Torino - Roma, minute 89. El Shaarawy was on the bench. Perotti was injured and didn’t play. Justin Kluivert, who came on for Ünder, beats his man at the sidelines, launches a great pass to Dzeko who slots home with a brilliant volley. During the celebrations I also see Schick.
Now, you probably saw that I put six names in bold. Just to make sure you’ve seen all the actors. Six names, six strikers or wingers who must drag Roma through all difficult periods this season and make the difference between a draw, loss and a win. A midfield can only do so much, it’s your frontline that must make war and ultimately deal the final blow.
Ironically, last Summer Roma lost its most prized asset in attack and the jewel of the crown, Mo Salah. Luckily for Roma, Ünder was a revelation and Dzeko kept doing what he does best: score goals. This Summer though, all the main actors will stay the same (hooray for chemistry!) and Monchi even added a new shiny toy for Di Francesco: Dutch prodigy Kluivert. And he instantly made himself a fan favorite thanks to his assist on Sunday.
Roma’s frontline can be divided in three parts. There are the two wise old men with valuable experience (Dzeko, Perotti), one established value nearing his peak (SES) and three exciting talents, kids who still have a lot to learn but ooze with class (Ünder, Kluivert and Schick). Three different age groups who can work together to find the ultimate, winning combination up front.
For example: EDF can go into full ‘youth mode’ and start Kluivert-Schick-Ünder. Or he can opt for safety and experience and pick Perotti-Dzeko-SES. Or he can try to find a mix, the best of both worlds (well, three worlds in this case), something like SES-Dzeko-Kluivert. There are numerous possibilites, not only in a 4-3-3 but also 3-5-2 or 4-4-2. An embarrassment of riches.
Salah will remain a huge loss, but in keeping all five other attackers from last season, it does create some sort of unity. A bond. Perotti, Dzeko and SES have been here for quite some time now while Ünder and Schick already showed glimpses of their talent but still need to grow. They already have one full season in Rome under their belt and are very motivated.
Throw in a gem like Kluivert and Di Francesco can only be happy about the weapons at his disposal. As we’ve seen at Sassuolo, he likes to work with young people. Improve them, teach them. All the man love for Radja, but unlike Il Ninja kids like Schick, Kluivert and Ünder look like true professionals and take this job very seriously. Yes, they can’t forget to have fun on the field and during trainings, but this is a golden opportunity for all three of them. One or two good seasons and the really big clubs (hu, bigger than Roma? Well yes son, those exist!) will come knocking on the door. One good season is all it takes, just like at Alisson.
Of course we can hope they helplessly fall in love with the club and city and stay here until their late 20s but who am I kidding? Kluivert is already dreaming of Barcelona and Ünder is already being monitored by Man City and co. Still, these are some extraordinary talents and Roma has the privilege to nurture them and play them all at once. I think no one in Serie A has such a deep, young, divergent yet talented frontline.
Juve have Ronaldo yes, but he’ll be 34 this season. Milan has Higuain but again, soon to be 31. Callejon and Mertens at Napoli are on the wrong side of 30 too. There’s Dybala, Icardi, Insigne, ok but they don’t play at the same club. Three top talents like Schick, Ünder and Kluivert all at once? Mixed with a Dzeko, SES and Perotti? Very rare in Italy.
Perhaps I’m still wearing my giallorosso glasses, but the future in Rome does look bright if/when they all step up and bring their A-game. I can’t really recall the last time Roma had such wealth up front. Not one player makes me cringe, turn into a cocoon and throw up until it explodes, unlike some previous seasons. They all have their strenghts and are considered to be starting material or dangerous coming off the bench.
In Roma’s history there were always one or two mediocre names, names that made you shout “WTF is this guy doing in Roma?”. In 2011 we had Lamela and Osvaldo but also Bojan and Tallo. In 2014 we had Totti and Ljajic but also Iturbe and Ibarbo. In 2010 the magnificent Vucinic, Toni and Borriello, sadly also Adriano, Okaka and Baptista.
Let’s wind the clock back even further. In 2004 the Holy Trinity Montella, Cassano and Totti. The subs? Corvia, Cerci and Virga. And in 2006 Totti and Mancini were in stunning form. However, the bench? Tavano and Virga. Then we also have the category of Alvarez, Wilhelmsson and Doumbia. Which is just, yikes.
Just pointing out: There was always a downside. One name that made it less sexy. It seems this season Roma has it all worked out up front. The only ‘disappointment’ from ‘17-’18, Defrel, went to Samp while Antonucci will get time to grow at Pescara. Ponce, Sadiq and Verde are out of the picture.
Ok, so why did we only score once against Torino, our first game of the season? Good question. Torino away is perhaps one of the trickiest trips in Serie A and Roma usually has a hard time playing at both Turin based clubs. Mazzarri knows how to deploy a team and counter us.
It was a hard fought win and those games always happen each season, for each club. Roma already had theirs. Maybe the guys still need some time to gel after pre-season. I for instance would like to see Kluivert, Schick and Ünder play up front against Frosinone, SPAL or Parma at home. Against an opponent who is perhaps tactically less smart or cunning. A good old trashing like 5-0 or 6-0 would work miracles and get the momentum going.
In the end I think each of those six players will get on the scoresheet sooner or later. Every player will have his time to shine, be it in the CL or Coppa Italia. It’s gonna be a long, hard season and if an injury or suspension occurs, then EDF has plenty of options and the fans won’t be afraid to look at the starting lineup when it’s official.
Because they know it’s gonna be alright. There always a plan B or C that’s gonna save the day. And this time it doesn’t involve Ibarbo, Doumbia or Tavano.
It’s a brave new world we live in. Take a deep breath and enjoy.