Despite their flurry of instance success in June, when they signed nine players before the end of the month, Roma’s 2018 summer transfer season may ultimately be known as one of near misses. From Hakim Ziyech to Malcom to Alphonse Areola, Roma came awfully close to signing some decent players. Making matters worse, Roma also sold some decent players without batting an eye. While Radja Nainggolan was in many ways the heart and soul of the team, you could digest it somewhat because his best days are arguably behind him, but when it comes to Alisson Becker, there is no removing the stain from that sale; after only one year as a starter, he was undisputedly one of the best five men at his position in the world.
You don’t recover easy from that, so when Roma paid €12 million for a decidedly average replacement coming off a World Cup bounce, the sound of palms slapping foreheads sent scores of birds skyward in a panic. Nevertheless, this was our reality and so we tried to rationalize it as best as we could. He’s tall, he’s pretty coordinated for a guy his size and he can cover an awful lot of ground. Still, in the deepest recesses of your heart, you were still scared; Alisson was so very often the dividing line between success and disaster las season, and there was no way someone as plain as Olsen could replicate those heroics.
Given their investment in him, Olsen will get the lion’s share of minutes between the sticks this season no doubt, but today the Corriere dello Sport (via Romanews) reports that Roma’s other new keeper, 35-year-old veteran Antonio Mirante, may actually start the season opener against Torino.
I cannot think of a more damning and calamitous way for Olsen’s Roma career to begin, can you? Imagine if Mirante bails Roma out in a 2-1 thriller, making a key save down the stretch, you don’t think Eusebio Di Francesco will be under enormous pressure to keep handing the gloves to Mirante?
At this point, we’re a week away from the season opener, so I’m not sure we can dismiss this rumor so easily out of hand. Olsen did not look sharp during his stints at the ICC, particularly against Real Madrid, and planting seeds of doubt this soon could spell disaster for results on the pitch and could, when combined with his struggles to bring the three top players James Pallotta promises, lead to calls for Monchi’s job.
For a club seemingly struggling to incorporate all the new faces, juggling and morphing last season’s tactics with this seasons faces, the last thing they need is a keeper controversy.
It was one thing to overpay for a mediocre keeper, but this is probably the worst case scenario for Roma’s post-Alisson existence.