While there are certainly more catastrophic knee injuries one can sustain, damaging one's meniscus, particularly multiple times in a short span, is no laughing matter. And it's precisely that pickle in which Amadou Diawara currently finds himself. For the second time in fourth months, Diawara will potentially require surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee, an operation that could keep him on the shelf for approximately three months.
Further complicating matters is Roma's uncertain financial status. With the takeover of the club still weeks away, no one is quite certain how much, if anything, Roma has to spend on transfers in the short-term, so we can't assume Gianluca Petrachi will simply dip into the transfer market to find his Diawara replacement.
And the operative word there is replace. No matter what you call Diawara's role/position, he is certainly one of the best up and coming midfielders in the world. With a motor for days, a deft touch and an understanding that defies his 22-years, he might be one of the best young players Roma has ever had.
So, with that in mind, here are a few ways Roma can cope without their Guinean prodigy this winter. Let's call them the in-house emergency options.
Option #1: Do Nothing
As it stands right now, Roma has a nominal double pivot of Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante and while it's not Paulo Fonseca's first choice, both players have enough experience and talent to keep Roma close to an even keel before Diawara returns.
Given the depth and breadth of Roma's injury crisis this season, not to mention Fonseca's early lineup selections, we've seldom seen a Cristante-Veretout pairing in the double pivot, but not only is this the most cost effective option, it might be the only option.
The trouble with keeping this particular status quo is two fold. First, Veretout has already shown signs of fatigue in recent weeks, so expecting him to essentially log full 90s for three straight months in two competitions is a bit unrealistic, even for a player with stamina. Secondly, we're almost two years into Roma's Cristante experiment and we're still not sure how/when/where he fits in, so this could be a huge risk.
There is a flip side, of course, as Diawara's absence could be the kick in the ass Cristante seemingly needs, but he hasn't been particularly impressive this season. But again, given the club's financial constraints, this is the most linear path to staying afloat without #42.
Option #2: Move Mancini to Midfield Again
During Roma's last injury epoch, way back in October when they were missing Diawara, Veretout and Lorenzo Pellegrini, Paulo Fonseca reached deep into his bag of tricks and made a temporary midfielder out of Gianluca Mancini, the future of Roma's back line.
And it worked incredibly well. During a four-match spell in late October and early November, Mancini paired with Veretout in the double pivot—leaving the defensive duties to Chris Smalling and Federico Fazio—posting some of his highest rated matches of the season.
Mancini flashed impressive range, technique and touch for a kid playing out of position and Roma barely missed a beat, winning three of four matches with Mancini in the midfield. With Smalling, Fazio, Juan Jesus and even Davide Santon capable of playing center-back, Fonseca does have the flexibility to go to this well once more.
Option #3: Call Up Riccardi, Push Back Pellegrini
In a series of moves involving local boys, Roma could temporarily solve their Diawara problem while also giving some minutes to their brightest Primavera prospect. Alessio Riccardi was our 8th ranked U-23 prospect this summer but he's undoubtedly the best of Alberto De Rossi's Primavera bunch and has little left to prove at that level.
In this fictional solution, Roma would call up Riccardi, placing the soon to be 19-year-old in the heart of their attack where his speed, technical ability and sense of urgency could be a boon to Roma's at times sluggish attack, while pushing Pellegrini back to the double pivot.
Pellegrini is among the league leaders in assists, so this might seem odd on the surface, but remember he started the season off in a deeper role, pairing with Bryan Cristante in the double pivot. It wasn't an ideal utilization of his skills, but at the time it was the only way to get him and Nicolo Zaniolo in the lineup at the same time.
A lot has changed since then, but in these desperate times pushing Pellegrini back and throwing Riccardi to the fire is plausible and would cost Roma nothing. What's more, Pellegrini's passing could be a boon to Roma's build-from-the-back approach while promoting Riccardi would finally give us all a chance to see if the hype is warranted.
Option #4: Make Immediate Use of Roger Ibanez
Assuming this deal is all but official, we can include Roger Ibanez as an in-house option. While his actual Serie A experience is effectively nil, as we discussed last week the kid seems ideally suited for Fonseca Football and even has experience playing in midfield.
If this deal goes off without a hitch, Fonseca can throw Ibanez in the deep-end as a central defender, thereby allowing Mancini to play midfield, or test Ibanez's flexibility and start his Roma adventure off as a midfielder.
This is probably the least likely option, but the fact that it's even a remote possibility speaks to why Roma were (or are) so eager to sign him to begin with.
There is no perfect solution to replacing a budding world class midfielder like Amadou Diawara, but with Roma unlikely (or perhaps unable) to secure help on the open market, there are a few viable internal options.
But which one should Fonseca choose?