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Roma’s Depth Will Be Key This Season

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With the Giallorossi finally getting healthy, we explore the depth that Monchi built up this offseason which will be key in Roma surviving their grueling run of games and the rest of the season.

Atalanta BC v AS Roma - Serie A
Di Francesco has shown a penchant for utilizing Roma’s depth this season.
Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Roma have finally begun to get the majority of their injured players back to health at just the right time as the team is in the middle of one of it’s busiest stretches of the season. To get through this busy time, and potentially busy spring (if they can continue to perform well in Europe), the team’s depth will be much needed. Even though Roma sold off some big names this summer in Salah and Rudiger, among other losses, they seem to have improved their overall depth for the 2017-18 season. {Editor's note: this was written prior to Karsdorp's injury}

By the time Roma close out October with a Halloween rematch with Chelsea at the Olimpico, they will have completed three consecutive weeks with a midweek fixture. Those midweek matches, when coupled with the regular weekend Serie A fixtures, can quickly wear on a team causing both physical and mental fatigue. That fatigue can turn what should be simple fixtures into something a bit more tricky. With Serie A looking even more competitive at the top this year; Roma can ill afford any dropped points against the likes of the Crotones and Bolognas of the league.

Eusebio Di Francesco has shown a willingness to rotate players in and out of the squad. This is something that his predecessor wasn’t always as willing to do. Di Francesco has rotated players routinely, even in the biggest games and had success doing so; see Gonalons and Gerson starting against Chelsea and Crotone.

Let’s take a look at Roma’s depth position by position.

Forward

AS Roma v Chapecoense - Friendly Match
Roma hope Schick live up to his billing.

Roma boast a glut of talent up front and with Di Francesco’s preference for a 4-3-3 formation there is plenty of need for fresh legs. Last season, Luciano Spalletti relied mostly on Edin Dzeko, Diego Perotti, and Mohamed Salah up front with Stephan El Shaarawy and Francesco Totti getting some starts as well. This year Roma still boast goal scoring machine Dzeko, along with Perotti and El Shaarawy. However, despite the fact that they sold Salah to Liverpool and Totti called it a career, the stable is well stocked with the purchases of Patrik Schick, Gregoire Defrel, and Cenzig Under. Roma now truly boast two players for every forward position. In addition, Alessandro Florenzi and Gerson who have also been utilized to flank Dzeko out wide this season. When this is taken into account Roma have eight players for three positions.

Corriere dello Sport happened to put together a nice slideshow recently that examined potential formations with the return of Schick in mind, as well as, previous forward combinations that have been used already this year.

Midfield

AC Milan v AS Roma - Serie A
Pellegrini has strengthened Roma’s midfield quality and added needed depth to the mix.
Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Midfield is another position where Roma boast a newfound bevvy of talent. Last year Spalletti used a heavy dose of Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman, and Radja Nainggolan, with Leandro Paredes also getting some starts while Gerson was almost an afterthought outside of a shock, disastrous start versus Juve. This year DDR, Strootman, and Radja still make up the primary midfield trio but they haven’t been relied on nearly as much.

The return of Roma Primavera product Lorenzo Pellegrini from Sassuolo has been the main reason for this. Pellegrini has been as good, if not better, than advertised thus far and become a sort of fourth starter in a three man midfield. In fact, this past weekend we finally saw all four start at the same time with Radja pushed up higher in the attack. This is an idea that I wanted to see toyed with when Roma had their injury crisis up front a few weeks ago. When you throw in the experience of recently acquired Maxime Gonalons and the seeming improvement of young talent, Gerson, Roma can finally truly say that they are two deep at every midfield position. In addition, Florenzi can also be utilized in the midfield trio if needed.

This certainly couldn’t be said in the past. EDF has already done plenty of rotating in the midfield. He even went as far as sitting De Rossi in favor of Gonalons at Chelsea after a difficult match versus Napoli. It’s this kind of rotating that will keep an aging player like De Rossi fresh during a long grueling season with plenty to play for. Even Strootman and Nainggolan looked tired at different points last season because of Spalletti’s personnel decisions. Hopefully EDF will be able to avoid running his preferred midfield trio into the ground like we saw last season.

Defense

Chelsea FC v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League
Kolarov has been the signing of the season in Serie A so far.
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Another place where Roma have improved their depth is out wide on defense. With the addition of Aleksander Kolarov, who could be the Serie A signing of the season so far, Roma have improved at left back. Roma will boast two quality left backs when Emerson returns from his knee injury in November. The Giallorossi also improved at right back by adding Dutch talent Rick Karsdorp, who made his first start versus Crotone yesterday, after his own injury woes. Karsdorp will add depth to a position where Roma, at times last season, used center backs out of position because of Florenzi missing the entire season due to injury. Roma now have Florenzi, Karsdorp, and Bruno Peres to play on the right side.

The only position, I would argue, that Roma didn’t improve their depth is at center back where they sold Rudiger and didn’t make Thomas Vermaelen’s loan permanent. However, Roma were able to hold onto Kostas Manolas and Federico Fazio as their starting combo. Meanwhile they still have Juan Jesus as an occasional starter and added veteran Hector Moreno as extra cover. Roma survived Sunday against a depleted Torino attack with Juan Jesus and Moreno starting while Manolas and Fazio missed out due to injury. However, I’d have been a bit more worried if they had to mark a player like Andrea Belotti, or if they starting combo missed considerable time.

Jack of All Trades

Chelsea FC v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League
Florenzi compounds Roma’s depth with his versatility.
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Another advantage that Roma have which adds depth all over the field is their jack of all trades player Florenzi who is back from injury this season. Florenzi’s versatility makes Roma a better team and gives EDF plenty of options.

What It Means

Obviously depth only goes so far. In the end, all the players being used have to perform in order to win games; whether it be the same 11 week in and week out or a fresh mix weekly. However, Roma’s depth gives them an advantage over the rest of Serie A. In my opinion, when I look around the league, I truly believe that only Juventus can match Roma’s depth this season. Teams like Napoli, Lazio and Inter are off to fast starts but I believe they have less depth and thus become more likely to drop points because of fatigue or potential injuries.

If EdF can continue to rotate players as well as he has so far it will keep the roster fresh and the players motivated when they do play. Roma are in the middle of a tough stretch and their depth will be the key to not only surviving it but also potentially thriving. This also goes for the rest of the season as Roma will likely have to balance Serie A, Coppa Italia, and some kind of European fixtures into the spring. Only time will tell if all of the depth that Monchi has accumulated will pay off but I truly believe that it will help Roma challenge for the Scudetto, make a deep Coppa run, and remain competitive in their European fixtures.