Roma is no stranger to injuries. We are all too familiar with the injury crisis that struck Trigoria last season; often leaving Eusebio Di Francesco and Claudio Ranieri scrambling to make the pieces fit. With a new coaching staff, the hope was that the Giallorossi wouldn’t find themselves in a similar situation again. Yet, just two weeks into the Serie A campaign, and Roma has already been hard hit by injuries.
The worst part of the current list of walking wounded is the similar roles that they occupy in Fonseca’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Leonardo Spinazzola was the first to go down prior to the Genoa match. Joining him on the injured list in week one was Diego Perotti. Then Davide Zappacosta pulled up during pre-derby warm ups. And lastly, the dreaded international window saw Cengiz Ünder go down during Turkey training.
In those four ailments, Roma has lost it’s two likely starting wingers and two potential starters at full back. All wide players. Now, heading into match day 3 against Sassuolo, Fonseca may have to get creative. This is especially true at wing where options are limited. Additionally, the injuries to Spinazzola and Zappacosta indirectly limit wing options because Alessandro Florenzi almost certainly has to start at right back with them out. Without Florenzi, Fonseca’s choices will be even more limited.
Assuming all four of the aforementioned players miss out on Sunday’s match, let’s look at how Roma could line up on the wings.
With Perotti and now Ünder injured, one would think that this is Kluivert’s golden opportunity to stake his claim to a starting spot. He’s the only healthy pure winger on the roster with Serie A experience, so he should be favored for a start. However, after a disappointing outing against Lazio, Fonseca could look elsewhere on the left wing. Namely the following man.
The newly arrived Mkhitaryan hasn’t had much time acclimate to his new team. However, with so many injuries to account for the Armenian could be thrown right into the fire. Mkhitaryan is a two-footed player, who could play anywhere across the attacking trio behind Dzeko. If Fonseca feels that he’s ready, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get thrown straight into the fire on Sunday. If Kluivert starts on the left then Mkhitaryan likely becomes the favorite on the right. Given his form with Armenia over the international break, there seems to be no reason why Fonseca would be hesitant given his lack of options.
We’ve seen this one before and although it’s not ideal, it’s certainly an option. We saw Zaniolo line up on the wing quite a few times last season, including one of his best performances of the season against Porto in the Champions League. He’s also moved there in game this season when subs have been made. However, the overall results for Zaniolo on the wing haven’t been as impressive as they are when playing a more central role. Fonseca could opt to go with Zaniolo on the right, if he decides to push Lorenzo Pellegrini up to the trequartista position. That would make space in the double pivot for one or both of Jordan Veretout and Amadou Diawara.
The least likely option of the group has to be Antonucci. The youngster played a total of 29 minutes in Serie A for Roma two seasons ago before playing on loan for second division Pescara last season. Antonucci has yet to see the field early on this season and will likely remain down the pecking order. We’ve seen flashes of his talent during the pre-season, but it remains to be seen if Fonseca feels that he’s ready for the big stage. One wonders if he would be an option off the bench or if Fonseca would prefer bringing in Santon at right back and sliding Florenzi forward in a pinch.
With Mkhitaryan’s current form and experience it seems likely that he starts on Sunday; the question being more of a where than an if. If Fonseca opts to go with Kluivert than Mkhitaryan will play on the right. Meanwhile, if he decides to slide Zaniolo out to the right and push Pellegrini up to trequartista then he likely plays on the left.
This decision could also be dictated by the starters in central midfield. Jordan Veretout looks likely to make his debut, which means Pellegrini could push up or one of him and Cristante could be benched. So, although Roma’s current injury situation isn’t ideal, with some creativity Fonseca could go with a few different looks. Nevertheless with Perotti already our long term, the Portuguese tactician will hope that Ünder doesn’t miss considerable time. The schedule will soon start to get very crowded with Europa League kicking off, so the more options the better.