While it hasn’t witnessed quite the same tumult as the fullback position, Roma has had quite the revolving cast of characters in goal over the past decade and a half. While Doni provided a brief blip of stability, a term we use lightly, recent history shows a club incapable of landing a consistent and reliable goalkeeper. From Julio Sergio to Maarten Stekelenburg to Mauro Goicoechea to Morgan De Sanctis, Roma has had a fair bit of trouble finding a steady netminder.
Will this season prove an exception to that rule and the start of something grand, or are we destined for yet another spin on the merry go round? For an answer to that question, let’s take a look at Roma’s keepers for the 2016-2017 season.
Morgan De Sanctis was kindly shown the door after three years of dutiful service in the capital. While MDS slowed down a bit towards the end of his Roman tenure, ultimately being put out to pasture by Szczesny last season, Roma’s magical 2013-2014 season never would have happened were it not for his steady hands backing up Leandro Castan and Mehdi Benatia. While Morgan may very well return to the club as an executive or coach someday, he’ll play out the string on his professional career in the world’s favorite principality, Monaco.
Beyond MDS, the only other departure of note was Roma’s other Polish keeper, Lukasz Skorupski. While he once seemed like a dark horse candidate to become Roma's permanent net minder, a second season on loan, coupled with the purchase of Alisson, has probably sealed his fate as an ex-Roma player, though he certainly seems to have a bright future ahead of him in Empoli
For the first time perhaps ever, the club made two relatively high profile goalkeeping acquisitions during the same transfer window, purchasing the highly regarded Brazilian keeper Alisson while taking Wojciech Szczesny on loan once more from Arsenal.
While he’s not without his faults, Woj turned in a respectable performance for Roma last season, making 34 league appearances, tallying over 3,000 minutes and keeping 9 clean sheets during the 2015-2016 campaign. Szczesny is experienced, calm and well respected; Roma could certainly do worse for a starting keeper.
But, and this is a big one, you don’t throw down nearly €8 million on a 23-year-old keeper if you don’t have big and immediate plans for him; and this is precisely what Roma did when they purchased Alisson from Internacional this summer. With nine senior caps already to his credit, Alisson is quickly rising the ranks of the game’s best young keepers. Blessed with size, anticipation and, let’s face it, good looks, the Brazilian Don Draper has star written all over him.
The keeper tale of 2016-2017 may very well be written by the man who strikes first, or conversely, the man who doesn’t screw up first.
Who Will Struggle
Considering what we just discussed, and considering his late re-arrival this summer, the odds seemed stacked against Szczesny this season. With his brilliant Barcelona saves sullied by his inconsistent at at times lackadaisical domestic play, Woj’s grasp on the starting job was only saved by the complete lack of a better alternative last season.
With Alisson’s star already on the rise, Szczesny will have to solidify his claim on the job from day one, or he may find himself rotting on the bench swapping recipes with Aurelio Andreazzoli.
Who Will Shine
Well, this one is kind of easy, isn’t it? If Woj struggles, then surely Alisson will shine (no disrespect to Bogdan Lobont), right?
While there is only so much one can glean from pre-season matches, Alisson’s reflexes, distribution, aggression and ability to recover from mistakes could be just what Luciano Spalletti desires. If he’s given an early start or two, don’t be surprised if he cements his claim on the job before the leaves hit the ground.
Confidence Factor: 7/10
The ideal scenario would see Alisson rocket to stardom during his rookie season, and as far fetched as that might be, the absolute worst case scenario for Roma at the back would see Szczesny resume his role from last season, making 30 appearances and providing us with an experienced and calming presence at the back.
Between Woj and Alisson, we’re facing a distinctly un-Roma like proposition; a middle ground. There are no dramatic zero sum games in Roma’s goalkeeping equation. If Alisson takes off, Roma has a star in their midst and an extremely capable backup waiting in the wings. If, however, Alisson isn’t up to snuff, Roma shouldn’t miss a beat by reinserting Szczesny into the lineup.
We don’t always praise them around here, but provided this doesn’t turn into a clubhouse chemistry issue, management has shrewdly hedged their bets here.