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Roma Season Review Roundtable Discussion, Part II

In this part we take a look at what went wrong and try to blaze a path forwards.

AS Roma v Udinese - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Before you venture any further into this piece, just know that the timing of this wasn't intentional; the Romaverse is a bleak place right now—punctuated by the leaked emails and James Pallotta's lengthy explanation thereof—but we're obliged to discuss what went wrong during this past season. While your level of disappointment necessarily follows from your expectations back in August, losing a coach, a director of sport, and falling just shy of the Champions League places is a better pill to swallow no matter how sunny your disposition may be.

I may have oversold that; what follows isn't that bad, but Roma have a lot of problems currently, there's no debating that, so we take a quick look at what happened and try to brainstorm a way out.

You can catch Part One here.

5. Okay, now for the bad. What was the main culprit in Roma’s decline this season?

ssciavillo: There are so many reasons for Roma’s decline so picking one is hard, especially considering all of the injuries. However, I’d have to go with the fact that this roster was just poorly built by Monchi. Important locker room presences like Strootman and Nainggolan were sold. We replaced a World Class keeper with a mediocre one. There was no true center back upgrade brought in. Then a player like N’Zonzi was brought in who clearly didn’t fit EDF’s style of play. The pieces just didn’t fit well together.

dallagente: Aside from the injuries, which I can only hold EDF responsible for, I’d say Javier Pastore is my main culprit, whether indirectly his fault or otherwise. When you look at why Roma lost games on the pitch, two big reasons stand out above many others. One is poor finishing, and the second is Roma’s sloppy accuracy in the opposition half. Pastore was the man meant to raise the bar for Roma on both counts, and only he knows why he was passed over several times by both EDF and Ranieri when Pastore was actually available for matchdays.

JonAS: I think we cannot really ‘blame’ it on one player. The lads don’t lose on purpose. They don’t miss CL and settle for EL on purpose. I am disappointed in some guys, like Dzeko, Ünder, Fazio or Schick. They were not newbies this season but still looked like amateurs in some moments. Roma needed literally everyone on the top of their game to beat Atalanta, Napoli or Inter in ‘18-’19 but unfortunately only a few showed up. Also, injuries don’t help the cause either.

Bren: I’ll parrot your earlier answer, Jonas. SPAL. SPAL. SPAL Roma’s record against supposedly lesser sides, a term I will never use again, was deplorable. Full marks to SPAL, they had a great season, but dropping SIX to them is inexcusable. Now, the actual reasons why Roma played so poorly against so many of these sides is perhaps beyond the scope of this question, but Roma’s penchant of playing down to their competition really bit them in the ass.

Jimmy: No matter the manager, Roma has always played poorly against the minnows; combine the fact that we didn’t play well against the top 6 this season either, and yeah, it makes sense we missed out on Champions League football. I just have to hope it doesn’t become a vindictive cycle.

6. What, if anything, could Monchi or EDF have done differently to avoid this downturn?

ssciavillo: I think hanging onto Strootman rather than buying N’Zonzi could’ve helped. Yes, Strootman’s on the field performances may not have been much better than what the Frenchman showed most of the year, as he is on the decline. However, I think he could’ve provided a leadership aspect in the center of the park that Roma so sorely missed in the games that De Rossi missed.

dallagente: I agree, if Monchi doesn’t sell Strootman then we finish in the top 4. I was against Strootman’s sale at the time. It was the only sale I was against. Then I tried to justify it by looking for signs that Strootman wanted to go. Now it’s obvious Strootman didn’t want to leave and his departure caused a lot of resentment inside the dressing room. As for EDF, 50 muscle injuries in a season is a huge problem. And he could have bought himself time by easing off drilling the team to press so aggressively up the pitch. Some truly mentally and emotionally damaging games under EDF were the away losses to Bologna and Udinese, where Roma completely dominated in every possible way but pressed too recklessly and got speared on the counter.

JonAS: Keep Alisson and Radja. That right there, is at least three/four points extra. Boom, CL qualification!

Bren: I liked Strootman as much as the next guy, but it’s hard for me to imagine him being the sole difference between Champions League and Europa League. EDF can only work with what he has, and Monchi’s summer was just horrid. I still can’t believe he fell prey to the World Cup hype machine and paid €12 million for Olsen and Nzonzi was always a bit of an odd fit for me, though like I said earlier, he came alive under Ranieri. But, yeah, keeping Alisson would have been swell.

Jimmy: No one player was the difference between Roma and the Champions League this year; players that we kept who should have continued to perform simply didn’t. Alisson would obviously have been a great player to keep, but I’m confident his intention from the moment he landed at Fiumicino was to make a name for himself and then jump at the first opportunity. The Bosnian diamond looking like cubic zirconia in the league definitely didn’t help things, either.

7. Put a percentage on it--what sort of rebuild should Roma undertake?

Bren: Hmm, I’d say at least 40% of this roster should go. Olsen needs to go for obvious reasons, De Rossi is already gone, Dzeko has one foot out the door, while cases can be made for Kolarov, Fazio, Jesus, Perotti and Pastore being given the veritable pink slip. There’s a talented core here, but they need massive upgrades in goal, central defense, fullback and center forward, so a 40% flip might be generous.

ssciavillo: It’s hard to put an exact % on the whole thing but I think there has to be a decent amount of turnover and now is the time to do it. With a new coach coming in and no Champions League the time is right to start a new cycle. Bren’s 40% is probably a reasonable number. I’d keep some of the veterans like El Shaarawy, Florenzi, and Manolas around to fill the leadership void. I’d even keep Kolarov and Fazio around in reduced roles for the same reason. Then build long term around players like Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Kluivert, and Cristante. I agree that the biggest needs will be in goal, center defense, fullback, and striker, so we’ll need plenty of reinforcements.

dallagente: I honestly feel like it should be 25% change at most, which is 5 incoming signing max, in an ideal world where everyone wants to play for Roma. But some players might not want to stay for a season with no Champions League so we’ll see. Above all, I just want to see the club sign a very good regista in midfield, someone who can handle passing the ball at high speed. Someone who was basically meant to bring what Pastore does, only a little deeper in midfield.

JonAS: A complete overhaul will only set us back even more next season. We have a lot of young guns and some guys at their peak like Manolas, SES or Florenzi. Add some seniors like Nzonzi, Mirante, Fazio, Kolarov and Perotti and there’s not a lot left to rebuild. After all, this isn’t FIFA 19. A new ST if Dzeko leaves + a new starting CB are absolute priorities. An above average Italian goalkeeper like Perin or Cragno would be welcome too. And for the love of God, keep Manolas and Zaniolo.

Jimmy: Jonas, as much as I would love to keep Manolas, I think he’s probably the first player gone. I think a third of the squad will probably get the boot, and I think that’s a good %, particularly if it’s the underperformers we sell (though that’s always easier said than done).

8. Regardless of what you just said, if you had to sell one core player to satisfy the balance books, who would it be and why?

ssciavillo: If I had to sell one of our more prized assets, I’d probably have to go with Ünder. He would probably fetch the greatest plusvalenza. Plus for whatever reason,I just don’t have the same attachment to him as I do players like Pellegrini, Zaniolo and Manolas. I’d also rather find a center back upgrade to pair with Manolas rather than his direct replacement. Plus, I think wingers are a little easier to come by than reliable defenders.

dallagente: Hey, I’m not going to surprise anyone by answering Kostas Manolas. I want to point out he ended the season both having run and sprinted less than Fazio on average, despite the stereotype surrounding both men. If Manolas wasn’t playing through injury this entire season, then I don’t know what the story was there. If you really can get 30+ million for him, I’d take it.

JonAS: Ünder. Because we have enough bodies to replace him and we can easily buy a new talent with his money. Hell, Roma could even shift to a wingerless formation like 4-3-1-2 or use Flo and Kolarov in a 3-5-2. That way, Roma can use Ünder’s money to deal with more important things like defence and goalkeeper.

Bren: I have to admit, dallagente, you’ve changed my opinion of Manolas ever so slightly. The only problem with letting him go is simply there is no immediate replacement in house, and I’m not confident that whatever they fetch for him would even be spent on the transfer market. In that vein, we have to look where Roma does have surpluses--out wide. In that respect, I think Ünder would be my sacrificial lamb. Not that I’d want to sell him, but if Roma are to keep the financial wolves at bay in one fell swoop, he seems like he’d net the most, at least in terms of players I’d be willing to lose.

Jimmy: I’ve long thought that Cengiz Ünder was not long for this club. I expect him to be benchwarming at Manchester City or Bayern Munich by the end of the summer, and honestly, I’m okay with it. Wingers seem to grow on trees these days; now, finding a star defensive midfielder? That’s a tough one.

9. Who should Roma hire as their next manager? Why?

ssciavillo: I’d go after Sarri if he hits the market. I think he has the right personality to deal with all the BS that will be thrown at him in Roma. I also think he could fit many of the pieces already on the roster into his system; especially the attacking ones. {Note: I sent these questions out to the crew well before Sarri became connected to Juve}

dallagente: Pretty much along the lines of what you said, any guy who can easily adapt his football to what’s already at Roma is good in my books. I don’t have a particular name in mind. I would have liked Giampaolo but I don’t know if he’d seriously consider us.

JonAS: I’m gonna get crucified in Church for this but if Conte goes to Inter, it’s time for Spalletti 3.0. Now with Totti and DDR gone, he won’t have to deal with ‘Holy Roman Men and how to escort them to the exit’ no more. Full authority. Let him turn Cristante into Perrotta, Pellegrini into Pizarro, Schick into Vucinic and Kluivert into Mancini. And then it’s Goddamn time to bring another trophy to Rome.

Bren: You took the words right out of my mouth. Given how absurd Roma can be, it wouldn’t shock me if this actually happened, despite the amount of ill-will with which they parted a couple years back. The Miha and Inzaghi rumors scare the bejesus out of me; I’d rather they roll the dice on someone younger than run with a retread like those guys. Honestly, at this point, Roma are in a transition phase, so I’d be completely fine with Ranieri for another year.

Jimmy: There is so much ill will between Spal, Roma, and the tifosi that you could fill six months of plot lines for a telenovela. He would make sense for where we are right now, but only on paper. I don’t have a good name anymore now that Gasperini is staying put at Atalanta, but Giampaolo might be a decent choice.

10. Finally, give us your ideal summer for Roma. What happens? What doesn’t happen?

ssciavillo: Ideally, Roma will upgrade in all the positions of need. In terms of names, I’m going to follow the plan of building a more young Italian side that was put in place under Monchi. Of course, it wouldn’t surprise me if a few players were also brought in from South America low risk, high ceiling options.

Starting in goal, I’d love to see Alessio Cragno of Cagliari. At center back, if Manolas isn’t sold then I’d go for one of Armando Izzo of Torino or Gianluca Mancini of Atalanta to replace a guy like Juan Jesus. If Manolas is sold then how about an Izzo/Mancini pairing? I’d bring Luca Pellegrini back from loan and work him in as the new starter with Kolarov mentoring and providing cover for him. At striker, I’m not sure where Roma turn. As much as Andrea Belotti intrigues me, I think the cost might be prohibitive. After his 16 goal output this season I wonder if Andrea Petagna could excel in the right system at a more affordable rate. My dream signing would be Nicoló Barella as a long term replacement for De Rossi, but that’s no more than a pipe dream without Champions League money.

dallagente: Ideally, we get a medical and fitness team that brings the muscle injuries all the way down to zero. Including bringing back Paolo Bertelli and not letting him go to Inter. We sign a sporting director and coach well in time for pre-season. And remember when the club used to sign centrebacks BEFORE the coach had the only 2 free weeks of pre-season to drill the backline? Yeah, that only happened under Monchi despite all that was said about his failings. More of that would be nice. Finally, Roma signs Sander Berge to midfield. Boom. Maybe sell a couple of giants elsewhere around the team to compensate, but Berge is my dream signing. I’d also like it if anyone of Fuzato, Luca Pellegrini, Riccardi, d’Orazio, Cangiano and/or Celar could be brought into the senior team for next season.

JonAS: DDR decides not to quit football and return to Roma. This decision makes Totti feel all warm and fuzzy inside and he decides to return to the pitch as well. By July, Ancelotti leaves Napoli because he knows this is THE moment. He accepts an offer from Roma, Ranieri stays as his assistant. With a 36-year-old Dani and 42-year-old Totti in its first XI, Roma wins its first ten games, equaling Rudi Garcia’s record. In the eleventh game, a derby against Lazio, Florenzi scores the winner, celebrates in front of the Curva Sud while hugging Dani and France’. And then I wake up, covered in cu…. Ehhh, curry sauce and cucumbers?

Bren: Good lord, Jonas. I can’t top that, so I’ll say a new goalkeeper, a new central pairing in defense and maybe Andrea Belotti as our splash purchase. Roma don’t actually need that much, they just need commitment from the administration and, as dallagente alluded to, a clean bill of health for once.

Jimmy: Buy me Sandro Tonali, Bartłomiej Drągowski, and try to get DDR to come back (please, Daniele). Get Jim Pallotta to commit to one idea without changing horses midway through the battle. Give everyone within a five mile radius of the city of Rome a Xanax. Then the circus might feel just a little less crazy.

Well, you've heard our say, what do you think—what was the main culprit in Roma's downturn this season?