Rick & Kevin. It sounds like some sort of hilarious American sitcom situated in the heart of New York. Two best buddies who share an apartment and share some crazy and funny nights together. Unfortunately it’s not quite like that. It’s about Kevin Strootman and Rick Karsdorp. Two Dutchmen on Roma’s squad: one upcoming talent, one established player who’s nearing his prime, according to football laws. While the Brazilians (Alisson, Juan), Italians (Dani, Pellegrini, Florenzi), a Belgian (Radja) and even Serb and Bosnian (Kolarov and Dzeko) have all experienced great moments up till now, the Dutch seem a bit disorientated.
First up, Kevin. While we all know Strootman is a world-beater when he’s on form, this season he started out rather average, or let’s say not the usual Washing Machine we all know and adore. Inter and Udine were two rather invisible games from Crazy Kev, while he already had to walk off the pitch after half an hour against Milan. Right now he’s a huge question mark for Napoli. Things just doesn’t seem to click for the moment.
Has he been sub-par? No, but he also hasn’t shown he’s incontournable just yet. Indispensable. In some games he’s had difficulties with the tempo and physically he’s not 100%, you can see it on the pitch. In the past, Strootman was always (or most of the time) an 8 or 7 outta 10. Lately he’s more a 6 - 6.5.
On top of that, there’s a new threat on the horizon. A new face. A younger, fresh version. Lorenzo Pellegrini, Di Francesco’s puppy from Sassuolo and former Roman youth product. Next to Alisson he’s one of the surprise packages of Roma so far and he’s already been hailed as Daniele and Florenzi’s heir. Premature? Who knows. People in and around Rome are quick to praise players and burn them to the ground the day after. With the departure of Totti, maybe fans now want a third Roman to step up. It’s still a bit too early to say, but Lorenzo has indeed shown glimpses of his immense talent. A tough task awaits Kevin.
In Eusebio’s 4-3-3 there’s only space for three midfielders. Daniele, as the captain, is a certainty. Radja is our best midfielder without discussion and therefor a certainty as well. So that leaves one spot open. Gonalons seems the substitute for De Rossi so no immediate threat for Strootman there, but Florenzi seems fully recovered and aims for a starting spot, be it at right-back, in midfield or on the wings. And there’s also the pricey Gerson on the bench, raring to go. Luckily for Roma and Eusebio, Roma’s schedule is packed until December to keep everyone happy and focused.
Needless to say, this season is once again make or break for Kevin. In Pellegrini Roma have found a jewel and fan favorite. Could he condemn Strootman, the last four years undoubtedly a starter when fit, to the bench? Thank God Di Francesco rotates more than Luciano, so Kevin will get his chances anyway. But he’ll need to step it up a bit in order to be on the same page as Radja and Dani. Since he arrived in Rome, the Dutchman only had two ‘successful’ spells: 2013-2014 and 2016-2017, making 25 and 33 appearances in Serie A, nine goals in total.
Now, I don’t want the wrath of Chiesa upon my head. I still think highly of Strootman The fans and club stood by Kevin during all his injuries and operations, so both have created this intense relationship, a feeling of mutual respect. I’m sure Strootman will also face this challenge without fear and gladly accept the task. He’ll be fine eventually, the season is still long and there are some entertaining fixtures ahead of us.
Ok, time for the other part of the Dutch duo, Rick Karsdorp. This one is easier and less emotional to discuss than Kevin, basically because he’s no household name yet. In fact, Karsdorp has yet to play a single official minute for Roma because he’s been plagued by injuries ever since signing his cursed contract. While Defrel was more expensive, at least he has already played a fair bit and contributed to wins. Karsdorp for now remains an unknown entity.
A lot of people (including me) thought Karsdorp would quickly settle in and make that right-back position his own by October. He’s more talented than Peres, Florenzi was still out and injured and Rick seems perfect for Di Francesco’s game and 4-3-3. The truth is more disappointing. Hell, even Jesus had to play right-back in case of emergency. There’s still no news about Karsdorp’s return so we eagerly await Rick’s first minutes in Italy.
Obviously he’ll need some adjustment time and the club won’t rush things during his recovery. But when he finally gets back, who says Florenzi isn’t the undisputed starter? Or by some miracle Peres regains his Torino form, releases his inner Cafu and blows everyone away? Or maybe the formation has already changed and there’s simply no space for Karsdorp? And will the Dutchman be as confident in tackles, dribbling and sprints as last season, bearing in mind this mini injury crisis? Time will tell, but time has also been unmercifully ticking away since July.
Of course I’ve blown some things out of proportion in this post and it’s early days in Serie A. But it’s international week so slow news day at the Roma camp and we have to talk about something, right? While we have already talked about and analyzed the bright points of Eusebio’s Roma (Alisson, Pellegrini, Kolarov, Dzeko etc), it was time to sit down and reflect upon our Dutch Duo, Strootman and Karsdorp.
Two men on the sidelines, currently not in the starting line-up for Napoli. If they don’t watch out, both could be sidelined for a longer time and not because of an injury.