After a whirlwind market bringing in 11 new faces (and counting), you’d be forgiven for being a little uncertain about how Roma will lineup this year. This is how we expect Eusebio Di Francesco to set up the team, with some caveats outlined below.
If They’re Fit, They Start
While EDF likes to rotate when possible, some starting positions are more established than others. This year the “nailed on” players who will should see the lion’s share of the minutes in their respective positions are Kolarov, Pastore, De Rossi, Ünder, and Manolas.
Of those, Ünder and Pastore are the least certain because Pastore is new to the team and we haven’t seen EDF’s rotation plans for him yet, but he is the best creative midfielder on the pitch and the most suited to EDF’s tactics. He is injury prone, however, but hopefully he will make it through the season unscathed.
Ünder broke into the first team in his first year at Roma (last year) and established himself as the starter with some very impressive displays over the second half of the season. It didn’t hurt that he was the only natural right winger in the squad, and we still haven’t brought in any more. If we make any more transfers this summer, most likely it will be a right winger to compete with Under.
Give’um a Break
These starters are likely to be sharing a reasonable amount of game time with their respective backups: Fazio, Dzeko, and Olsen.
Dzeko has certainly established himself as the leader of the line, and this year will be no different. If it’s an important match, Dzeko will be there. However, with Schick hoping to prove himself as the proper heir to Dzeko’s #9, this year will be his chance to show us what he’s got, and EDF will be looking to develop him as much as possible while resting Dzeko’s 32 year old legs.
At 31 and with more reliable backups this year, we can expect Fazio’s minutes to dip a little from last year’s sky high 3842 across domestic and continental competitions.
Olsen was brought in to be the starting keeper, but with an underwhelming preseason and a language barrier, reports have already come out that Mirante may start the season. Nevertheless, quality has a tendency to reveal itself, and Olsen is a quality keeper. Still, don’t be surprised if Mirante gets a few starts here and there, especially early on and if Olsen has a drop in form.
You Gotta Fight For Your Right to Paaarty
There should be a number of interesting competitions for starting positions, including the left wing, midfield, and right back positions.
El Shaarawy and Kluivert are natural left wingers who can play on the right wing, and both are expected to be rotation players at the beginning of the season. However, because Under is the only natural right winger, expect to see El Shaarawy and Kluivert on both flanks from time to time.
Perotti and El Shaarawy are both senior players who are integral to the spirit and identity of recent Roma sides, but their performances have been somewhat inconsistent, leaving the left wing starting position up for grabs. Kluivert has been one of the most exciting, explosive players in the preseason, and he may even manage to snatch the starting spot away from the senior players over the course of the season. Early on, though, he will be rotated with the others.
In the midfield, we have a number of very exciting players joining the ranks, including Bryan Cristante and Ante Coric. Strootman had been an established midfielder last year, but with some less-than-convincing performances and influx of young talent, nothing is guaranteed as Pellegrini and Cristante will be fighting hard for minutes.
Lastly, Florenzi has been the established right back for years (when healthy), but Karsdorp has recovered from injury and is looking hungry to establish himself after a first season at Roma that did not go according to plan. Because Florenzi is a utility player who can fill in on the right wing and midfield, it is possible EDF could plan to move him around to accommodate an in-form Karsdorp. However, Florenzi just signed a new contract and is wanting to establish himself not as a squad player but the universally agreed upon starter in one position. It should be interesting to see how this contest plays out over the year.
Will They Even Play?
Finally, Zaniolo, Bianda, and Fuzato are very exciting young players with loads of potential, but they arrive at the back of the line behind much more experienced and developed senior first team players. They have not been sent on loan (yet), which suggests that EDF does have plans for them, but we are unlikely to see them regularly.
With a long season and a few weeks still left in the transfer market, a lot could change, but this is how Roma is looking set to hit the field. Hopefully, some of the youngsters and backups will prove us wrong and move up the depth chart with some impressive displays. Regardless, it is going to be an exciting and unpredictable season.