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Season Preview: The Midfield

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The showpiece of this AS Roma. Can our midfielders repeat their trick from 2016-2017?

Empoli FC v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Ah, midfielders. The bass guitarists of the football world. Because usually it’s the lead singer (in football terms: the attackers) of a band who receives all the attention and praise. Did you ever see a hot chick throw her even hotter underwear to the bass guitarist? Didn’t think so, while it’s business as usual for a lead singer. Just ask Bono, Chris Martin, Mick Jagger or Axl Rose.

Hell, some people even find the drummer (keepers) more sexy. That’s a shame because the midfield is the beating heart of a club. The workhorses, the genius are mostly found somewhere in midfield. Its the link between the beginning and the end. You can’t build a winning team without that vital piece. A midfield which cleans up all the mess and prevents mistakes in both defense and attack.

Thank God our Roma was blessed with an immense midfield last season. In Spalletti’s 4-3-3 or 3-4-2-1, our midfielders were most of the time outstanding. Just look at the numbers: Radja was a boss, scoring 11 goals. Daniele also returned to his best, scoring 4 goals and providing cover for the centrebacks, but also setting up attacks.

The comeback of Strootman was perhaps the best thing that happened to Roma. A stellar 33 games in Serie A and 4 goals, he showed glimpses of his 2013-2014 form. Then you also had wonder boy Paredes who kinda broke through and scored 3 goals in 27 appearances. Double G (Grenier and Gerson) didn’t stand a chance to claim a starting spot while Florenzi was injured 90% of last season.

Now, enough about the past. Let’s take a look at our gladiators for the upcoming season!

Radja Nainggolan / Belgium / Age: 29 / Serie A games with AS Roma: 124

We immediately start with the king (no offence, Daniele). Like I said earlier, Radja is easily Roma’s most valuable asset in midfield and even though there were some rumors popping up left and right (Chelsea, ManU), Radja renewed his contract and is loving life at Roma. A Belgian with Roman blood in his veins. With the World Cup to be held in Russia next year, Radja will make sure he’s selected for the NT of his country and he’ll shine in both Serie A and Champions League. Eusebio loves fighters in his team and Radja is such a showcase. Expect more of the same from our Ninja this season, and boy isn’t that a good thing or what?

Daniele De Rossi / Italy / Age: 34 / Serie A games with AS Roma: 419

The second warrior in midfield. Age is catching up on him but last season showed us Dani has no intention of slowing down, let alone giving up. He might not manage 45+ games at the highest level this season, but for important Serie A and CL games, he’s a must in the line-up. Eusebio needs to handle this situation carefully, as we don’t want a repeat of the Totti era. There’s plenty of bodies to rotate now, so giving Dani a much needed rest every now and then isn’t a crime. Thinking he’s finished, however, is a crime. I’m so excited for De Rossi’s first year as the true captain of his ship called AS Roma, and I’m willing to bet my house on it he’ll give 100%, as always.

Kevin Strootman / Netherlands / Age: 27 / Serie A games with AS Roma: 69

Hey look, a third warrior enters the arena! Kevin surprised us all last season and managed 33 games in Italy, after his horrible injury crisis between 2014 and 2016. Now he’s back and ready to do even better in 2017-2018. Just like Radja, ever since Kevin stepped foot into Rome, he is in love with the club and its colors and he’ll do anything to bring glory to this team. I think a lot of clubs are jealous of Roma because they don’t have a player like him in their ranks. The best part? He should be entering his prime as a midfielder and he has no intentions of leaving us anytime soon. Sit back and relax guys, Er Lavatrice will handle it.

Lorenzo Pellegrini / Italy/ Age: 21 / Serie A games with AS Roma: 1

Our first fresh face for this season. Pellegrini was specifically requested by Di Francesco because he worked wonders for the evolution of this kid back at Sassuolo. ‘Zo was hailed as one of Italy’s finest talents and guess what, he’s back home. As a former Primavera product, Pellegrini is expected to enter the same hall as Totti, Daniele and Florenzi one day, although that may be a bit too exaggerated. For now. He and Eusebio have a history together so I have full faith in our coach that he will nurture and support Lorenzo at Rome. His pre-season wasn’t that successful until now (unlike Gerson for example) but don’t let that fool you. This boy has mad skills and could be the real deal. Breaking through this season will be hard because it’s crowded in here, but I expect him to reach about 20 games in Serie A. Mainly as a sub, and I’m hoping for a goal or two, three.

Gerson / Brazil/ Age: 20 / Serie A games with AS Roma: 4

Talking about Gerson... His career isn’t exactly going the way he planned back in 2016. Only 4 appearances so far and a lot of criticism. Unnecessary in my opinion. He’s such a raw diamond and didn’t get a fair chance. Gerson could benefit from a new coach. Better yet, the Brazilian wizard could be Roma’s joker of 2017-2018. He’s one of the revelations of the pre-season and if he keeps this up, he’ll easily quintuple his amount of games of last season. One of my great hopes for the future. Or in terms of bas guitarists: He’s yet to play on the big stage, only in small garage boxes around town, but when he finally gets a chance on Lollapalooza or Coachella, he’ll blow everyone away. Keep on rocking, Gerson!

Maxime Gonalons / France / Age: 28 / Serie A games with AS Roma: 0

The only ‘mystery man’ in midfield this season and unknown in Italy. Gonalons hasn’t left France (or Lyon for that matter) since he started his professional career in 2009. This move reminds us of Grenier last Winter, but Gonalons seems to be back-up no1 of De Rossi. A defensive midfielder pur sang, might come in handy to seal the gates and protect a lead. Grenier was rarely used by Spalletti, but Eusebio apparently wanted a guy like Gonalons to ease the pressure of De Rossi. His style isn’t flashy but straightforward. In other words: Maxime gets the job done. He has ample experience in Europe (Wiki says 60 games) and won’t complain if he’s benched from time to time. Money wise, a great deal from Monchi, perhaps his best one of the Summer.

Alessandro Florenzi / Italy/ Age: 26 / Serie A games with AS Roma: 151

Just for the sake of debate I also put Florenzi in here. He won’t be back until somewhere in September I presume, so it’s still too early to discuss his value right now. With Peres and Karsdorp sharing time at right-back, Eusebio could place Alessandro further up the pitch, his natural position on the wing. But Florenzi can also help out in midfield since he’s like our Swiss Army Knife: very flexible and multi-functional. He can basically fill in for all the other guys I mentioned above. And be sure that he’ll give his best while doing so. That’s why we all love him so much, right?

So that’s that. I count seven players for three positions, if Eusebio keeps using his favorite 4-3-3. As it stands, Dani, Radja and Strootman are the untouchables, but keep an eye out for the talented Gerson and Pellegrini as well. Gonalons is the ideal back-up for the oldest of them all, Daniele. If all else fails or there’s an injury crisis, look at Florenzi to repair the goods during the season.

This, my friends, is called luxury.