Just like that old Toyota in your driveway, Roma’s roster needs an inspection every 365 days, and while we’ve already taken a look at the exhaust and the suspension system, it’s time to take a look at that pesky transmission, the midfield. The metaphor is obvious; much like a transmission is a series of interlocking gears, forks, plates and shafts, not to mention the clutch, flywheel and differential, all designed to convert reciprocating motion into rotary motion, to transfer power to and from the gearbox, enabling the car to change directions and vary speeds, the midfield operates as a series of tactical clutches and formational flywheels, transferring the ball to and from the defense, enabling the attack to change directions and vary speeds.
Fortunately for us, the thing that fails these old Toyotas...I mean Romas...is rarely the powertrain—no, you’ll suffer far more cosmetic and surface damages—so let’s take a look at how the ol’ girl is holding up.
Better Get Replacement Parts
Stats: 11 appearances, one assist, one pissed off dad
I mean, I think he’s a midfielder, right? He could be a ballerina for all we know, the kid barely played. Whether it was due to his own shortcomings and complete lack of experience or simply Luciano Spalletti’s reticence to play young players, except, you know, against Juventus, Gerson’s first season in Europe was a complete waste. He played so little we can’t even call him a write off yet. Having just turned 20-years-old a couple weeks ago, Gerson remains every ounce the prospect he was last season, we just have to hope this year wasn’t too damaging to his psyche. Roma and Gerson’s own dadager failed him this year, no ifs ands or buts about it.
They Might Hold Up, but Let Me See if There’s Anything Better in the Back
Stats: 6 appearances, 150 minutes, one assist
Another installment in our wasted youth series, Grenier was practically non-existent in his six month stint with the Giallorossi. Standing as Roma’s lone winter reinforcement (yup), Grenier was like a yellow Starburst, decent enough in and of itself, but a complete afterthought among all those delicious pink and reds. I mean, yeah it’s candy, so you’re still pretty stoked, but, come on, no one likes the yellow ones. Still, Grenier showed enough in his intermittent flashes to garner your attention; his ability to pick out a final pass certainly makes him standout in a post-Totti world.
Goodyear Makes a Great Tire, but it Ain’t a Pirelli
Stats: 41 appearances, three goals, one assist, 89% passing
Lovely Leo had a bit of an up and down season, looking at times like a high priced racing tire, while at others he was more worthy of carting around soccer moms, but Paredes really came on as the season drew to a close, giving you hope that he’s more the former and less the latter. The problem for Paredes, beyond his varying levels of defensive responsibilities throughout the year, was simply that cracking a rotation featuring Daniele De Rossi, Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan was no easy task. Paredes closed out the season strong, showing the poise and dynamism he flashed at Empoli last year, and should be a stronger factor next season, barring any unforeseen transfers. And if they hang onto him beyond that, dare we say Pirlo?
She’s Got a Lot of Miles, But Damnit if That Engine Don’t Purr
Daniele De Rossi
Stats: 40 appearances, five goals, six assists
Capitano futuro no more, De Rossi is fresh off a resurgent season, capturing his largest goal tally since 2011-2012. While the goals were nice, DDR’s real contribution has always been on the defensive side of the ball, and brother, Danielino was back with a vengeance this season. De Rossi more than doubled his tackling output this season, while winning more than 50% of all his duels, the first time he’s topped that mark since 2013-2014. Similarly, his interceptions and clearances approached heights not seen since that almost magical season. Bottom line, De Rossi, through pride, passion and legacy more than earned the honor of being the unquestioned captain of this club, while his performance on the pitch certainly garnered a new two-year deal.
Dadgummit, Son. How’d You’d Get That Beauty Runnin’?
Stats: 45 appearances, six goals, seven assists
I mean, wow, who honestly saw this coming? For years I cautioned you not to count on Strootman for anything, not that I doubted his abilities, but to come back from multiple operations on the same knee is nothing short of miraculous, so it was only prudent that we planned for a future without him. Thank god I was wrong. Strootman was sterling this season, getting stronger as the months rolled on, looking every bit the Washing Machine we remembered. Strootman was always the “it” in Roma’s midfield, the one thing that was always missing, the one thing that tied it all together. In case you forgot what this man was capable of, look no further than his performances against Chievo and Genoa to close out the season —Strootman was cleaning up the junk in the middle third of the pitch and dropping dimes in the attacking area, and much like De Rossi, he earned his new deal on merit alone. He’s definitely one of the pillars of this club, mind, body and soul.
How Much You Want for It?
Stats: 53 appearances, 14 goals, seven assists
Nainggolan is the new Totti in the sense that you should drop down on your knees and thank your local deity that this man loves Rome, because in no way, shape, or form should Roma have a player this good. Nainggolan was always a bulldog in midfield, winning loose balls and clanging opponents femurs with his slide tackles, but his offensive repertoire has steadily been increasing over the years and truly boiled over this season, as Radja established career highs in goals (equalling his league total from the past two season), assists, and key passes. Quite simply, Nainggolan is Roma’s best player and one of the five best at his position in the world. So whether it’s the sunsets, the history or the carbonara, make sure Radja gets his fill in Rome.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Even with De Rossi growing in age, Roma’s top three midfielders can go toe to toe with virtually any club on the planet. Previously lauded for their collective barbarism, Nainggolan’s astute attacking play has given this trio an added layer of complexity, one which opponents must respect. The problem, as you may have guessed, is the lack of depth.
While Paredes cemented himself as the fourth midfielder, as Roma’s wretched winter showed, your midfield needs to go at least six or seven deep to survive multiple competitions in the winter. Considering that, expect Monchi to spend much of the summer tracking down new additions. So whether it’s Lorenzo Pellegrini or Davy Klaassen or someone else entirely, look for some fresh legs in Roma’s midfield next season.
Midfield has always been a source of strength for Roma, and with Strootman and Nainggolan in their primes, and with De Rossi hanging on and Paredes ascending, throw in a few reinforcements to support and push that quartet, and Roma should still be sitting pretty.
Who Was Roma’s Best Midfielder This Year?
This poll is closed
Daniele De Rossi
Gerson (I dare you)