Goalkeeping is a bit like managing in a way; you get too much blame when things go wrong and probably too much credit when things go right. A keeper can flub a gimme in the 90th minute causing his club to lose 1-0, but was that one singular moment the sum total of the club's failures? Conversely, a 2-1 victory punctuated by one leaping save may grab all the headlines, but what about the dirty work done by the defense to keep things level for large stretches of the match?
Goalkeeping is, by its very nature, an unfair business. But every so often you get lucky and stumble across a guy so good that he renders those questions irrelevant. Roma had that guy in the form of Alisson Becker, who they promptly sold last summer for (at the time) a world record fee, leaving them with a gaping hole in between the sticks.
To fill that void, Monchi tabbed Sweden's statuesque World Cup keepin’ hero, Robin Olsen. After shelling out €12 million for the 6'6'' keeper, Roma were gambling that Olsen, a man who had barely ever stepped foot outside of Scandinavia, was merely a late bloomer rather than the latest World Cup sensation destined to disappoint.
Not one to completely throw caution to the wind, Monchi hedged his Olsen bets by signing Italian veteran Antonio Mirante to deputize his new number one keeper. To round out the squad, Monchi also took a flier on young Daniel Fuzato.
So, now that an extremely disappointing season is in the books, let's asses Roma's trio of goalkeepers.
Appearances: 0 | Clean sheets: 0 | Dope Profile Photos: 1
Barely 21-years-old when he made a shock signing with Roma, not much was expected from Fuzato's first season in Europe, and, well, not much was achieved. The young Brazilian spent much of his season bouncing between the Primavera bench and the senior bench, garnering only four appearances with Roma's youth squad.
Still, Roma has a way of making a keeper's career, so keep your eye on Fuzato.
Final Grade: N/A
Prediction for Next Year: Loan with a Serie B side
Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, onto the prime time players.
Appearances: 35 | Clean Sheets: 4 | Goals Conceded: 58
Where to begin? As we mentioned earlier this spring, in many ways Olsen was doomed from the start. Following in the footsteps of Wojciech Szczesny and Alisson Becker, arguably the two best Serie A keepers in successive seasons, Olsen was always destined to lose the comparison battle.
But then the season started with a 10-shot shutout against Torino and suddenly things didn't look so grim. Sure, he may not have cut the same figure as Alisson, but he was tall, covered a ton of ground and had reasonably quick reflexes, but that debut, as it turned out, was one of the few bright spots this season, one that quickly turned sour for the Swede.
Olsen conceded 15 goals over his next six matches, and while he settled down a bit through late fall, before all was said and done, he let 58 balls breeze past him in 35 matches before losing the job completely in early April.
Suffice it to say, nothing went according to plan for Olsen or Monchi.
Final Grade: D
I'll stop short of giving him a failing mark because he looked average enough during his good stretches, but thanks to some passive play, poor reading of angles, and his inability to communicate with the defense in front of him, Olsen's final portfolio wasn't terribly impressive.
Prediction for Next Year: Hopefully sold somewhere he can rebuild his confidence and be successful, otherwise he'll be Roma's backup.
And now for the hero of the day...
Appearances: 13 | Clean Sheets: 6 | Goals Conceded: 9
Perhaps Monchi's most sensible signing of the summer, Antonio Mirante profiled as the perfect back-up keeper: intelligent, reasonably athletic, and had experience for days. If Roma were going to punt the Coppa Italia and use their backup keeper for the rare meaningless European fixture, you could do a lot worse than Mirante.
And for the season's first eight months, that's precisely what he was. Prior to early April, Mirante logged 360 total minutes across all competitions, garnering starts against the likes of Udinese, Viktoria Plzen and Porto, but then came the fall—Robin Olsen's fall.
Following the dismissal of Eusebio Di Francesco in March, Claudio Ranieri opted for consistency, starting Olsen in his first handful of matches in charge of the Giallorossi. However, with Olsen's deficiencies still on full display, Ranieri turned to Mirante ahead of Roma's fixture with Fiorentina on April 3rd.
After conceding two goals in that fixture, Mirante really took off, holding all eight of his final opponents to one goal or less, including five clean sheets. And these weren't boring, stilted affairs either; Mirante had to make miraculous saves in nearly every match—Roma may not have qualified for the Champions League, but they wouldn't have even stood a chance down the stretch were it not for Mirante's stellar play.
Final Grade: A
13 matches may be a small sample size, but Mirante was nothing short of fantastic when called upon. He was efficient, he was electric, and he was the salve that Roma's backline so desperately needed after such a rocky season.
Prediction for Next Year: Probably more of the same. Chances are Roma will sign another keeper this summer, and depending on how acclaimed that individual is, Mirante may be called on to save the day once more. One thing is for sure, thanks to his impressive play this season, particularly being pressed into service so unexpectedly, Mirante figures to be one of the short-term Roma guys the fans absolutely love, joining the ranks of Morgan De Sanctis, Federico Balzaretti and even Luca Toni.
As we mentioned at the outset, Wojciech Szczesny and Alisson Becker really set impossible expectations for whoever was unfortunate enough to follow in their footsteps. At his best, Robin Olsen was pretty much what we'd grown accustomed to from Roma keepers over the past 10 year or so, but at his nadir we were reliving the darkest days of Mauro Goicoechea.
Antonio Mirante's miraculous run through April and May made for great headlines, but given his track record, it’s unreasonable to expect him to repeat that form over the course of a full season, all of which means one thing: Roma should have a new number one next season.
Who that might be depends largely on how much money Roma has to spend. If the coffers are full, it could be Cragno or Dragowski, if their limited funds are spent elsewhere, a Mirante and Fuzato pairing isn't out of the question either.
We expect upheaval from Roma, but having three different starting keepers in three successive seasons is crazy even by their standards, so let's hope the next guy is here for a while.