Once again Roma's defence was talk of the town during Serie A 2016-2017. Good, solid displays were replaced by uncertain, sometimes laughable howlers and mistakes. While Roma's attack had a splendid campaign and even set some records, its defence is facing another revamp this summer.
Just look at the current situation: some are injured or still not fully recovered from an injury (Florenzi, Emerson), some might get sold (Manolas, Rudiger) and the future of some loanees is still not clear (Rui, Jesus, Peres). Wow. What. A. Mess. Nevertheless, 2016-2017 wasn't that bad compared to previous seasons.
Roma conceded 38 goals in Serie A, exactly one goal per game. While it's not on par with Juve's BBC, it's the second best defence of the league. Atalanta, Milan, Inter all conceded 40+, Lazio and Fiorentina even 50+. Bren already dedicated a post to our keepers, now comes the real deal: the brave men who guarded the goal. The men who had to protect that Ssscheeshnzeney thingy. I list them alphabetically to keep things simple (something our management is not capable of it seems, ahem). The statistics are from across all competitions.
Emerson Palmieri (36 games, 1 goal): We immediatly start with one of the guys who improved the most since last season. An attack-minded leftback, wingback actually. Some sort of Brazilian left-footed Florenzi with a few tricks up his sleeve. Has to work on his consistency though as he can sometimes disappear from the stage. Still only 22 years, 23 in August so his best years are yet to come. One of Roma's gems and a must for next season. Honestly, very few of us though he would turn into such a stud. In typical Roman fashion, it had to be Emerson who suffered a knee injury in his last game of the season, ruling him out until October(ish?) and missing the entire pre-season. Atta boy, now you're officially one of us. He earns his high score thanks to his unexpected rise to fame this season, with a call-up for the Italian NT as cherry on the cake. 9/10
Federico Fazio (48 games, 4 goals): An ever-present in Roma's defence this season, whether it's a 3-4-2-1 or 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. The slow Fazio has problems when playing in a defence of 4, but alongside Rudiger and Manolas in Spal's 3-4-2-1 he's grown into the leader of the pack. A threat on corners, this tower is one of the revelations of this season, although he had a bit of a dip by the end. He's not gonna improve much as he's just turned 30, but he came in cheap and was arguably the best deal of 2016. Just like Emerson he's a keeper. Well, no he's a defender but you get the point, don't ya? He loses one point due to some minor setbacks after New Year. 8/10
Alessandro Florenzi (13 games, 1 goal): Poor Alessandro. Why him? One of the fan favorites next to Totti and Dani, Florenzi suffered two knee injuries (how original) this season. The first one at Sassuolo in October, and the second one during training in February. Flo missed 90% of the season and only featured in nine games in Serie A. He was a huge loss for the team, because he's Roma's Swiss Army Knife and he managed 33 and 35 appearances in the two previous seasons. I don't doubt that he wants to return stronger than ever, just like Strootman, but we'll have to be patient I guess. Sadly, it's almost impossible to give Alessandro points for this season because he contribute so little, which is a damn shame. Stay strong Alessandro, for Nonna! /
Juan Jesus (33 games, 0 goals): First the laughing stock of the defence, but in time, especially after New Year, he gathered some solid displays as LCB and even LB. Not a talent like Manolas or Emerson, but good enough for matches against the Chievo's, Crotone's and Bologna's of this world. A club competing on three fronts simply needs men like Juan Jesus who don't complain or demand playing time from the coach. They just wait for their chance and get the job on the field, albeit in a not so fancy way. Decent, nothing more, nothing less. 6/10
Kostas Manolas (45 games, 0 goals): The bad boy of the defence, and our most prized asset. When he's healthy, he starts, simple as that. He missed very few games this season and was his usual self. Rarely made a mistake, a prototype of the modern defender. Agile, fast, strong, tall, a bit mental. Yet, I have the feeling he was even better last season. Perhaps all these rumors took their toll and made Kostas uncertain or not focused. Still, keeping him is a no-brainer if Roma want to keep Juve in sight. But can he, and the management, resist the millions of the Premier League? 8/10
Bruno Peres (44 games, 2 goals): This is a tough one. He came to Roma with a lot of trumpets and decorations, people expected him to turn into Cafu 2.0. Rightfully so, at Torino he was one of the league's best in his position. But as happened so many times before, Roma is a different beast. Peres had a mediocre season for his standards. He showed some glimpses of his talent, but also frustrated a lot of fans. However, he does deserve a second chance under a new manager who also brings with him a new system. Our eyes didn't conceive us all these years, Peres remains a force and weapon for any team in Serie A, you just need to find the right spot to make it click. And I still believe Rome's the right place for him. But he can't risk another repeat of this season, he costed quite a sum of money and the fans are getting impatient. 6/10
Antonio Rudiger (35 games, 0 goals): Hey look, another defender, another knee injury! This time, Toni injured himself during training with the German NT, almost one year ago. While many expected him to miss a big part of the season, he performed a miracle and made his comeback in October, away at Sassuolo. Yes, the same game where Florenzi was stretchered off with an identical injury. Oh, the irony! I reckon Rudiger has his flaws, but he's such a raw talent. A diamond in the rough. There's a reason why a lot of big clubs are interested in the boy and his miraculous rehab shows he's a force of nature. He played both RB and CB, obviously he's a far better CB but versatility is nice and all. Celebrated his 24th birthday in March, two years younger than Manolas. I'd do everything to keep him in Rome this Summer, who knows where his limits are. 7/10
Mario Rui (9 games, 0 goals): Well, well well, hello there again Mr Knee Injury! Seriously, I sound like broken record. Sigh, okay so in Rui's case, he suffered a knee injury during pre-season in July, in the US. Bla bla bla, yadda yadda yadda. Honestly, I feel sorry for the guy. He looked promising at Empoli and Spalletti was a fan, yet that injury happened and by the time he was fit again, he had to compete with Emerson, who just had his breakthrough season. Damn, it's a cruel world we live in. I've seen little of Rui to judge him, let alone give him marks so I'll leave this one open for now. Don't know if he's really Roma material, but at least he deserves a fair chance with the squad in pre-season. Plus, he'll be extra motivated to prove doubters wrong. Which might result in a new injury during training in August (you're read it here first). /
Thomas Vermaelen (12 games, 0 goals): Roma tried to make it work. Alas, Roma was a fool. Back then it all sounded so encouraging. Fresh off a good Euro 2016 tournament, the Verminator left Barca to play for Roma, eager to show the world why he was once hailed as one of the best CB in the game. A guy with a lot of injuries on his cv, that came to ACL Roma? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, ahem... Sorry. What followed was one disaster after another. The red card against Porto, injuring Salah on training, nine insecure, unreliable and questionable appearances in Serie A, oh look, a hand injury, that must be a pain in the ass for a FOOTBALLER... Dear God, I've run out of caps locks. Nope, this wasn't a match made in heaven, Thomas just threw another year of his career in the bin. Even though he featured in about as many games as Florenzi and I didn't give grades to Flo, I can't help but write this one down. As one Belgian to another: I'm sorry Thomas. 4/10 (and I'm being reasonable, unlike some other tifosi)
That was it for the defenders, stay tuned for our assessment of midfield and attack!