As we mentioned in part one of our round-table discussion on the current Serie A season, 12 matches is sort of an arbitrary check-in point, but with the gears of calcio grinding to a halt for the international break, it does afford us an opportunity to take Roma's temperature. Through three months of action, we've seen the highs and lows of Fonseca Football. From the barrage of goals to start the season to the string of draws to Fonseca's masterful manipulation of Roma's injury crisis, Fonseca's feet have certainly been held to the flames.
With that in mind, the crew sat down at our virtual tables to discuss Roma's current state of affairs. Enjoy and please feel free to give us your thoughts in the comments.
1) Regardless of your expectations in August, has your opinion of this team, and by extension, Paulo Fonseca changed at all? If so, how?
dallagente: I haven’t been able to watch as much as I would have wanted to but, from what I’ve seen, Fonseca has proven more pragmatic than I expected. He knows how to pick his battles. The team also has more character than I expected. We hear every summer how good characters have been signed to the club, but this season it really does look that way on the pitch. They work hard for one another.
Bren: Yeah, I agree with you completely. I thought Fonseca was going to be a one-trick pony, but the manner in which he’s ridden this wave of injuries has really impressed me. More than that, he’s really getting the best out of Veretout, Smalling, and Mancini, among others. I think he has the makings of a top manager, I just hope he gets a full Roma squad soon. He’s been short-changed nearly all season.
ssciavillo: I have been very impressed with Fonseca. After the first match I was afraid that we’d be giving up three goals a match. However, he’s done a great job of turning Roma into a pretty solid defensive team. Also, he seems to have instilled a much tougher mentality into the side. In the past we’ve seen many Roma sides crumble when faced with adversity. This team has guys step up week in and week out under Fonseca’s guidance, no matter how bad the injury crisis or refereeing decisions. I think we’ve got a class manager on our hands.
JonAS: Not that much has changed for me. Yes, Roma are still in the race for fourth place but the EL has been a bit of a letdown so far (due to refereeing though, not Fonseca). Of course there’s the injury crisis so I will leave my judgement for when Fonseca gets a full squad at his disposal for a couple of weeks running. Then again, he could have rotated a bit more (Florenzi, Jesus, Perotti etc.) but Cristante, Pellegrini, Miki and even Kalinic are sorely missed. However, Fonseca still has a lot to prove as I don’t immediately get a Spalletti or Rudi Garcia 2014 vibe.
Jimmy Miotto: I’m still a little burned from the Rudi Garcia Year One Experience, but I’m pretty excited by what I’ve seen from Fonseca so far. Barring my issues with his rotation in the past couple weeks, he’s taken a situation that would be no-win for a lot of managers (an injury-ridden squad) and somehow put together a side that can make things happen. The winning mentality looks like it’s growing in the squad, and while that definitely can be shattered in an instance at the Olimpico, you have to start somewhere.
2) What has been the most surprising development through Roma’s first 12 league matches?
dallagente: Gianluca Mancini looking like the leader of this team in a matter of weeks. And Javier Pastore’s defensive work. I’ve always believed in Pastore’s passing quality, but don’t tell me anyone expected this level of defensive contribution from him too.
Bren: I have to go with Veretout. It’s probably because I wasn’t an expert on him when Roma signed him, but, man, what a player. He reminds me so much of Strootman, but he’s faster and more athletic than Kevin ever was I think. He is relentless and makes his presence known in all facets of the game. I hope he gets some rest going forward, but he’s been as integral as any new signing in Roma’s early successes. Of all the players they brought in this summer, he was the perfect purchase for these tactics. Just perfect.
ssciavillo: Veretout is a great shout, but I’m going to go with Mancini. I liked the signing when it was made, but he’s exceeded my expectations. I expected there to be some growing pains with such a young defender, but there haven’t been many. Also, the way he’s stepped into the midfield with the team’s season hanging on the brink has been very impressive. I think he could grow into one of the top center backs in Italy with his size and skill set under Fonseca’s guidance.
JonAS: Yeah, Veretout, Smalling and Mancini look like the fan’s favorites for now and grow every week. It’s also nice to see last season was not a fluke from Zaniolo as the kid continues to amaze.
Jimmy: Mancini and Zaniolo are my answers: Mancini that he hasn’t had the Atalanta slump and found form even in a midfield role, and Zaniolo in the sense that he has proven to not be a one-season-wonder. If Roma can keep a hold of those two in the long term, they’ll have a vdery nice core to build around.
3) Roma have been ravaged by injuries and weathered the storm fairly well, but which player do they miss the most? In other words, who needs to come back asap?
dallagente: Henrikh Mkhitaryan. I know we love Zaniolo around here, and it’s good to see the kid looking happy again this season, but whenever Roma move the ball up the pitch the lack of experience from the wide players is obvious to see. We could do with an older head to replace either Zaniolo or Kluivert, to keep the passing fluent, fast and help break the deadlock at 0-0 in games.
Bren: Hard to argue with that one; he was starting to put it together before getting hurt, but just to deviate I’ll go with Lorenzo Pellegrini. Once Fonseca got his double pivot sorted and pushed Pellegrini into the hole, his playmaking really started to shine. His quick pass game is ideally suited to Fonseca Football, and while they’ve managed well enough without him, he’ll just add another layer to Roma’s attack.
ssciavillo: I’m going to agree and go with Pellegrini. Roma could really use him back. Before he got injured, Pellegrini was really starting to come into his own. Pastore has filled in admirably, but all of these minutes will eventually take their toll. Having the option of Pellegrini or Pastore in the hole will just make this team even more dangerous.
JonAS: I wanted to say Miki or Ünder but Zaniolo did fine out wide. I wanted to say Diawara or Cristante but Mancini did just fine in the midfield. I wanted to say Pellegrini but Pastore did just fine as his replacement. So I guess that leaves Kalinic? I think with a healthy Kalinic Dzeko gets more room to breathe and Edin could have had 2-3 more goals if he wasn’t that tired. And who knows, maybe Kalinic himself could have cracked one or more against Borussia or say Parma?
Jimmy: I think I’d go with the idea of Kalinic. When he’s played, he hasn’t been impressive (at least in my eyes), but not having a true vice-Dzeko has been difficult. If he continues to struggle with injuries, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Roma’s winter mercato move to be for a young striker with potential. The Giallorossi need one of those sooner rather than later, anyways, especially since Patrik Schick looks like he’s going to be a loss no matter where he ends up.
4) Should Roma make any moves in the winter market? If so, which area do they need to address?
dallagente: I doubt anything will happen. There is no money there to sign anyone. But if they were to sign reinforcements then a striker is needed.
Bren: Winter is always hard to peg down, but I see two immediate areas of need that could be addressed relatively cheaply: reserve striker and another full-back. Kolarov will need more rest as we move into the middle chunk of the season and Nikola Kalinic wasn’t terribly impressive in what little we saw of him. I think we need an alternative to Dzeko rather than a less talented clone--someone faster and more capable in one-v-one situations.
ssciavillo: I find it hard to see this team making any big splashes. If Petrachi does decide to bring in some reinforcements, I could see the two positions Bren mentioned as being the points of emphasis. With Zappacosta’s injury virtually ending his Roma tenure before it got started some more cover at fullback would be welcome. An alternative to Dzeko would be nice too. If they make moves expect them to be loans.
JonAS: I prefer to bring in quality instead of just buying/loaning bodies for the sake of it. So unless they can bring in a guy like Radja, De Paul, Izzo or Duvan Zapata, keep the squad as it is and hope for Antonucci & Cetin to turn into studs.
Jimmy: A promising, young vice-Dzeko is the answer here. I don’t know who fits the bill, though.
5) Chris Smalling has arguably been the surprises of the season so far, but venture a guess--12 matches from now, who is the next Smalling? Which player will shock us come February?
dallagente: Let’s go for Mert Cetin. Or the resurgence of Alessandro Florenzi.
Bren: Mert...that would be great. He just looks the part, doesn’t he? I hope it will be Ünder though. The more time passes and the more little injuries he picks up, the further away his debut season seems. We’ve always assumed he would break out and become a star (hence our fears of him being sold), but he hasn’t really done anything to even warrant a larger club sniffing around him. If he does, Roma will be better for it—they need another big playmaker out on the wing, a guy who can break a quicksand match.
ssciavillo: I think it’ll be hard for Mert to get burn, especially once Mancini is back on D. Ünder and Florenzi resurgences would make us so much more deep and dangerous, but I’m going to go with Kluivert. His decision making still needs work, but he seems like such a great fit for this system. His work rate has been unbelievable. If he keeps getting playing time then it’s entirely possible that he takes the next step in his development. If that happens, maybe the big boys start sniffing around him this summer rather than Ünder.
JonAS: Tough one. I think, when Mancini returns to the D, Diawara could eventually seal that spot next to Veretout and create magic together with Pellegrini, Pastore and Zaniolo up front.
Jimmy: My bet is Bryan Cristante, mainly because I really want him to be recognized for the quality player he is by the fans. When he moved to Roma from Atalanta, his role changed. Cristante stopped being a goalscorer and started putting in the dirty work because that’s what the manager asked of him, but people saw the goals dry up and thought he was poor quality. If he can develop a similar level of acclaim as Veretout, Roma will have an embarrassment of riches in the midfield (even more than they already do now).
6) Finally, after Round 24 Roma will be_________________?
dallagente: Top of the league.
Bren: Which league?...I think they’ll be right where they are now, and right where I thought they’d be in the summer—in a four or five way battle for the top four.
Jimmy: Second, but it’ll be very tight between Inter, Roma, and Lazio for that spot.
JonAS: eight, sinking deeper than the Titanic, coachless after Fonseca jumped the ship and out of the Europa League after a humiliating defeat at home against Wolfsberger. But in a surprising twist of fate, Daniele De Rossi returns from Argentina to guide Roma back into the top 4 as a player-coach!
Bren: Now that would be something.
You've heard our say, now let's hear yours. What do you make of Roma's first 12 matches under Fonseca?