (puke), so Depay would hardly be anomaly.
Now, if you’re Roma, you’re asking a slightly different question. Is this drop in production simply due to a lack of playing time and/or an inappropriate role with the club? After all Luciano Spalletti is far less...shall we say, despotic...with his wingers than either of van Gaal or Jose Mourinho, so Depay would be comparatively unleashed with the Giallorossi, particularly in the final third.
So, would a move to Rome be the cure for what ails Depay?
Well, if you believe everyone from ESPN to Football Italia, Roma are willing to answer that question, as they’ve reportedly shown interest and/or possibly contacted United about a loan move for young Memphis, with a possible option to buy. ESPN currently sets the odds at 30%, citing United’s interest in Kostas Manolas as a possible greaser of the wheels.
While the Manolas speculation is a question for another day, it’s fair to ask how Depay would fit into Roma’s plans in the long and short run. In the immediate sense, he’d at least be a warm and talented body to take Salah’s minutes, but in the long run, this once seamless fit starts to fray.
Throughout his career, Depay has featured almost exclusively on the left wing, where he’s free to cut in and wreak havoc. The problem, of course, is that Roma currently has Diego Perotti and Stephan El Shaarawy to man that flank, so unless Depay is willing and able to transform into a more traditional right winger, or even a second striker, there doesn’t seem to be much of a need for him, unless he completely blossomed in Roma making either of Perotti or SES expendable at some point in the future.
Bottom line, in and of itself, this would be a gamble worth taking, particularly if United are keen to get rid of him, but when exposed to the harsh light of reality, particularly in terms of the assets Roma already has, Depay just doesn’t seem to fit in with this squad as currently constructed.
However, in the narrowest of views and with a deep run into the Europa League on the horizon and a tighter-than-tight race at the top of the Serie A table, Roma will need as much depth as they can afford.
So, the question we have to ask ourselves is, will Roma go Walking in Memphis?