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The Great Roma Questionnaire Extraordinaire: 2017 Edition, Part I

It’s that time of year again.

International Champions Cup 2017 - AS Roma v Paris Saint-Germain

For those of you who are new around here, the roots of Chiesa di Totti were planted by far flung fans trading comments, questions and concerns about all things Roma. Gradually that ad hoc approach coalesced into an actual website, which in turn morphed into CdT. So, it is in that grand tradition that we assemble the crew every August to take the temperature of the room, if you will.

So, without further delay, we present part one of our roundtable discussion, which focuses on Serie A as a whole, while part two will be Roma-centric.

1) Serie A has been very, very, very busy this summer. Milan may seem the obvious answer, but which club has improved the most this summer and why?

Bren: Milan is the default answer simply because they, for all intents and purposes, went from zero to sixty this summer, and all it took was two hundred million euros! And while there’s still about three weeks left in the summer transfer window, I’m going across town to Inter Milan. Inter wasn’t as flashy this summer, but they had more in-house talent with which to work and having Luciano Spalletti to guide all that is the veritable trump card; I shudder to think what Mauro Icardi can become under him. But Milan is very scary and very intriguing, if Montella can get all that to gel quickly, then they may very well prove to be the most improved club.

Jimmy: When I first saw this question, A.C. Milan seemed like the only possible answer, but I figured I should try to be different and put forward one of the other nineteen Italian clubs as a dark horse. Unfortunately, I came up empty. Maybe it’s just the nature of all that Sino-Europe money going into the Rossoneri coffers all at once or maybe it’s the fact that I’m bearish on Spalletti’s long-term survival at Inter, but I’m pegging Milan at fourth place this season. If any club is going to make a big jump in the standings this time around (and I’m not convinced much will change in the standings this year) it’ll be the Milan club with new Chinese owners, an Italian manager, and a short-term history of irrelevance. Wait, that’s both of them? Okay, the Italian manager who still has hair.

JonAS: Purely based on transfers: Milan (duh). Especially Bonucci was a masterstroke and Kessie already seems on fire during pre-season. But they’ll need time to gel. In terms of stability and consistency I choose Napoli. They had a stellar ending of season 2016-2017 and didn’t lose anyone mentionable. Milik returns while Rui and Ounas may not the biggest names out there, they give Napoli a very strong depth chart. So yeah, they look very dangerous right now, unless an offer comes in for Insigne or Hasmik. If they don’t make the CL, expect Sarri and co to go all-out for the Scudetto. And they have a decent shot at it too.

AsRemus: Napoli. Consistency leads to growth and they haven’t made too many changes. Same coach, same core players, same approach. Like JonAS said, the additions they’ve made are strong: Ounas, Rui, Maksimovic, ect. Not big names, but players that will strengthen their squad. Also, watch out for Milik, he is set to have a big season. I’m not convinced by AC Milan. While I loved Montella as a player, I don’t think he’s that much of a tactician. Inter look threatening with Spalletti being their best acquisition. Yet, Napoli will be Roma and Juve’s toughest opponent.

ASRCanes: Napoli for sure. Guys above summed it up perfectly. Hellas Verona have also had a solid summer despite the whole Cassano saga. Cerci on a free to partner with Pazzini up top. Caceres also joined on a bosman, while Daniele Verde and Thomas Hertaux joined on loan. Not bad for a promoted side.

Sam: I’ve been harping on about Inter being the sleeping giant for the last two seasons and now they’ve got Spalletti, I think that ratchets them up several notches on the alarm scale. Napoli also seem to be lying in wait like a crocodile watching a drunk guy trying to untangle his fishing line from the propeller on his boat. Improvement through continuity.

2) This might seem a bit redundant, but even with all of Milan signings, who presents the biggest threat to Roma and, well, Juve’s run of dominance?

Bren: Hmm, I tricked myself with this question! Spalletti should lift Inter to greater heights, or at the very least more consistency, while Milan will undoubtedly be better and should threaten the top four, but people seem to be sleeping on Napoli this summer. They haven’t lost much, if anything, this summer AND they’re getting a healthy Milik back; their offense was already ridiculous last season, and with Marek Hamsik, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens in their primes and supported by a bevy of young talent, Napoli is about as legit as they come.

Jimmy: The only answer to this question in my mind is Napoli. As Bren said, they’ve lost next to nothing and already had the most potent attack in the league. I’m not one to wish injuries on players (even Laziali), but that might be the only thing that can stop Napoli if they add a tiny bit more defensive solidity to their game. Does anyone know if it’s possible to transfer the curse of the Trigoria elsewhere on the peninsula?

JonAS: It’s getting crowded at the top for sure. Next to Juve, there’s now Napoli and a rejuvenated Milan side. Lazio can go either way but won’t surpass Roma this season. And I’m one of the rare people who think Spalletti’s Inter won’t take the league by storm just yet, a top 4 finish is more like it. I pick Napoli, just because Roma lost some important pieces and the Partenopei didn’t.

AsRemus: Like I mentioned above, Napoli will be top contenders. Juve has to fall this season… no reasoning behind this other than I’m sick of them. Perhaps Bonucci’s departure will serve as catalyst to their defensive destruction.

ASRCanes: Napoli will win the Scudetto.

Sam: Ah the S word. I’m not going to buy into the Super Coppa hype, Juve are still the team to beat. It kills me to say though that the best placed side to oppose them is Napoli and not Roma.

3) So who was the single best signing this summer league-wide?

Bren: I have to go with Leonardo Bonucci for two reasons: One, he instantly upgrades Milan’s backline and relegates Alessio Romagnoli to the bench (that’s what you get, Judas), and two, he robs Juventus of a pillar of their success. He may not have that many years of peak production left, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better, more well rounded defender anywhere. I love Lorenzo Pellegrini to Roma and Federico Bernardeschi to Juventus, but Bonucci was the best move of the summer.

Jimmy: In the short-term, my answer is Bonucci, but I think the better long-term signing was Lorenzo Pellegrini. Aaliyah might have said that age ain’t nothing but a number, but that certainly doesn’t apply to footballers, and I think that Bonucci might already be declining in quality. With Pellegrini on the other hand, Roma is adding Serie A’s brightest midfield talent to a rotation that was already a modern-day Murderer’s Row. The addition of Pellegrini (along with Maxime Gonalons, who has impressed me so far, and Gerson, who’s using this summer to show why he had all that hype to begin with) puts that midfield into the conversation for Best in Europe. Add in the fact that Pellegrini only turned twenty-one in June and he looks like he could be the next in a long line of Roman stars. No pressure, kid.

JonAS: Hellas Verona buying Iturbe for 10m. Hey, one can hope right? On a more serious note: Flip a coin. Kolarov to Roma or Ricardo Rodriguez to Milan. Because valuable left-backs are rather special and hard to find these days.Both Milan and Roma (now with Emerson out) were lacking in that department so these guys can offer their teams an enormous advantage.

AsRemus: Based on transfer price and quality, I am going to say Kolarov. Yes, there is a Roma bias here, yet his experience cannot be overlooked. Again, I am not so sure Montella can create a scudetto team, thus I argue Bonucci’s value will diminish. Remember that Juve’s defensive prowess was made by a foundation left by Conte. Remove a major component without a like replacement and watch it fall. At least that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep easier…

ASRCanes: On a value basis, I would have to go with Pellegrini. On the open market, he would have gone for 20-30+ million. Otherwise, the best “signing” was Juventus keeping Dybala from Barcelona. They may have lost Bonucci, but they still have plenty of talent at CB. Losing Dybala would have been much much worse.

Sam: Long term I’ve got to go with Juventus snagging Bernadeschi, that shit will haunt us for the next decade. But for the here and now I can’t go past Milan keeping Donnarumma and pinching Bonucci.

4) Alright, capocannoniere time--who wins it this year and how many will he score?

Bren: Hmm, won’t be Dzeko again that's for sure. I’ll go with Icardi scoring 29.

Jimmy: Andrea Belotti will win it this year with 30 goals (if he isn’t spirited away to the Premier League in January, that is).

JonAS: Higuain, 27 goals. Credit to Pjanic, Bernardeschi, Costa and Dybala for the supplies.

AsRemus: F*** it… Dzeko with 30

ASRCanes: Icardi with 27.

Sam: Icardi with a late season flourish to finish with 30. Belotti will start fast but won’t finish as strong this year.

5) Cracking double digits in assists and goals is still pretty rare (only four players in Serie A last year), who can make that mark this season?

Bren: Given that their offense runs over the competition much like Windows 95 did a generation ago, I’ll give Hamsik the best chance of repeating that feat (he had 12 and 10 last year), but he may not be the only Napoli player to do the double-double. They’re just so absurdly loaded. Id say if you could get Domenico Berardi to Roma, he’d have a hell of a shot of matching that mark, but, you know, Riyad Mahrez and everything...ugh.

Jimmy: Stephan El Shaarawy. Yes, I know he’s injury prone, and yes, I know that Diego Perotti is currently ahead of him on the depth chart, but if there’s any player who could go on a tear and do a double-double, it’s SES. Besides, given his performances so far this summer I don’t think that Perotti has the left wing tacked down, and we all know that wingers do well in Di Francesco’s system.

JonAS: Sal… oh no wait, he left to England. Perhaps Pared… errr, nope, not him. I don’t see a Giallorosso managing it right now, unless The One Who Must Not Be Named (IT’S MAAAAAHREZZZZ) comes. I’d go for Insigne or Icardi.

AsRemus: Dybala. Dude is getting better every year. I would say Nainggolan too, but his preseason displays haven’t looked promising.

ASRCanes: Hamsik, Insigne, Dybala, and Perisic.

Sam: I feel obliged to pick one of the new Milan signings, the Turkish dude who’s name starts with Cahogfohjfgh?

6) Milan was the story of the summer, but how will they finish?

Bren: Hmm, this is very tough to call. They’ve generated so much buzz this summer that people want to simply hand them the Scudetto, but Juventus and Napoli are assuredly better, while Roma and Inter might be better given their greater level of continuity. Considering all that, I’ll say they finish fourth.

Jimmy: Juventus, Napoli, and Roma are all guaranteed better than Milan; in my mind, Inter is the biggest question mark. I’ll put Milan down for fourth place, but knowing Milan’s recent history, the wheels could fall off the bus at any time this season and all that Chinese money could result in just another mid-table finish.

JonAS: All that money must pay off some time, no? They’ll make CL but nothing more so yeah, fourth sounds good. If they had someone like Ancelotti or Spalletti at the helm, then I’d back them for the title but Montella isn’t flawless. Perhaps in 2019?

AsRemus: Until Milan invest in a proven coach, I don’t think they’ll live up to the hype. I recall when the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers invested big money on Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. There was all this hype and they were swept in the first round of the playoffs. Sorry for the NBA reference, but it’s similar in a way. Milan will do okay, but they won’t be title contenders.

ASRCanes: Milan will take a while to gel. If Montella can’t keep them together, it could be disaster. I think he’ll do a solid job, but I still think they’re a few pieces away from being true challengers in Serie A. Fifth.

Sam: Great question! I hope for the sake of the league they can crack into the Champions League spots, 3rd or 4th.

7) Prediction time--who finishes top five?

Bren: Juventus/Napoli/Roma/Milan/Inter

Jimmy: Roma/Juventus/Napoli/Milan/Inter

JonAS: Napoli/Juventus/Roma/Milan (swap Napoli and Juve if Napoli qualify for CL)

AsRoma: Napoli,Inter,Juve, Atalanta, Roma

ASRCanes: Napoli/Juventus/Inter/Roma/Milan

Sam: Juventus/Napoli/Inter/Milan/Roma

8) Who gets relegated?

Bren: SPAL, Benevento and Crotone. I’ll give Hellas Verona the benefit of the doubt and say they’ll stay up, Crotone was close to relegation last year anyway.

Jimmy: Bologna, SPAL, and Benevento.

JonAS: SPAL and Benevento because I literally can’t name three players of their squads (combined). And I predict a shock relegation this time: Fiorentina. Bet some money on it, you’ll thank me later.

AsRemus: Bologna, Benevento, Genoa

ASRCanes: SPAL, Benevento, and Genoa or Bologna. (and Frosinone better not blow it and get promoted back to Serie A next year!)

Sam: Crotone, SPAL, Fiorentina?

9) Give us one non-Roma underrated/overlooked player to keep an eye on this season.

Bren: I’ve made no secret of my affinity for Suso, I think he has the potential to break out in a big way, but it all depends on how he fares in this new Milan. If he maintains his place, he may threaten the double-double. Beyond him, and he’s not really underrated just not publicized that much, but Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is becoming a hell of a player for Lazio.

Jimmy: Now that Federico Bernardeschi has left Florence for Turin (an understandable career move if not an upgrade in cities), I’m convinced that this season will be Federico Chiesa’s chance to turn into a superstar. Sure, he’s only nineteen, and sure, he’ll probably get sold if he has the type of season I think he’s capable of, but every time I’ve seen him play I’ve been impressed by his skill on the ball and his eye for goal. I can only hope that he has a good enough season that Roma’s interested next summer, but not a good enough season that he’s out of Monchi’s price range.

JonAS: I think Jovetic could thrive and blossom under Spalletti. He might relive his best Fiorentina days and earn a 85m transfer to Barca in January. The world has gone mad indeed.

AsRoma: Gerson. He’s bulked up and looks confident out there. In fact, in all of Roma’s preseason he has been the creative spark in the midfield we’ve been missing. Don’t be surprised if he earns himself a starting spot come November.

ASRCanes: Alex Meret. The Udinese goalkeeper was on loan at SPAL last season and helped them win Serie B, earning him a call-up to the Azzurri. He will be back on loan at SPAL this season, with his performances sure to be a critical component of SPAL’s quest for Serie A survival.

Sam: Napoli’s youngster Rog. That team is criminally underrated.

10) Serie A doesn’t do a nominal MVP like American sports, but come May, who will we say had the best season in the entire league?

Bren: Damn this is tough. When you look at the numbers from last season, you realize just how incredibly talented Serie A actually is; the league is definitely on the comeback, which is obviously fantastic for fans of the Italian game. Despite all that talent, they just don’t have a transcendent Messi/Ronaldo/Neymar type player, and I don’t see that changing this season. But, to answer my question, I think Insigne emerges as Serie A’s MVP in May. He could easily have 20 goals and 10+ assists.

Jimmy: Cengiz Under, final answer.

JonAS: Radja Nainggolan, thanks to numerous sliding tackles, counter-attacks, runs in the penalty area and cannonballs to goal. Did I mention he got awesome tattoos? Oh my God and that hair!

AsRoma: Dybala. And I say this because his movements remind me of a young Totti. He even kinda trots like Francesco. His vision is superb and he’s got a shot on him as well. Juve will be happy they held onto him.

ASRCanes: Marek Hamsik or Lorenzo Insigne for leading Napoli to the title.

Sam: Domenico Berardi, best player on a crap team.

That’s it for now, look for Part II in the next day or so. In the meantime, feel free to leave your own responses on our board!