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How to Build a European Team in 7 Days: Roma Women’s Preseason Begins

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We cover the 26 Roma players looking to launch their assault on the Serie A Femminile top 2 spots.

Italy Women Arrive in Valenciennes: FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Rave reviews came in for Roma’s top 4 finish last season, and Betty Bavagnoli took the Serie A Femminile Coach of the Year award to top it off. But you get nothing as a team for finishing outside the top 2 in this league. And so top 2 becomes the minimum aim this year. After that? Well, you can only go one better. But that’s for another day.

With no less than 9 summer signings brought into this season’s squad, a couple of new Roma players are blockbuster transfers by Serie A standards. Hell, signing Italy and World Cup star Manuela Giugliano is a blockbuster move by any standard. Transfer director Massimo Tarantino left barely anything to chance when backing Bavagnoli’s football for the new campaign. All the talk around the web is of Roma putting together the best mercato in the entire league this summer.

26 Roma players join Bavagnoli’s coaching staff in the high-altitude region of Norcia for a 7-day ritiro to forge this squad into a well-oiled machine to take on Fiorentina and Juventus.


HOW TO WATCH: Roma Femminile’s Pre-Season Ritiro

Location: Giulio Onesti Training Centre, Norcia

Still no one knows to where the club’s RomaTV+ free-to-air web stream disappeared. We’re betting it’s gone forever to Sky’s satellite platform, but the AS Roma Femminile and AS Roma Women twitter streams live on.

The club have announced that all training sessions on Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th of August are open to the media and public to attend. As well as the morning training session on Wednesday 7th August. Expect more social media coverage on these three days in particular.


The Keepers

Italy Women Training Session & Press Conference: FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Can Rosalia Pipitone keep her hold on the #1 spot this season? The veteran keeper just turned 34 years old this weekend, and Palermo-born Pipitone was one of three Italy players to be awarded in Sicily (along with fellow Sicilians Aurora Galli and Ilaria Mauro) for sporting achievements in the World Cup just past.

Pipitone waited till 2017 for her first-ever call-up to the Azzure, and a further year until she made her debut in Italy colours. She first moved to Roma in 2011 (back when the club was RES Roma) and conceded just 5 goals in 18 league games to help Roma’s promotion back to Serie A. She’s been a mainstay in goal ever since, but now faces serious competition in the form of Camelia Caesar.

Camelia Caesar, Lindsey Thomas and Manuela Giugliano join AS Roma
As Roma Women Twitter

Romanian-born dual-citizen Caesar knows all about shifting international keepers out of the starting spot, having first achieved the feat when taking over from Italy keeper (and Roma-born) Chiara Marchitelli back at Brescia. By 15 years of age, and owing to a serious injury sidelining Marchitelli, Caesar took over the Brescia gloves and kept goal for Biancoblu all the way to Scudetto title. Today, Caesar is still only 21 years old and yet one of the few names in this Roma squad who can say she knows what it’s like to taste league success - even if Serie A looked very different back then to how it is today.

Despite her success, Caesar was firmly relegated to the bench last season, once the AC Milan Women franchise took over Brescia. After an anonymous year spent in Milan, Caesar will be looking for career redemption in Rome and she’ll have fellow Romanian keeper Katia Ghioc for company. Ghioc has not been called up to the pre-season ritiro, but led Roma Primavera all the way to the Scudetto final last season.

Rounding out the goalkeeper department is loyal Roman Valentina Casaroli (as far as we know, no relation to former Roma player Walter). We’ve never seen Casaroli play outside of her cup appearances against former club Roma CF this past spring; she’s patiently stomached her zero league appearances under Bavagnoli despite Casaroli holding the #1 jersey in number alone.

Valentina Casaroli
Il Romanista

Casaroli once spent a year away from the capital as Napoli’s starting keeper, but reflected upon the experience to Calcio Donne: “It’s impossible to explain the love for a shirt and many may not be able to understand it. I’ve tried to leave town and wear other shirts but, when you step out onto the pitch, only one shirt truly belongs to you. Only one moves you close to tears every Sunday when you look up to the stands or high-give your teammates. For that alone, it was the right move to come back to Rome and re-live these emotions.”


Full-Backs

Italy v Netherlands: Quarter Final - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

There’s no doubt who takes the headlines in this department: Italy stalwart and Roma club captain Elisa Bartoli looks to lead out her hometown club for a second consecutive season. Bartoli was crucial to the Italian team balance and energy from the left flank in the 2019 World Cup, and we’re in no doubt the best articles are yet to be written on her Roma story. Young full-backs Eleonara Cunsolo, Angelo Orlando and Angelica Soffia would have to work miracles to shift Bartoli out of the starting eleven.

All three young full-backs are able to play on either flank, even if Soffia was seen entirely on the right flank last season and struggled to impose herself on the game. Still only 22, Cunsolo has made a name for herself over the last decade as an attacking prospect that loves to get up the pitch and score, Bartoli-style.

Italian youth international Orlando is looking to seal her successful recovery from an ACL tear, but she is the only member of this pre-season squad yet to be assigned a jersey number.

Femminile Tavagnacco v Pink Sport Time - Women Serie A Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Then there’s new signing Kaja Erzen, who’s no mug when it comes to winning games and titles back across the border in homeland Slovenia. Erzen did damage to Roma’s league prospects by creating and scoring against the Giallorosse in a 2-2 draw between Roma and Tavagnacco last season. That alone may have been enough to convince Roma to sign her this summer, and it’s assumed she’ll be playing right-back even if Erzen is capable of playing winger and striker.


Centre-Halves

Italy Women Training Session And Press Conference Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Having chosen to say goodbye to Florentia-bound Emma Lipman over the summer, it’s now up to Federica Di Criscio to assume full-time ball-playing responsibilities out the back for Roma. Di Criscio is a makeshift defender moved back from her original place in midfield, but she’s the best chance Roma have at creating a partnership with American-born Jamaica international Allyson Swaby.

Juventus Women v AS Roma - Women Serie A Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Still only 22 years old and fresh from completing her first-ever Serie A and World Cup campaign in the same year, Swaby showed gradual improvement in a Roma shirt and hopes to convince Bavagnoli that she’s ready to be chief-stopper now. But there’s the teenage wonder-kid Heden Corrado for competition.

Corrado made sporadic appearances last season, but the Italian youth international is still talked about in media circles as a prodigy on the ball and born to help her side maintain control of the game. In what little we saw of her, Corrado always plays with her head up while looking to link Roma’s backline with midfield.

Sweden v Italy - Women’s U23 International Friendly Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Finally, shoring up the backline competition is new signing and fellow Italian youth international Tecla Pettenuzzo. Frankly, all we’ve seen of Pettenuzzo are highlights of her losing her markers and getting beaten to the ball in a nightmare game against Juventus last season. But Pettenuzzo was a mainstay of Sassuolo’s backline as she helped them to a 5th-placed finish just behind Roma. Bavagnoli’s staff see something in her, so we’re looking forward to Pettenuzzo’s chances of emerging as Roma’s surprise package too.

If Roma’s midfield and attack look well-stacked this year, the defence is where Roma look - truthfully - a little light. The biggest question marks lie over whether this really is a backline to qualify for the Champions League, but the defence will be ably marshalled by the best midfield the league has to offer.


The Midfielders

Giada Greggi of AS Roma in action during the women Italy cup... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/LightRocket via Getty Images

If there’s one thing we took out of Italy’s reverential 2019 World Cup campaign, it’s that you can get away with anything as long as you have a great midfield. And we’ll be damned if Roma didn’t take that concept to heart when putting together the engine room this summer.

On the linea mediana sits Giada Greggi to link up defence with the middle of the park. Greggi needs no introduction, as the Roma (and Roman) vice-captain took the league by storm with her high-calibre performances in all phases of play in 2018/19. Greggi is not just supreme in winning the ball back all over the pitch (previously a weakness of her game in her Primavera days before learning under Bavagnoli’s influence) but is near-impossible to disposses on the ball, marrying her technique to a goal-threat that shows itself when Greggi rampages further up field.

Paris Saint Germain v Linkopings Fotboll Club - UEFA Women’s Champions League Photo by Johnny Fidelin/Icon Sport via Getty Images

We assume her deep-lying midfield partner will be Norway icon Andrine Hegerberg, the elder sister of inaugural Ballon D’Or winner Ada. Truthfully, Hegerberg was openly critiqued in her PSG days for ‘not having what it takes to make the starting lineup’ by her former coach Olivier Echouafni. The Hegerberg sisters were meant conquer Ligue 1, on opposite sides of a Lyon-PSG title rivalry, but that all fell flat on it’s face when Andrine struggled to get off the bench in Paris. Dropping down to the less competitive Italian league should restart Hegerberg’s career, and she’ll give physical presence to Roma’s midfield.

The tip of the midfield spear is expected to be star-signing Manuela Giugliano. There’ll be a lot more said about Giugliano’s game on CdT before she’s ever kicked a Roma ball but, if you saw Italy’s World Cup campaign, then you know Giugliano’s performances helped bring an entire nation together.

Alternative View Portraits - FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019 Photo by Simon Hofmann - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Her shot and dead-ball technique is the best we have seen in women’s football all over the globe, but Roma’s new #10 isn’t satisfied with just being an attacking midfield maestro nowadays. She’s pushed herself to evolve tactically, and her read of the game means that - like Greggi - Giugliano is equally capable of playing the defensive game from further back (as she showed with Italy) as she is putting Serie A sides to the sword with her lethal presence anywhere around and inside the opposition penalty box.

Roma have put together an imperious midfield starting trio to take over the league, and it’ll be hard for Swiss playmaker Vanessa Bernauer (who graciously vacated the #10 shirt for Giugliano) to resume her place in the starting eleven, just as it will be for squad members Claudio Ciccotti and Manuela Coluccini.

Rounding out the midfield department is new-signing and midfield wonderkid Emma Severini arriving from Fiorentina. 2003-born Severini is an Italy U-17 intertional coming up the ranks, very much along the same prospects as Greggi and Giugliano before her, with the long, striding physique to dominate all over midfields of the future.


The Forwards

AS Roma v Juventus - Serie A Women Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Could Roma go for an “MSN”/”BBC” style front three this season? Bavagnoli seems to like her pacy, wide forwards who have the ability to come alive through the middle spaces they all work for one another inside the box. While we’re assuming Roma are going 4-2-3-1, it’s equally likely they could go for a Christmas Tree formation: a flat three midfield with Giugliano pushing up into space to join Serturini up front, in the space created by Andressa and Bonfantini pulling defences wide.

It’s hard to choose between Italian senior international Annamaria Serturini, Italian youth international Agnese Bonfantini and blockbuster signing Andressa for who combines the best package of pace, high-speed technique and finishing. Maybe we won’t have to choose if all 3 players start alongside one another. Roma opponents needing “ABS” brakes is a headline waiting to be published before long.

Italy v Netherlands: Quarter Final - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Serturini was Roma’s topscorer last season but we’ve been vocal about Roma’s fate resting with Bonfatini’s future in the capital, which looks to be secure until the summer of 2020 at least. Bonfatini’s talent cannot be underestimated (she’s the club’s pick for the the new kit launches alongside Bartoli - which says a lot about the icon she can become in Italian football), and Bonfantini’s improved her runs cutting inside to give opponents a long day at the office trying to keep up with her and Serturini’s pace.

Brazil v Jamaica: Group C - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Need more pace? More finishing? Enter Brazilian international and Nike icon Andressa, who’s arrival - like Giugliano’s - will be featured in-depth on CdT soon enough.

Andressa has shown pace, technique and a great eye for goal in her sporadic adventures through the more competitive French and Spanish leagues. If she can land double figures as Barcelona’s number 10 up front, you’ve got to guess that will translate to even more goals scored in the more open Serie A. Andressa will be looking for a top season in Rome to put herself in the spotlight for the 2020 Olympics next summer.

Backing up these three names could be Lindsey Thomas, a new arrival from Ligue 1’s Dijon. Thomas spent just one season helping the newly-promoted French club stay up in the top flight, and yet she was part of making them the second-highest scoring Ligue 1 team thanks to her pace and ability to stretch the backline both on and off the ball. It’s a common skillset among Roma’s forwards so far, but the Giallorosse have different options to lead the attack if Bavagnoli so chooses.

Prima Punta

Martina Piemonte (L) of AS Roma celebrates with team mates... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/LightRocket via Getty Images

Returning from last season is Roma’s New Jersey-born #9 Maria Zecca, who was just as willing to put her body on the line as the targetwoman she’s looking to replace in now-departed Martina Piemonte. Zecca saw sporadic action on the field last year and will have to find a goal-scoring edge to her game if she’s to live up to the role Piemonte struggled to carry out last season.

Italy U16 Women Portrait Session Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Zecca’s competition comes from new signing Amalie Thestrup, who we know very little about since we’d by lying if we said we’d seen a game in the Danish league. But Thestrup’s 32 goals scored in 48 appearances over 2 seasons with Danish club BSF tells you what she’s all about on the bottom line.

Finally, there’s Primavera talent and Italy U-16 international Alice Corelli, who’s goals helped fire Roma Primavera all the way to last season’s final with Corelli the league’s joint top-scorer. She’s built like she can take on anyone to win the ball back high for her teammates. Can Corelli do that and score enough goals to stay in Bavagnoli’s graces beyond this summer’s ritiro?

All answers await over the next seven days, before the new season’s September 14th kick-off gets us underway.