I was late with this post as I didn’t realise we were playing a Saturday game - pretty much bringing home the theme of Di Francesco’s pre-Fiorentina press conference: squad management in this tight spell of back-to-back-to-back games. So far, the scoreline over this 7-games-over-23-days spell does not look good.
Two points dropped against Bologna pre-empted a 4-1 loss to Barcelona. Roma’s qualification for next season’s Champions League is still firmly within her own hands as long as she can beat a Federico Chiesa-less Fiorentina tomorrow at the Olimpico, and Di Francesco may be relying on a few of the squad’s more obscure names to do it all.
After the loss, with some regrets, against Barcelona how is the squad’s mood right now?
EdF: “Well the first day after certainly wasn’t easy. We were all a little crestfallen from the result because we didn’t deserve how events unfolded, as I’ll say it for the umpteenth time. There’s a immediate and important game against Fiorentina then we’ll have immediate games coming up against Barcelona... and then the Derby. We’re growing from the mental side of our game, but where we are right now is not enough. It’s not enough because the scorelines say this much.”
How are Under and Nainggolan?
EdF: “Under definitely won’t be called up for this match, with the hope that we’ll be able to bring him back into the squad for the next game against Barcelona. Nainggolan is doing a decisive test today that will decide if he’s ready to face Fiorentina.”
(On a following question, Gianni the club’s press officer hands EdF a sheet to remind him that Perotti picked up a calf injury mid-week and is out indefinitely with no return date.)
The last two games we’ve seen two unbelievable misses: Strootman against Bologna and Perotti against Barcelona. Do you find there are too many starters in the Roma squad who have a difficult relationship with finding the opponent’s goal? And is this a specific problem of this squad? And will this be looked at particularly in the summer transfer window?
EdF: “Look, when the summer transfer window comes the squad will be looked at from a 360 degree perspective. It’s premature to talk about it now. For what you’re saying, it’s completely true because the stats are black-and-white: we have do a better job between the chances we create and the goals we score. There are so many important games left ahead of us right now where we have be clinical, something that’s been part of the arc of our entire season, then after we’ll look at everything.”
I also wanted to ask you, out of the three squad players you’ve called up in the last 180 minutes - Schick, Defrel and Gerson - which one have you found the most ready and who’s most likely to play against Fiorentina?
EdF: “For those three, the one who’ll play is definitely Defrel. With the others, we’ll see.”
A while back you said you saw Florenzi’s place in midfield. In this phase where the midfield isn’t brilliant, and after Bruno Peres’ good performance against Barcelona, could this be a solution?
EdF: “All of this has to depend on Bruno Peres, who’s at the heart of the decision. The fact is we’ve played him in a crucial match where, as far as I’m concerned, he was maybe even one of the best players on the pitch, especially from the point of view of concentration and reading the game against an opponent that wasn’t easy. More of this would allow me to use Florenzi in various roles. I have to say that [Florenzi] prefers playing wide: whether it be as a fullback or as a winger, although I’ve personally always asked him to be more ready in general to play fullback. This being said, as far as playing centrally he’s able to do it but, in games where we have to keep the shape and be organised, he’s one of the players who can find themselves in trouble. I think we’ve got all the solutions we need in the middle of the pitch [without Florenzi]. Obviously we have to improve the quality of our passing game and our creativity, and maybe even specially the quality of our final ball in the last 16-20 metres of the pitch.”
In the last game, Messi was a shadow of himself but was it because he didn’t show up or was it down to the team? Aside from the moment where they conceeded an own goal...
EdF: “When I was coach of Sassuolo and we played games against bigger clubs, when we played against Roma, they said maybe Roma or the other big clubs hadn’t turned up. If we play against Barcelona and Messi doesn’t have the usual options and isn’t as decisive as usual, is it credit to other players? You decide. When you play against a guy like Messi it’s always going to be important to take away options so that he’s forced to come play the ball in front of our defenders and not find it behind them, changing his threat to the game completely.”
At what point is Jonathan Silva right now? And Karsdorp?
EdF: “It’s still too soon for Karsdorp. They haven’t told me his return date. The last thing that happened to him tells us we need to be more careful. Because I’ll maintain that so many players are in a rush to get back and just injure themselves even worse. Not least of all Conti at Milan, and these incidents remind us, when it comes to surgery and rehabilitation, it’s always better to wait a few days too much than risk a few days too little. I will play Karsdorp more with the future, and next season, in mind. Jonathan Silva is training much better. That doesn’t automatically mean he’ll start tomorrow from the first minute. These are decisions I’m taking between now and tomorrow. But all of this is generally my thinking when it comes to bringing these players back in from the break.”
Last week, Schick played at the centre of Roma’s attack. Is this kind of responsibility in such an important game against Fiorentina a good way for him to feel involved?
EdF: “I’d leave him to do his own thing a little because Patrik can come under so much scrutiny for each performance and we have to be good at taking the responsibility off his shoulders. It’s never easy because, if you want to play for Roma in this atmosphere, you have to be able to take it on the chin and grow. I’m of the mind that he’s a player that still needs a little time to mature in general. If not we’ll be stuck here saying ‘he has so much potential’, as we all know. It’s not a given that he’ll play tomorrow but if he does, it won’t be with all that attention on him. I’m not just saying it for his benefit alone but for the benefit of everyone.”