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Roma’s Attack Was a Mixed Bag, and a Roster Reset Looms

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Stephan El Shaarawy was undoubtedly Roma’s best attacker, but what will happen to the rest of the club’s forwards?

ACF Fiorentina v AS Roma - Coppa Italia Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

One of the reasons Roma is called La Maggica is because this club is often able to make, well, magic on the field. As much as a properly executed defense might excite some die-hard fans, the magic of Rome has typically been focused on the offensive side of things. Part of this has been the caliber of offensive player that has called Roma home for much of the twenty-first century. Francesco Totti, Gabriel Batistuta, Antonio Cassano (on a good day), Edin Džeko, even Erik Lamela for a moment there; these are all names that brought goals in various ways, but each of those ways brought a smile to your face.

A main complaint that can be made about Roma’s 2018/2019 season is that a lot of that offensive magic was simply missing for much of the year. Džeko, the focal point of Roma’s offense, didn’t crack double digits in the league despite playing the most minutes of any forward in the side at 3146 over the course of 34 starts and 39 appearances. When combined with an overall lethargic attitude in the forwards that metastasized and spread through the rest of the side, it’s unsurprising that Roma’s offense regressed this year.

The Bosnian Diamond looks to be nearly done with his time at the Stadio Olimpico, as a €13.5 million transfer to Inter Milan is all but official. What will happen to the rest of the Roma forward contingent? The only player I’m relatively certain will be pulling on the Roma kit this September is Stephan El Shaarawy. As for the rest? Here are their report cards:

Cengiz Ünder

Parma Calcio v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Compared to his explosion in the 2017/2018 season, the 2018/2019 season was a lost chance for the Turk. It’s obvious to anyone with decent vision that Patrik Schick isn’t the answer at right wing, meaning that the right wing position was prime for the taking by Ünder. Unfortunately, injuries marred his campaign, and although he’s still making the U-21 lists published by every website from Roma to Reno, Ünder only managed seven goals in all competitions this campaign. The eight assists he added made his season look more respectable, but as of right now, the Turk will need to add more to his game beyond speed to get to the superstar level he thirsts for.

As for Ünder’s future, the siren song of the Bundesliga has been calling his name ever since he became a household name on the Italian peninsula during the spring of 2018. Considering Roma’s inability to reach the Champions League for next season, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Cengiz push his way to Bayern or Dortmund; if he actually starts on one of the sides would remain to be seen, but from the moment he touched down at Fiumicino, it’s been clear to me that Roma is a stepping stone for Under. I wish him all the best in the future, but he’s the sacrificial lamb of the summer.

Grade: B-

Prediction for Next Year: Germany is calling his name, and if they aren’t, Manchester City probably will.

Diego Perotti

AS Roma v Cagliari - Serie A Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images

Diego Perotti is the type of player any high-class club needs; one who can get the ball exactly where you want it to go, who can hit the penalty shot in a pressurized environment, who doesn’t have the world’s largest ego. If you had told me in January of 2016 that Perotti would still be a member of this Giallorossi side heading into the 2019/2020 season, I would’ve been shocked. And yet here he is, contributing 5 goals to the side this season and sporting an 83% passing accuracy to boot.

Unfortunately, the injury gods have not looked kindly upon Diego for the past few years, and although he arguably has some gas left in the tank, all indicators point towards the Argentine heading back to Boca Juniors this summer. I’ll miss him wearing a Roma kit, but I’m grateful for the years he gave to the club.

Grade: B+

Prediction for Next Year: Back in Argentina, maybe playing with our very own DDR.

Edin Džeko

US Sassuolo v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Edin Džeko was Roma’s first real number nine since one Gabriel Omar Batistuta, brought in as the missing piece that could propel Roma to a Scudetto as one final win for Francesco Totti. Although that final Scudetto win didn’t come to pass for Er Pupone, that doesn’t mean that Džeko has had an unimpressive career with Roma. This season wasn’t his best by far (that would be his 2016/2017 capocannoniere season with 39 goals in 51 appearances), but he was still Roma’s most potent attacker across all competitions. However, scoring less than ten goals in the league is an untenable situation for the starting striker at a club with European aspirations; it’s even less tenable when that player looks disgruntled throughout the season, as if the rest of the squad is letting him down.

To quote from bren’s excellent article on whether Roma should move on from Džeko:

Still, we live in a what have you done for me lately world, and lately Džeko hasn’t been up to snuff. And while he only has one year remaining on his deal, given their history of co-habitation, we have to wonder how EDF would manage the rotation next season. Another year of feeding Schick table scraps isn’t an opportunity cost Roma can really afford.

With Di Francesco gone, Monchi gone, and Džeko looking to be headed to Milan, it appears we’re nearing the end of an era on the forward front in Rome. Even if he does end up with the Interisti, I’ll still appreciate the goals and his time spent with i Lupi. Despite all that he has done for Roma, it feels like the right time to move on from the Bosnian Diamond.

Grade: C-

Prediction for Next Year: Plying his wares at the San Siro.

Patrik Schick

Chievo Verona v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Without a doubt, Schick remains the club’s biggest question mark in Roma’s senior side. You can see the talent that the Czech international has when he plays; for some reason, it’s just never translated to becoming a goal-scoring machine for the Giallorossi. If Schick had been a youth academy graduate, or a cheap transfer in to backup Edin Džeko, Romanisti would have much lower expectations for the striker. Yet the 42 million euro man scoring 3 goals in all competitions in his second full season at the club is a huge disappointment, no matter how you slice it.

Now normally, if a player with that kind of price tag under-performs, a club would try to sell him off while he still has value. That still might happen with Schick; there have been rumblings of Roma and Milan considering swapping the Czech and Andre Silva. However, the intricacies of Schick’s original transfer from Sampdoria make it much more likely that he stays in a Giallorossi kit for a little while longer. If he’s sold before February 2020, i Blucherati would be due either €20 million or half of Schick’s transfer fee, whichever is greater. Even though Roma is still due to pay Sampdoria that €20 million if Schick isn’t transferred, it still seems likely that Roma will hope that Schick can rediscover his Sampdoria form at Roma with Edin Džeko moving on.

Grade: D+

Prediction for Next Year: Schick gets his last chance at Roma. What happens with him after that is anyone’s guess.

Justin Kluivert

US Sassuolo v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

When Kluivert was first signed by Roma last summer, it came with a decent amount of fanfare. Romanisti took his signing as a statement of intent from Monchi and Roma management on the whole, and although he didn’t explode immediately, there were enough positive signs in his performances this season that the 2019/2020 season looks incredibly bright. Although he only logged two goals in 1660 minutes, Kluivert showed continual growth on the defensive side of the ball while adapting to the Italian style of play and acting as an assist man (providing six in Serie A).

Kluivert is still only 20 years old; as such, he’s graded on a different curve than a guy like Edin Džeko or even Patrik Schick. Particularly if Roma clears out a lot of forwards this summer, the 2019/2020 season will be the Dutchman’s chance to shine.

Grade: B-

Prediction for Next Year: If he impresses Paulo Fonseca at training camp, he may be one of Roma’s starters on the wings.

Stephan El Shaarawy

A.S. Roma v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Semi Final Second Leg Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Not only was Stephan El Shaarawy Roma’s best forward this season, you could argue that he was Roma’s best player this season. El Shaarawy led all Roma scorers in Serie A this season with eleven goals; add his four assists and an 81.8% passing completion rate across all competitions, and it looks like a player who always struggled with consistency actually found it this season. The stats guys over at WhoScored definitely noticed; he’s the sole Roma player in their Serie A Team of the Season.

Of course, the elephant in the room is if Il Faraone is able to turn one season of consistency into a greater career trend. He’s still only 26 years old; plenty of players only begin to find their best form at that age. Add in the fact that Roma’s offense will certainly not be as Džeko-centric as it has been since 2015, and El Shaarawy may have bought himself the chance to become a star of Serie A yet again.

Grade: A

Prediction for Next Year: Barring a massive star forward signing, El Shaarawy is likely to be Roma’s big name up front. We still have to see if he can make his consistency this season something more than a year-long trend.