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The Great Roma Questionnaire Extraordinaire: 2018 Edition, Part I

The CdT clergy gathered to discuss the season that lies ahead—did Roma lay sufficient groundwork this summer?

AS Roma v Avellino - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

I’m still in complete shock that the season starts in little more than two days. Maybe it was because the World Cup sort of extended our collective season, but the fact that there is actual calcio this weekend, with actual results, still hasn’t quite settled in: Is Roma ready yet? Are you?

In order to check our collective temperature, the CdT crew assembled for our annual questionnaire. First up, part one: the Roma questions. This is long, so get your coffee ready.

#1: Let’s start with everyone’s favorite exercise: Pretend you’re Monchi, what would you have done with Roma’s roster this summer? Keep it plausible at least!

Bren: Well, flush with that €100 million in Champions League revenue, Roma wasn’t technically under duress to make any moves this summer, so if I were to don Monchi’s beard, I would have gone the Spurs route and done virtually nothing. Radja Nainggolan would still be a Roma player. Alisson would still be a Roma player. Sure, we’d be down nearly €90 million in additional sales revenue, but say we still had €30 million or so to play with in up front fees, given the way things shook out, Roma still could have added Bryan Cristante, Justin Kluivert, Ante Coric and Ivan Marcano. Pawn off Skorupski, Gonalons and Juan Jesus and you’d still have another €20 million or so to play with. If Monchi could have placated Alisson or simply refused to sell him, that’s one deep and substantially loaded team.

Jimmy Miotto: Bren, it’s funny that you mention the Spurs route - a good friend of mine who follows Tottenham recently told me how annoyed he was they didn’t make any major moves! I guess the grass is always greener on the other side of the pitch. I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t have wanted to make all of the same moves Monchi made this summer, but I think that players like Cristante, Kluivert, Bianda, Marcano, Pastore, and Fuzato still would’ve made sense. Entering the summer mercato, I was hoping that Monchi would build on the success of last season while also making sure that nearly every member of the squad had to sweat for their place in the starting eleven. Players like Skorupski and Gonalons would have hit the road, but I would have tried to keep Alisson, record-breaking goalkeeper fee notwithstanding. As for Nainggolan, I love him as a player, but it seems like his personality clashed with the goals management had set for the squad. I probably would have let him go too, and I think Pastore will be a great replacement for him (although he is certainly a different type of player).

dallagente: I’d give Max Meyer whatever wages he wanted. I think it was more or less suggested that Nainggolan’s sale had to come before the FFP deadline, but ideally I’d have found a way not to have to sign Santon at that over-inflated fee. It’s nothing against Santon, it’s just the fee is ridiculous. I’d also avoid blowing cash on Steven Nzonzi but if he signs and goes on to have a heroic season, I’m more than happy to be wrong.

ssciavillo: If I were Monchi I would’ve tried to do anything in my power to try and keep Alisson around. Of course turning down €75 million is easier said than done knowing Roma’s financial history and pattern of behavior in the transfer window. However, if there was one season where they could afford to take a chance and pass up on a plusvalenza to try and take the next step on the pitch it was this one. After reaping the financial rewards of the deep Champions League run the team wasn’t in its usual financial straits. It’s not everyday you have one of the best players in the world at his position at a club like Roma and Monchi should’ve tried to take advantage of that for one more season. That being said I don’t mind the Nainggolan sale, as much. I don’t think it was a bad move if management felt that he wasn’t a good fit moving forward. I like the Cristante and Pastore signings to replace Radja and strengthen the midfield. I still would’ve made those moves. I think Roma do need an heir to DDR that can spell him this year and eventually fill his shoes. I would’ve loved a move for Nicolo Barella of Cagliari with this in mind. If Alisson had to be sold and another winger is seen as a necessity, I would’ve loved to see Monchi invest a large sum of it in a young, proven Serie A player like Federico Chiesa of Fiorentina.

tottiparty: I think the one thing I’d have wanted going into the transfer window was a creative player in midfield. In that regard, I probably would have sought out Pastore as well although it would’ve been nice if it hadn’t come at the cost of losing Radja. We also needed a defensive midfielder to take Dani’s place and I’d have tried to wrap that up sooner in the window by shuffling Gonalons along. There’s still time though and if we end up with Nzonzi before the window closes, Monchi will have done really well. The one thing I’d have NOT done is sell Alisson unless a truly ridiculous number (> 100m) showed up. We certainly didn’t need the money and most of the signings we needed for the squad were already made before his sale. World class goalkeepers do no appear every day and given how shallow the Goalkeeper market is, I’d have hung onto him as long as possible.

NicoT: I liked most of the purchases Monchi made, but selling Alisson was a big misstep. Kepa’s record breaking sale already makes Alisson’s fee look too low, and Alisson was only going to increase in value while making Roma more competitive. Also, this sounds harsh, but I would have sold Strootman and Perotti as well as Nainggolan. Our midfield struggled because Strootman and Nainggolan aren’t suited for EDF’s tactics, and Nainggolan has lost the trust of everyone except Spalletti. They will both perform better for other teams who are more suited to their skills, so why not give them a chance to shine while also giving more game time to the better suited players like Cristante, Pellegrini, and Coric? It would make this a transitional year, but it already is. Lastly, our first priority should have been a left-footed RW to compete with Under. We shouldn’t spend big (i.e. more than €40m) on the player, which would force us to bench Under most of the year, but we need serious competition for him. All those sales would have meant we could keep Alisson and even give him a bigger contract, if he’s willing to sign it, while not really dipping into the CL winnings.

ASRCanes: I’m with Bren (and Spurs). I follow them pretty regularly and was telling a friend how their lack of signings didn’t seem to be a huge deal to me as a Romanista because I am used to losing our best players every damn summer. That being said, Roma have more holes in their squad than Spurs, so some moves had to be made. Mine? IN: Kluivert, Coric, Marcano (all three were good business in my book), Lucas Torreira (instead of Cristante, same fee), Rui Patricio (free), Jakub Jankto (15m), and a right winger. OUT: Same sales except for Nainggolan. Alisson’s fee was a tad low, especially after the Kepa deal, but I agree with selling him IF we had brought in someone of better quality than Olsen (aka Rui Patricio or Mattia Perin).

Sam: I would have followed the radical concept of making the team stronger rather than weaker. After going deep in the Champions League and now having another preseason of EDF ball, this team should have been primed for a proper title challenge. So what do we do? We sell our best two players. On the plus side, at least we will be able to enjoy Kluivert and Under for another year, I’m looking forward to that.

JonAS: At least keep one Belgian in the team for Christ sake. IF we had to necessarily sell Radja, then one of Meunier, Vertonghen, Dembele or Mertens would have been nice. I’d hold out for 85-90m for Alisson until the transfer deadline. Pastore, Coric, Kluivert, Cristante are all good deals and will love life under EDF. However, I’m not entirely convinced by the CB department. Fazio and Manolas are up there with the best, but Bianda/Jesus/Marcano still remain question marks. A quality CB to challenge Fazio for the second spot next to Manolas would have been a better choice than searching for a winger for weeks (while we’re already pretty stacked up front). I’d also pick another keeper than Olsen. Areola or Navas for example.

AsRemus: “If you were me then I’d be you and I’d use your body to get to the top. You can’t stop me no matter who you are!” As Monchi I would have done much of the same. Get rid of the dead weight, Defrel, Gonalons, Gerson, and replace them with promising youngsters, Kluivert, Cristante, Coric, Malcom. I would have used the money from Alisson’s sale to purchase a more reliable goalkeeper. Olsen looks too much like Maarten Stekelenburg. Oh, the horror. Keylor Navas would have been my first choice if possible. As much as I like Perotti, his style of play is confounding and rarely leads to goals. Yes, he takes his man on with flair, but we need someone on the LW who can score consistently. Let Perotti go and give Kluivert a chance to compete with El Shaarawy.

#2: Okay, back to reality. GIve us a four sentence assessment of Roma’s summer transfer market thus far

Bren: Monchi and EDF clearly identified a need in the midfield and on the wings. While the addressed the midfield in spades, both with acquisitions and sales, they’re still desperately searching for a winger, which leads me to infer a lack of faith in SES or Perotti. Roma are potentially a lot deeper, but I worry about the immediate effectiveness of many of those signings, while the sales significantly weakened the club in two key areas.

Jimmy: This summer transfer market has been the logical next step from last year’s: Roma continued to sacrifice in some places of immense quality for greater depth throughout the squad. In theory, this means that success in multiple competitions will once again be attainable for Eusebio Di Francesco. Although the sales of Alisson and Nainggolan certainly hurt, the midfield depth now available combined with Monchi’s wonderkid shopping spree means that Roma looks better overall than she did in May.

dallagente: What Roma did was ballsy. It’s weird to say it - because I like Nainggolan - but selling Radja was the final sign I needed that Monchi isn’t just about words. The strategy for building the squad has been coherent and consistent nearly the whole way through. More direct passing from the back line? Signed Marcano. More ruthless streak in front of goal? Signed Kluivert. More runs into the box from midfield? Cristante. Not to mention how much some of the names help on converting set pieces, which Roma criminally wasted last season. And the mix of youth and experience is perfect. Roma’s average squad age is 26, only a few months younger than every other top Serie A team. Only the GK signings are something I don’t understand.

ssciavillo: While it was exciting to see the flurry of moves that Monchi made early in the mercato, the Alisson sale certainly put a damper on things. I really like the signings of Cristante, Kluivert, Bianda, Pastore, and Fuzato, but only Cristante and Pastore look like they can be instant difference makers because of the youth and inexperience of the others. Once you subtract Radja and Alisson I don’t know if the moves that the team have made thus far really make us better for this season, even though in the long run we could have some real studs all around the pitch once the youth develops. I think it’s a market full of potential but without guarantees.

tottiparty: Strength in depth and an investment for the future seems like the theme of the last two windows. The romantic in me is going to miss Radja the most but overall, the team looks deeper and more balanced across the pitch. I’m delighted with the pickups of Pastore, Cristante (who I think is going to be a brilliant signing) and Marcano who can contribute from day one, but it’s also exciting to see the slew of talented youngsters (Kluivert, Coric, Bianda, Fuzato) that have been brought in. It’s hard to say how many of the bets made in this window will bear fruit but it sure as hell sets up the team for an exciting few season ahead.

NicoT: We already have a lot of great descriptions, so I’ll just say this: In six or seven years, this incoming class of players will look a world class team, but they certainly won’t look world class by the end of this year. This summer was about the future.

ASRCanes: I’m tired of talking about the future and a project, it has been the talk for years now. The window and chance at a true shot for a title gets smaller and smaller each passing year; Juve are going for it all now and look unbeatable, Inter have had a great mercato and I have them on a higher trajectory than us at the moment, Milan seem to have their ownership drama kind of figured out, and Napoli have Carletto. When Serie A is back to its glory in a few years, we’re going to look back on the past 3-4 seasons and regret that we just didn’t go for it then. Once again, Spurs come to mind; they didn’t win it the year when the traditional powers were all having off years, and now the top 5-6 teams in the EPL make up the toughest CL spot race, let alone title race, in football.

Sam: It is impossible to take any of the ‘investments’ seriously because they will be sold. I don’t think this team has been strengthened from last year. EDF is again expected to overachieve with the players he has, this time after losing the best goalkeeper in the league. If we had of landed Malcolm I think we could be a bit more optimistic going into the new season, I’m not sure the players we are now chasing are an upgrade on what we already have.

JonAS: Waiting. Oh baby, I’m waiting. W w w w w waaaaiiiting. Waiting for a winger like youuuu (hey, those are four sentences, right?).

AsRemus: How about a Haiku?

Make way for youngsters

Build worth for future profits

Accept highest bid

#3: What was Roma’s single best summer signing?

Bren: Hmm, my head says Bryan Cristante but my heart says Kluivert; he’s just so incredibly explosive that he seems like he’ll make an impact even without completely acclimating to his new life.

Jimmy: Kluivert definitely looks special, but I have to cheat here and say that Patrik Schick is the best summer signing. Sure, he’s been in the squad for the past year, but the form Schick has shown during pre-season, combined with the fact that the Czech has finally gotten a real pre-season with EDF under his belt, signals to me that he may indeed be the long-term solution at striker we hoped he could be when Monchi broke Roma’s transfer record.

dallagente: I want to say Kluivert, but I’d have to say Cristante for the sheer numbers he posted last season. I also think Marcano deserves honourable mention, for the mentality he brings.

Ssciavillo: Going along with the rest of the writers here I think long term it could certainly end up being Kluivert. However, right now, I would definitely say Cristante. He had a great year with Atalanta, where he lived up to his billing from his early days at Milan. He’s still young and I think he’ll take an even greater step up in quality playing under EdF.

tottiparty: I love the Cristante pickup but since everyone else is going for him, I’ll switch it up and say Pastore. Roma have sorely lacked a creative player in the midfield since Pjanic and it’ll be interesting to see if El Flaco can settle in and build chemistry with the likes of Dzeko, Under and El Shaarawy. Pastore is at the peak of his career and if used well, could be the X-factor on an already good team.

NicoT: Kluivert is going to have a bumper year. He could end up as a starter by mid year because the competition on the wings is softer than anywhere else on the team. He will do great so long as he assumes Pallotta was joking about never selling him to Barcelona. Seriously, how demotivating would that be? What was Pallotta thinking?

ASRCanes: Probably Kluivert. Solid fee, talented kid.

Sam: Kluivert because I enjoy conversations where someone talks about a player being awesome and then I get to say, “He used to play for Roma.”

JonAS: Well, I’ll counter you all and pick Coric. I can even see him bench Pastore and star in midfield by New Year. If Kluivert is special, then Coric is gonna be truly amazing. Cassano levels of amazing. A hot head, a special case but talent in abundance. Of course, now that I wrote this, he’s gonna be our next Wilhelmsson and flop badly. Bad Jonas, bad bad Jonas!

AsRemus: I agree with JonAS. I think Coric is the real deal.

#4: Which move frustrated you most?

Jimmy: It hurt my heart to see Alisson go, but at least I understood it. What frustrated me more was that most of Roma’s in-house prospects still seem to be getting the cold shoulder. Sure, Luca Pellegrini is now training with the senior squad, but particularly with the transfer of Gregoire Defrel, I was hoping to see a young Italian striker like Marco Tumminello get a shot at the big time. Luca seems destined for the first team squad, and not just because his agent is Mino Raiola. I just wish that more of the players from Alberto De Rossi’s world-class Primavera squads were getting minutes.

dallagente: Letting Alex Meret go to Napoli. I’m sure Monchi couldn’t sign a keeper for 25m that early in the window without letting the cat out the bag for teams looking to buy Alisson, but I’d want to know more about the method behind Monchi deeming it acceptable to let Meret and Skorupski sift through his fingers to sign Olsen. I’ve heard the stuff about Skorupski’s arrogance at Empoli, but I’d just want to know more about how Monchi values GKs and hear it from the man himself.

Bren: Ooh, I wasn’t even thinking of the opportunity cost of players we missed, nice wrinkle to this question. Yeah, Meret would have taken a lot of the sting out of losing Alisson, but I suspect you’re correct about tipping their hand. It’s hard for me to pinpoint one signing that let me down, on the whole there are a few ‘mehs’ for me. I’m not expecting much from Marcano, and I have a sinking suspicion Pastore will be a let down, but there aren’t any Ibarbo or Doumbia-level disappointments here.

ssciavillo: None of the signings are all that frustrating because they’re mostly young players with great potential. However, I would’ve much rather seen Monchi make a move for a keeper like Meret or even Mattia Perin before Napoli or Juve struck. Even if it would’ve meant that other teams knew that Alisson was on the way out I would’ve liked to bring in one of them. Both of those keepers have a greater upside than Olsen. So I guess in that sense Olsen is the biggest disappointment, even though I understand why Monchi signed him once the Alisson sale was made.

tottiparty: Of the incoming players, Santon is probably the one that frustrates me the most. With Kolarov and Luca, there wasn’t really a desperate need for another left-back and even if we wanted one, surely there were better options than Santon. He peaked too early when he played for Mourinho’s Inter and his career has basically been a steep drop since then. I don’t see why that would change now and that combined with the fact, that he was part of the deal that lost us Radja, really annoys me. Maybe he’ll prove me wrong, but at the moment, I’m hugely skeptical of what he brings to this team. Of the outgoing players, Alisson for sure. Completely unnecessary move.

NicoT: Alisson. He wasn’t at the end of the contract. He wasn’t asking to leave. Despite Pallotta’s unjustified claims, we didn’t have to sell him. We could have offered him a bigger contract, and if he didn’t sign it, we could benefit from having him on the team one more year and sell him next summer when he would have fetched us a bigger fee anyways.

ASRCanes: Davide Santon. And the fact that they sent Radja the other way and then did some FFP tomfoolery and claimed Santon was worth 10 million makes me want to vomit on a daily basis. Absolutely terrible business, and done with a rival no less. Disgusting.

Sam: Why did we pay money for Santon? I could handle the Alisson sale a lot better if we had of picked up a couple more players in their prime. Giving Radja to Inter was a sad thing, I fell in love with this club because it seemed like a big crazy family. Modern football is cruel.

JonAS: Like Bren said, an Iturbe or Doumbia didn’t happen (yet) this season so overall I’m happy. Pretty much everyone comes with a certain degree while Marcano, Bianda or Coric are low cost affairs without much risk. I’m afraid the price tag and high hopes for Pastore could bite us in the ass soon though. He can be an answer to our problems, but only of the defence and attack help him out. And at the age of 29 it’s probably his last shot at glory.

AsRemus: The Nainggolan swap will bite us hard this year. I don’t think there is a midfielder with more tenacity and willingness to track back and win the ball. While Pastore brings us much needed creativity, I worry that his lack of defensive work rate will leave holes in our midfield.

#5: Which positional battle will be the most fierce this season?

dallagente: Alessandro Florenzi vs everyone. He says he’s given up trying to make everyone happy, but he’ll at least want to lock down a place in the team to make himself happy. If Karsdorp fulfills his own potential then where does Flo go? Name 3 RBs in the league better than Rick Karsdorp.

Jimmy: The battle for the starting left winger spot is going to be a fun one. With Ünder most likely getting the nod at RW in perpetuity, El Shaarawy, Perotti, and Kluivert may all be duking it out for minutes on the left. I’ve always enjoyed watching El Sha play, and I think he may be the winner of this battle, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kluivert make the spot his own by February or March. The kid has potential out the wazoo.

Bren: I don’t think it will be a battle per se, but I think Patrik Schick will demand more playing time this season. It looks like he was working his ass off this summer and might simply force his way into more time at striker, creating a battle by default. Schick and Dzeko can’t co-exist and it’s Schick’s job in the long run, so this might be first step towards a changing of the guard.

ssciavillo: I think with the amount of rotating that EdF does on the wings and in midfield that everyone will get plenty of minutes, especially if Roma make deep runs in the Champions League and Coppa Italia. However, I think the wings will be hotly contested. Like Jimmy said, Ünder looks to have established himself as the main man on the right, which means El Shaarawy and Perotti now have Kluivert to deal with for playing time as well. Throw in the fact that Schick looks ready for more playing time, and even though it’s not ideal, he may be forced to the wing at times if Dzeko is playing well just to get him on the field. This could create quite the competition for minutes up front, particularly on the left.

tottiparty: The squad is deep enough that there will be battles for virtually every position except maybe Goalkeeper. I think the most fun one will be the left-wing position with three quality players (Perotti, El Sha and Kluivert) vying for one spot. Dzeko vs Schick is pretty good too, but I can’t help but feel that while Dzeko is delivering the goods, Schick will end up getting used out of position. The biggest battle will likely be one in EdF’s head as he looks to play all his best players without losing the team’s balance.

NicoT: I’m surprised midfield hasn’t been discussed more. Cristante was one of the top midfielders in the league last year, and he is currently 4th in the depth chart for 2 starting spots behind Pastore, Strootman, and Pellegrini. Then, we have Coric 5th behind him, who could have a breakout year if he gets the minutes for it. Our midfield is insanely stacked this year.

ASRCanes: All of the players battling for a position in my heart alongside DDR/Flo now that Radja is gone.

Sam: There seems to be enough wingers to paper over any streaky form issues. I’m glad we kept a hold of SES, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the nod for the big matches.

JonAS: Pallotta. Oh, you mean players? Then I choose midfield. If Gonalons stays, then it’s about seven players for three positions. And I’m forgetting about Florenzi, Zaniolo or new boy N’zonzi. Good luck keeping everybody happy, Eusebio...

AsRemus: I think DDR and Nzonzi will battle it out. Many highlight DDR’s age as an issue, but his positional awareness and ball control make up for his lack of legs. I’ve watched Nzonzi with Sevilla a lot over the last two years and I think he has what it takes to establish himself as a starter. He’s strong, great in aerial duels, and proficient with the ball at his feet. Gonalons doesn’t even fit into the equation (hopefully).

#6: We all know that Roma managers have, at best, a three year life span, what must EDF do to ensure he has a third season at the helm?

Jimmy: Guarantee Champions League football and get past the Round of 16 in the Champions League. Getting the Silver Star (10 Coppa Italia titles) would be wonderful, but I doubt that EDF will get sacked if he misses that goal.

dallagente: EDF has more resources now, so I’d want him to stop “stress testing” players beyond the limits of their skills. It’s time for him to be more of a “gestitore” - a top squad rotation and man management guy and not just a coach, that’ll earn him the trust of the top players more and strengthen his position with the club. That’s literally the only thing he’d have to do and keep making top 4. I expect the football to become quality by the beginning of his third season at latest.

Bren: I’m not sure the Coppa Italia matters anymore, at least not to me. It would have been great to be the first to 10 titles, but I think he absolutely has to keep Roma in the top four. Slipping into the Europa League won’t suffice given how they’ve remade the team for him. Not anymore, Roma can’t afford to take a step back; we saw how disastrous missing the CL can be for the ensuing seasons.

ssciavillo: In the league, it’s imperative that Roma are again a Top 4 team with guaranteed Champions League football in 2019-20. I would say progressing to the knockout stages of the Champions League could be necessary because the expectations were raised last season, but that depends a lot on the group Roma are drawn into.

tottiparty: Top 4 is the bare minimum and depending on the Champions League draw, perhaps a round of 16 appearance may be expected. As long as he does those things and doesn’t lose the plot with any individuals (EdF doesn’t seem the type), he’ll be fine.

NicoT: After last year, EDF’s reputation at Roma is golden, and I think his tenure at Roma for a 3rd year is likely to be more up to him than to Roma--will he choose to turn down more lucrative offers in order to stay and continue this project with Monchi? Still, Rudi Garcia had similar respect at one point, so you never know. I think if we fail to get out of the CL group or to be competitive for the 4th spot in the league, then serious questions will be asked.

ASRCanes: Top four and a improvement in points, out of CL group. EDF overachieved in the CL last year but the final league result left more to be desired. I’m not expecting a title challenge, but I am expecting a smaller gap between the title challengers and Roma.

Sam: Poor old EDF is up against it again. He has to continue to overachieve to keep his job and that means staying in the top 4. The S word is not worth worrying about this year but this team should certainly be expected to make it out of the Group Stage of the Champions League.

JonAS: At least survive the CL group stage and once again top 4 in Serie A. Consistency, consistency, consistency. However, he needs to reduce the difference between Roma and Juve and stay in the title race as long as possible, preferably score some more goals in the process. Last season’s Roma was kinda dull in Italy (CL was a different story), we need to bring back some swinging booty at the Olimpico.

AsRemus: EDF needs to have the awareness of when to transition from his beloved 433 to a 343 (or 352). An argument can be made that this team is better suited for a 343, but EDF’s stubbornness clouds his judgement. Obviously, ala Liverpool, the 343 has its weaknesses, but so does every formation. It’s about knowing which formation works best against the given opponent.

#7: Which under utilized or under performing player MUST step up this season to ensure Roma remains a top four club?

Jimmy: Patrik Schick, my “best summer signing”, has got to step up, and soon. The good news is that he definitely has looked the part so far this summer, but Roma can’t afford to drop over 40 million euros on a bench player. Considering that Edin Džeko, The Player Formerly Known As “Cieco”, is getting on in age, Roma need to have another striker who can rotate in and provide a goalscoring presence if and when the Bosnian gets tired. Schick can be that player, I just hope he will be that player too.

dallagente: Easily Maxime Gonalons for me, if nothing changes from now till the end of the mercato. That is the biggest risk the club is taking on the most important position in a 4-3-3, and the guy ahead of him is 35 years old. De Rossi cannot do it all on his own.

Bren: I was leaning toward Schick, but Jimmy stole my answer! I’ll go a somewhat different route and say Lorenzo Pellegrini. It’ll be his second season at home and he really needs to solidify his place on the team (not to say he’s been poor), to prove that he really is the future of this team (and perhaps the nation’s) midfield. If he can provide a consistent creative spark and gel with the new signings, Roma’s midfield should be in fine shape.

ssciavillo: I think all three candidates mentioned above are good ones. However, I agree with dallagente that it’s Gonalons. He’s vital unless they sign another player in that role. De Rossi needs games off and Gonalons will have to step up in his absence to help dictate play in the midfield.

tottiparty: I think we’ve got some great candidates here but I’ll switch it up and say Florenzi. Florenzi got plenty of minutes last year but had an underwhelming season, even by his own assessment. Florenzi is the kind of player we can plug into virtually any position and get a solid performance and that versatility will be key as systems will change over the course of a long season.

ASRCanes: All great choices.

Sam: Florenzi and Schick.

JonAS: SES. I always hope he has another breakthrough like the one from 2012-2013 at Milan or right after he signed for Roma after New Year 2016. 7-8 goals in Serie A is mkay, but I really want him to finally explode and make that position his own. If not, then we may have to wave goodbye to Stephan next January, especially if Schick, Ünder and Kluivert all impress and take their chances.

AsRemus: I concur with everyone about Florenzi. I’m hoping Karsdorp can establish himself as our starting RB, allowing Florenzi to get opportunities on the wings. As much as it would be great to see him in the midfield, I just don’t see that happening with all the depth we have there.

#8: Okay, to that point, where will Roma finish this season and why?

Jimmy: Second place, particularly if players like Javier Pastore, Justin Kluivert, Patrik Schick, and Robin Olsen show their worth. First place if William Bianda turns into the second coming of Raphaël Varane / Marquinhos.

dallagente: I see second as up for grabs with Roma, we’ve changed the least and done changes the earliest. As much as other teams are stronger, that also brings down the expected number of points needed to clinch the top league positions, as they’ll all be taking points off one another, too. I just don’t think the football needed to clinch second place will be pretty if it’s Roma finishing second, and it’d make a lot of people switch off the tv midway through a Roma match.

Bren: Second? Second!? Dang, you two are optimistic. I wish I could share that sentiment, but Inter Milan scares the hell out of me, especially since this is Spalletti’s second year there. Napoli is still well stocked, so it’ll depend on how they adapt to Ancelotti, but I’m sensing another tight, tight race for third place. I just think when push comes to shove, the things that kept Roma safe last year (Alisson’s heroics and Nainggolan’s always undervalued contributions) are no longer there, so I can’t go higher than third at this point.

ssciavillo: I would say that second place is well within the realm of possibility IF everyone plays to their top potential and the new signings fit in. I think, if things go right, it could be a battle with Inter and Napoli to the end to see how places 2-4 shake out. I think things would have to go horribly wrong for them to finish any lower than fourth though.

tottiparty: Head says second or third, crazy says first (we do play Parma at home in the last game). I think we’ll struggle in the Champions League though and those expecting a repeat of last season are likely to be disappointed.

NicoT: I guess I am much more pessimistic than the group. In my mind, Inter improved the most and are aiming to compete now. Between Inter and Juve, the top two spots are locked and out of reach from the rest of the league. Napoli are the biggest wildcards because the players obviously have shown they can compete for the scudetto, but whether they will click with Ancelotti is unknown. Milan has improved by bringing in Higuain as striker, which was their biggest weakness. After losing Alisson and not really improving any position dramatically, we will be locked in a battle with Milan for 4th, but I think we can ultimately secure it in the final games of the season. And of course, as I predict every year, Lazio will be relegated.

ASRCanes: NicoT you nailed it. We’re going to be battling it out for 3rd/4th with Napoli, and maybe Milan if they get their shit together. I’m 110% with Bren when it comes to Inter scaring the shit out of me this season. I feel they could push Juve to the end of the season (who will win CL this year just because Buffon left, there is no justice in this world…).

Sam: This team should still finish top 4 and I think we will. I don’t see us getting ahead of Napoli or Inter though.

JonAS: I can see the somewhat same top 4 as last season, only switch Napoli and Inter. And Milan is gonna be close to fourth, cauz they have Higuain. So yeah, third. If Juve didn’t get Ronaldo and Inter didn’t get Radja then I would have gambled on first.

AsRemus: I recall many last year saying how scared they were about both Milan sides and each team proved to have many weaknesses. That said, I think Roma can aim for a top four finish. 2nd may be a pipedream, but I think 4th place finish is an appropriate target due to the influx of new players and EDF’s willingness to rotate his depth chart.

Stay tuned for part two tomorrow, where we talk about the league as a whole.