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The Great Roma Questionnaire Extraordinaire: 2019 Edition, Part I

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In part one of our annual roundtable discussion, the CdT crew takes a look at the Serie A landscape.

AS Roma v Real Madrid - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

If it's late August that means one thing, it's almost Serie A time, and if it's almost Serie A time then that means it's also time for the latest edition of the Great Roma Questionnaire Extraordinaire, the oldest CdT tradition there is, and in fact the very mechanism through which our site was created many years ago.

There’s been a lot of movement throughout the league, so in part one of our roundtable discussion, we set out to make a few non-Roma predictions for the impending 2019-2020 Serie A season.

Enjoy!

1. Inter Milan got Romelu Lukaku, Juventus beat everyone to de Ligt while Ancelotti and Conte (and almost Mourinho) are back coaching in the Peninsula, so are we seeing a resurgence of Serie A? What does the league have to do to gain ground?

dallagente: The new tax breaks for foreign signings help, and Roberto Mancini manipulating the domestic talent pool with his Italy call-ups is a good initiative. But the biggest obstacle is still the state of Italy’s stadium ownership. And it’d really help if Juventus didn’t temporarily discriminate against and ban their own coach from attending home games against Napoli.

JonAS: Although I’m not a fan, Ronaldo definitely put Serie A and Italian football back on the radar. Ancelotti, Conte, Sarri are renowned names as football coaches while Juve did reach the CL final two times since 2015. And Roma’s miracle win against Barcelona is still fresh in everyone’s memory. Those things help to turn the tide. Serie A is slowly regaining its top status but there’s a long way to go to relive the 90s. I expect strong European campaigns from Juve, Inter and Roma to increase Italy’s coefficient. Some Italian teams (like ahum, AS Roma) do need a new, modern stadium to take the next step.

Jimmy Miotto: It’s going to take a while, but I think we’re seeing the beginning of a resurgence for Serie A. I don’t count Ronaldo going to Juventus to actually be an indicator of a resurgence for Serie A; I don’t count any signing Juve makes to be an indicator of a resurgence for Serie A, because Juve have developed a PSG-like hegemony over the title race. Given that, it does seem to me that with at least one Milan club returning from dormancy, Fiorentina getting a much-needed buyout, and Roma and Napoli continuing to hover around the top of the table, Serie A has a chance of becoming the most important league in Europe. It’s going to take decent media deals and better English-language coverage for it to get there, though.

ssciavillo: JonAS took a lot of the words right out of my mouth with this one. I think Ronaldo coming to Serie A, sort of put the league back on the map. When you have (arguably) the best player in the world coming to play in a league, it has to make people think “Well, if Serie A is good enough for Ronaldo then maybe it’s a better league than I thought.” I’m sure that went a long way with a player like de Ligt deciding on Juve. I also think Juve and Roma’s recent deep CL runs help the league profile too. However, the results need to be better in Europe as a whole from the league. The stadium situation does need to be sorted out though; that’s for sure. As dallagente pointed out to, things like discrimation by clubs against other fans and ultras outward racism toward players like Kean and Balotelli need to be tackled to take the league out of the dark ages from a cultural standpoint, as well. So, improvements have been made, but there’s still a ways to go.

Bren: I can’t really add much more than you have, but their continued dominance aside, it was quite surprising to see de Ligt choose Juventus over all his other suitors. Of course, in order for the league as a whole to grow, we’d need to see some of the other top four or five sides capture similar signings, which has happened to lesser extents.

2. Going along with that, what was the best signing in Serie A this summer, Roma or otherwise?

dallagente: It’s hard to look beyond de Ligt. He’s a great talent. But Milan did some tidy business by snapping up Ismael Bennacer.

JonAS: If we think about which player will have the biggest impact on a team/city, then the Nainggolan return was a brilliant piece of business for Cagliari. That transfer alone should see them easily survive Serie A this season. They narrowly escaped relegation last season while new boys Brescia just brought in Balotelli so getting Radja will ensure the Sardinians they remain in A for another year. Nainggolan was hailed as one of Italy’s best midfielders not so long ago and now a (with all due respect) small club like Cagliari can brag with him. Let’s not forget, he’s only 31. Teams like Napoli, Atalanta or Torino would be jealous of this move.

Jimmy: de Ligt is the obvious answer here (assuming he continues his meteoric ascent to superstardom), but I’ll skirt around the question and say the best signing made by a Serie A club was Brescia holding on to Sandro Tonali. I honestly didn’t see that coming; I thought he was destined for Juve or PSG. Given that he’s staying in Lombardy, I’m very curious to see what Cellino’s long-term plan is. Can he turn Brescia into Atalanta 2.0?

ssciavillo: I mean best signing has to be de Ligt from a pure quality standpoint. Juve stole him from right under Barca’s nose. As much as I hate seeing the Bianconeri get better, it’s a great signing for the league. I also agree with JonAS that Radja and Balotelli are great signings considering the teams they went to. Those are real coups for Cagliari and Brescia.

Bren: I think Lukaku is going to do quite well in Italy, if he hits the ground running, I could see a 20 goal season, so at least in terms of apparent impact, he’s my top pick. I do, however, think Bennacer will be a great addition for Milan.

3. Flip it around, which signing made you question a team’s sanity?

dallagente: Everything Juventus did outside of signing de Ligt. Selling Moise Kean was a headscratcher.

JonAS: Rade Krunic to AC Milan. Ok, so perhaps he was a good player at Empoli but c’mon, they’re f*ckin AC Milan. They should aim higher than just ‘good players’ from clubs that just got relegated. At least we bought in players from Napoli, Juve, Atalanta and Fiorentina. The Bennacer kid is 21 and seems promising but Krunic is 25 going on 26. He reminds me of those weird Roman transfers during the Sensi area (Diamoutene, Barusso, Guberti, Gilberto Martinez). But hey, that means Roma can wipe the floor with Milan this year, right? Right?

Jimmy: The Moise Kean sale seems to be the wrong long-term decision for Juve, but I’ll go with a move that hasn’t happened yet as the most head-scratching. Inter has totally botched the Mauro Icardi situation, and there comes a point where you can’t just blame Icardi and Wanda for all of this stupidity. All in all, clubs around Europe didn’t know what to do with their quality strikers this summer, and it’s left me pretty confused.

ssciavillo: Going along with dallagente, you definitely have to question some of Juve’s moves. I was shocked when they shipped Kean out the door. I also understand Luca Pellegrini is a great prospect, but Spinazzola is a player who can help them win the CL now. I understand Cancelo to Man City was for financial reasons but it’s definitely a downgrade.

Bren: I’m a bit puzzled as to why Fiorentina are willing to give a 36-year-old Franck Ribery €4 million per season for two years AND his own physio, but to each their own.

4. What did you make of the Mauro Icardi situation? Does he have a path to redemption in Italy or should he move abroad?

dallagente: I’m generally an Icardi fan but one thing I’ll say I didn’t like about his behaviour, and I said this about Totti too, is I’m not a fan of players turning down moves elsewhere then carrying on in front of their own fans with the whole “I gave up moves elsewhere to stay here.” It’s lame. Don’t do it. Be happy with where you are or move to somewhere where you can be 100% at peace with your choices.

JonAS: If he can’t bear with those Inter fans, then God, keep away from Rome. Those tifosi are insane and Icardi will end up in jail if he walks on the Via Del Corso after a 1-2 loss to SPAL. If I had to pick a team that suits Icardi, it would be Napoli. He, Mertens and Insigne would form a truly frightening attack. But for his own safety, he should move abroad and try a new experience where he can start with a clean slate. Spain perhaps?

Jimmy: He’s got the talent to succeed nearly anywhere, it’s just a question of whether he has the mentality to do so. I’m happy Roma went with keeping Dzeko instead of going after Icardi, because, like JonAS, I’m skeptical he could’ve succeeded in the wolf-eat-wolf-world of A.S. Roma. In all honesty, I think his future is in the Premier League, where the fans aren’t as, um, passionate.

ssciavillo: The situation is a disaster. I think he’s one of the most lethal strikers in Serie A on his day, but his character flaws are very apparent. I think he stays in Italy. If Juve sells Dybala I think he ends up there, where he’s wanted to go all along. If Dybala stays the only real option becomes Napoli. I think Inter really hurt themselves in terms of sale price if this ends up being the only potential suitor with Roma now out of it. Both Icardi and Inter really botched the whole situation in my opinion.

Bren: I guess the tragedy (for lack of a better term) in all of this is simply that we’ll never know how close he truly was to Roma. I was willing and to ignore all the nonsense that comes with him simply because he is one of the most prolific strikers in the world, and if I were running things I would have pulled out all the stops. However, at this point, it doesn’t seem like he has a safe harbor in Italy, so maybe a high profile move to PSG would satiate the Icardi crew.

5. Who is this year’s Atalanta, the team that will dramatically exceed expectations?

dallagente: I’d take a punt on Bologna, purely because they brought Nicola Sansone back to the league and I love that guy’s game. And keep an eye on the feel-good factor at Fiorentina and Genoa, especially if the latter manage to hold onto Kouame.

JonAS: Agree with dallagente. Bologna also brought Tomiyasu and Denswil, two more than decent defenders from the Belgian league. Orsolini, the talented Skov Olsen, Roberto Soriano…They can at least put up a fight against the big teams. Also, the factor Mihaljovic is important. The players will be motivated and give their best for Sinisa after he spoke about his illness. I expect them to end close to the top 6 come May.

Jimmy: My heart says Brescia, because I’d love it if Tonali and Balotelli lit the league up. But my brain goes with dallagente and JonAS; Bologna looks like the kind of club that can beat up the smaller clubs and give the bigger ones headaches. I’m hoping that Roma has the positive mentality to not fall prey to Bologna next season the way they have consistently frustrated me against Atalanta. Half the reason I thought Gasperini might be a good head coach for Roma was because he wouldn’t be frustrating me with La Dea.

ssciavillo: I’m going to have to say Bologna or Genoa. Bologna looked great toward the end of last season and have really put a nice team together under Mihaljovic. Plus, there’s that extra motivation to give just a little bit extra for the ailing coach. I would also keep an eye on Genoa. They were nearly relegated last season, but have had a nice mercato brining in Pinamonti, Saponara, Zapata, while brining Romero and Radu back on loan again.

Bren: Well, I was tempted to say Torino or Atalanta (again) but we have to see how they fare in multiple competitions, should they stay alive that is, so I’ll go with Brescia. Now, exceeding expectations for them would mean finishing somewhere between 10th and 14th perhaps, but they have two outstanding talents in Balotelli and Tonali that should win them some hard earned points.

6. Can anyone...anyone...stop Juventus this season?

dallagente: I don’t know but that’s a club that does almost anything to act like Maurizio Sarri isn’t their coach. It’s an awkward fit up in Turin.

JonAS: Jason Bourne. James Bond. The Avengers. Bryan Mills from Taken? If you’re talking about football clubs, then I’m obliged to say one of Napoli and Inter. Just because 1) Napoli has kept its squad together with all the important pieces and 2) Inter had a spectacular mercato until now while Conte is a winner. If Conte and Ancelotti can make their machines work, then at least it will be a more exciting Serie A than the previous eight seasons.

Jimmy: JonAS, Bryan Mills requires too many jump cuts to complete an action scene to be able to take on Juve. My only guess as to who could take on Juve for the Scudetto is that it won’t be Napoli. That’s the obvious pick, and that’s the club Juve will be mentally fighting against all season. Look for Inter or maybe even Roma to give Juve a run for their money this season.

ssciavillo: Juve still has to be the odds on favorite to win the league again. However, I do think there is a bit more of an opening for Napoli and possibly Inter to take a crack at them. I agree that Sarri feels like an awkward fit. Meanwhile, entering Ancelotti’s second season, Napoli kept the team together, while adding a couple nice players. Inter added arguably the best Italian coach around and upgraded its roster big time. It shouldn’t be so easy for Juve this season.

Bren: I think if Napoli got Icardi then we could talk. They are a complete team, especially now that they have Manolas to pair with Koulibaly, but Icardi would give them that killer edge to complement Mertens, Insigne and Callejon among others. But as it stands right now, the only race in Italy is for second place.

7. Top scorer?

dallagente: Andrea Pinamonti mid-table heroics. Coached by Andreazzoli, supplied by Saponara, Schone and with Kouame as his foil. When was the last time Genoa had a capocannoniere? They’ve flirted with it through Milito, Pavoletti and Piatek. Pinamonti can be that guy and Roma need to be careful this weekend.

JonAS: Edin Dzeko. There, I said it. &*#% me.

Jimmy: Cengiz Ünder, don’t @ me.

ssciavillo: This is always a crapshoot. I mean who saw Duvan Zapata, Fabio Quagliarella and Kristof Piatek battling Ronaldo last year? I’m going to have to say Ronaldo though. I know it’s the easy pick, but in Sarri’s more open system I can see him scoring more than last season.

Bren: I’m not sure how often a new signing wins a scoring title, but I’ll stick with Lukaku, though Ronaldo and Piatek are sensible answers.

8. Will anyone crack the double-double this season (goals and assists)?

dallagente: Edin Dzeko, Cengiz Under, Lorenzo Insigne.

JonAS: I don’t think anyone in Rome will (maybe Ünder will come close). Gomez (Atalanta), Dybala (Juve) and Callejon (Napoli) are my picks.

Jimmy: Lorenzo Insigne or Zaniolo at Roma. I agree with JonAS that Gomez and Callejon are two others who have a shot, but I’d put in Miralem “The Bad Bosnian” Pjanic as the Juve player who just might make it happen. I still miss his free kicks.

ssciavillo: This is tough feat most guys to accomplish because very few goal scorers set up their teammates regularly. I think Ünder has a shot if he improves his finishing a bit. Meanwhile, Dybala and Ronaldo wouldn’t surprise me either. Nor would some of the Napoli boys like Insigne or Lozano (if he gets enough starts).

Bren: I think this is the year Ünder explodes, I could see him getting 10 and 10, and you have to think the likes of Insigne, Mertens, Ronaldo or even Dybala have a chance at reaching this plateau.

9. Who’s getting relegated?

dallagente: The three teams who came up. Especially looking at Verona as I have no faith in Juric on a Serie A bench.

JonAS: Verona, Lecce and one surprise: I’m doubting between Sassuolo and Udinese.

Jimmy: Verona, Lecce, SPAL.

ssciavillo: Verona, Leece (I hate to say it being of Pugliese decent) and one between SPAL and Udinese.

Bren: I think the combo of Balotelli and Tonali is enough to keep Brescia up, so I’ll go with Lecce, Verona and Udinese.

10. Lastly, if there was such a thing, who will be the Serie A MVP for ‘19/’20?

dallagente: They’d have to give it to CR7 for the promotion alone. Actually, I think they did create the Serie A MVP award in 2019. And it went to him.

JonAS: James. What? He’s the only one who can win the Serie A Most Valuable Pallotta!

In all seriousness, if Napoli or Inter can break the Juve hegemony this season, then it will be one of Insigne or Lukaku.

Jimmy: Well, I’m buying a Zaniolo third kit this season, so he’s either going to be the league MVP or get sold to Chelsea for €150 million; my kit picks run very hot or very cold. Who knows, maybe he’ll be MVP and get sold to Chelsea. That’d be very Roma.

ssciavillo: I’m going to have to go with the obvious choice of Ronaldo. He’s the best player in the league until somebody proves otherwise.

Bren: Now that I think about it, you might be right dallagente. Ronaldo seems to be the singular talent in the best setup to exploit his skills/feed his ego, so, as much as it pains me to say it, I think it’ll be him, but you can’t count out any of the Napoli attackers.


Well, we've had our say, give us your thoughts below and be on the look out for part two, in which we tackle the pressing issues Roma are facing this season.