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Season Preview: The Goalkeepers

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Pau Lopez looked like what Roma needed in pre-season but it’s still a big gamble on a keeper with little experience.

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

So I’m late with this one, but let’s bring some context to Roma’s goalkeeping gamble this season all the same. Could Turkish super-agent Bayran Tutumlu have made a valid point by questioning Roma’s huge spending on new signing Pau Lopez? And why are Roma so bad at managing solid keepers in the first place? Sure, we’ve got ourselves a reputation for building them up lately—thanks to Marco Savorani (and his predecessor)—but keeping them steady is the next step.

These are Roma’s goalkeepers headed into the 2019/20 season:

Robin Olsen - Persona Non Grata

Spain v Sweden -EURO Qualifier Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Truthfully, Robin Olsen was leading Serie A for best long-ball accuracy and all-around distribution last season until the spring. Sweden’s number 1 goalkeeper also pulled off impressive performances in the summer for his country against Spain, while he’s pulled off a better saves-to-shots percentage for Roma last season than the man replacing him did for Real Betis last year.

So what gives? Well, there’s been a suggestion that the mid-season firing of coach and sporting director took its toll on Olsen the most. Whether that’s true or not, the bigger problem was always Olsen’s bad tactical fit for Roma’s high-line football. The occasional blunders led to goals didn’t help him either.

But Olsen is still here even with his #1 jersey number stripped from him this week.

Unless Roma can find a taker for Olsen in the last days of the mercato (which should be easy given Olsen is relatively minuscule wages), Roma will be headed into this new season with four goalkeepers.

Pau Lopez - Spanish Roulette

Football friendly match Roma-Real Madrid Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Lopez was highlighted as one of our top three reasons to be optimistic about Roma’s chances of success this coming season. It’s common sense to field a keeper who looks to close down the space between him and his backline by coming out of goal when you’re playing a high backline. Pau Lopez has the nerve to do that without thinking twice.

And Lopez’s character throughout pre-season is the most re-assuring thing about his arrival. He’s vocal with a backline that badly needed someone to give them the carrot and the stick through 90 minutes, and Lopez doesn’t get himself down through his own errors.

But the errors are there. Lopez is known to be wanting for his positioning at times, and we saw that in pre-season goals conceeded to Real Madrid among others. It’s only thanks to his spell as a Tottenham reserve that he saw the light in beginning to re-invent himself as a sweeper keeper in the first place, which he’s been doing for one lone Real Betis season at top level until now. The only guarantee we can give about Lopez’s move to Roma is that Betis have done themselves seriously good business flipping the market an unproven talent.

If you’d told us Roma had finished 10th in the league with a keeper who’d saved less shots than Robin Olsen, and that Roma had managed to sell that keeper for anywhere between 23.5-30 million euros (the true figure is yet to be known) 12 months after bringing him in on a free, then what would we say? We’d say Roma hit the transfer jackpot while the other team look like mugs.

Perhaps Lopez’s eye-watering fee is down to the lack of sweeper keepers available in the market. Perhaps it was Petrachi helping Betis with their FFP accounts. But as long as Lopez performs and takes his career to that next level this season, no one will care to know the difference.

Daniel Fuzato - Feeling Very Olympic Today

FC Porto v AS Roma - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Fuzato has freshly turned 22 and is just under three years younger than starting keeper Lopez, but he’ll want his big break somewhere within the next two seasons. By then, Lopez may be going off for mega-money elsewhere or may be rooted to the Roma’s bench as an unsellable flop. But you can bet Fuzato will be keeping Lopez honest all the same.

The Brazilian is yet another tactical shoe-in for Fonseca’s ideal football, and I think we’ve gone over his impressive Primavera performances last season enough. He just needs his big break at pro level, while Fuzato has also recently been called up to the Selecao’s 2020 Olympic squad.

Alisson, Ederson, Fuzato. Not to mention the long-standing Cassio. The modern demands on goalkeeping suddenly made Brazil the place to be when it comes to unearthing diamonds in the rough between the sticks.

Antonio Mirante - Ole Safe Hands

Italy Training Session And Press Conference Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Last but not least, Roma’s only Italian keeper is a guy who’s been racking up more pre-season minutes than Fuzato and yet insistent on walking out to Roma’s (non)-opening day this August behind him. Whether Mirante meant that as a show of seniority in walking out last, or whether he’s the club’s third keeper is anyone’s guess.

Mirante is a reliable pair of hands as long as you put a block defence in front of him. His good performances in goal were helped by Claudio Ranieri drilling Roma to defend the 18-yard box against shots on goal as if it were the Battle of Helm’s Deep, but Mirante himself pulled out some miraculous saves along the way. Mirante was good enough to finish 2018/19 with more clean sheets than Robin Olsen, while GQ-model-esque ‘Tonio flew to train with Roberto Mancini’s Italy squad this summer.

Will he move for a chance at first-team football elsewhere and an outside shot at making Mancini’s Euro 2020 squad? Most signs point towards Mirante being happy in Rome as the wise pair of gloves from Fonseca’s bench.