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Roma Needs a Long-Term Solution in Goal: Here’s Who They Should Target

With Pau Lopez failing to live up to expectations and Antonio Mirante’s age beginning to show, should Roma do some holiday shopping at the goalkeeper position?

AS Roma v Wolfsberger AC: Group J - UEFA Europa League Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images

Up until recently, I never viewed the goalkeeping position as one of immediate need for the Giallorossi. That changed when I joined David Amoyal as a guest on his Calcioland podcast. Prior to my conversation with David, I always viewed attacking midfield and right back as two positions where the winter mercato might necessitate a move.

David on the other hand pinpointed Roma’s last line of defense as the position that could cost the Giallorossi in the standings after Antonio Mirante’s display against Napoli. Since then, Mirante’s shortcomings were brought under the microscope again against Atalanta.

Meanwhile, we have pointed out Pau Lopez’s deficiencies numerous times. And with the Spaniard losing his starting job to 37-year-old Antonio Mirante, it’s pretty clear that Paulo Fonseca isn’t very high on Lopez.

And while Mirante has been solid most of the time this season, given his age the David Duchovny doppelgänger certainly isn’t the long-term answer. So, with Lopez seemingly going down the Robin Olsen path and Mirante merely a stop-gap, could Roma decide to target a new number one between the sticks as early as this winter?

From a financial standpoint, it’s possible (albeit unlikely), but given Mirante’s age, Roma will likely need to pursue a keeper who could provide more security in net than Lopez or his predecessor, Robin Olsen, ever have. Luckily for the Giallorossi, there are plenty of quality keepers on Serie A’s mid-to-lower table sides. So, if Roma goes shopping for its third keeper in four seasons, i Lupi could have quality options at various price points.

With the holiday season upon us, let’s go shopping with Roma’s money and buy a keeper that the Giallorossi could hopefully rely on for years to come.

Alessio Cragno

Cagliari Calcio v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Emanuele Perrone/Getty Images

Current Club: Cagliari

Market Value: €20 million

Age: 26

Height: 1.84 m (6’0”)

Performance This Season

The 26-year-old Italian has been linked with Roma in the past, but in the summer of 2019, Roma ultimately purchased Lopez, and ironically enough it was Cagno’s shoulder injury that opened up a loan move for Robin Olsen with i Sardi last season. Cragno was limited to just 16 matches last season due to the aforementioned injury. However, this season he’s bounced back arguably better than ever before and is just entering his prime years.

With goalkeepers, traditional statistics don’t tell the whole story. Depending on how leaky or stout the defense in front of a particular keeper is, that keeper’s goals-against average could be skewed heavily. Cragno’s number suffers from a particularly porous Cagliari defense.

Amongst goalkeepers with a minimum of five league starts, Cragno ranks 18th in the league with a 1.93 GA/90. On the surface, that looks lousy, but again, he mans the net for Eusebio Di Francesco’s Cagliari. And we all remember the way Alisson’s net was peppered in EDF’s system.

When you take into consideration the number of shots he actually faces, particularly on-target attempts, his numbers become a bit easier to swallow: Cragno has faced a league-leading 86 on-target attempts, far more than the 50 Lopez and Mirante have faced combined and ten more than the next highest total (Luigi Sepe's 76). Cragno has actually saved more shots than Roma keepers have faced, as he leads the league with 60. That gives him a .709 save percentage, which is 7th best among qualifiers.

When delving into Cragno’s more advanced statistics, he’s performing just about as expected. He’s allowed 27 goals, while his Post-Shot Expected Goals—a stat that measures goals a keeper should theoretically save—is 26.5. That means he’s allowed 0.5 goals more than expected, which rates him 7th among keepers with at least five starts. In comparison to Mirante’s -3.3 PSxG +/-, it’s a solid number. However, Lopez in limited time (only 3 starts and a 16-minute sub appearance) currently would rank 6th at +0.5 PSxG +/- if he qualified.

Fitting for a keeper who has faced a ton of shots, Cragno has also faced a high number of crosses. Opponents have sent 131 crosses into Cragno’s area, which is the fourth-highest total in the league. Of those 125, he’s stopped 11 or 8.4%, which is the sixth-best percentage in the league.

In terms of his distribution, Cragno completes 72.9% of his passes. In comparison, Mirante completes 77% of his passes and Lopez 77.3%. Another area where he rates highly is in his distribution on “launched” passes of more than 40 yards. Cragno has completed the 7th most launched passes (85) and at the 5th best rate (50.3%). However, Mirante ranks slightly higher with 53%, the third-best mark in the league. It would be interesting to see if Cragno’s percentage would jump up a bit launching to a striker like Dzeko, who’s strong hold-up play could boost Cragno's launch percentages.

Cragno doesn’t rate highly as a sweeper, though. In terms of defensive actions outside of the penalty area, Cragno rates 16th best in the league with 0.36 actions per 90 minutes. And his average distance from goal when performing defensive actions is 12.4 yards, which ranks 17th. In contrast, Mirante ranks 5th at 15.9 yards from goal. And Pau Lopez, who doesn’t meet the minimum appearances threshold, averages 14.7 yards.

Longer-Term Trends

Playing on a poor Cagliari side, Cragno's goals against has been pretty abysmal this season, but his career numbers are much better, especially in terms of PSxG +/-. In the ‘18-’19 season, Cragno was +4.3 (38 matches) and in ‘19-’20 he was +3.6 (16 matches), both of which ranked 6th in the league. Cragno has also ranked 3rd overall in save percentage in that time.

How Does He Grade?

SofaScore looks at player trends over two seasons and grades each player in five areas on a 100-point scale. For keepers, those categories are Aerial (AER), Anticipation (ANT), Ball Distribution (BAL), Saves (SAV), and Tactical (TAC). Those rates are then compared to the average rates for the position (radar graph on the left).

As you can see, Cragno ranks highly for his shot saving ability and ball distribution. The former is a reflection of Cragno’s great reflexes—something we saw on display recently against Roma. Furthermore, by completing 70% of his passes and 50% of his launched balls, Cragno remains above average in those distribution areas as well.

Meanwhile, he falls right around the mean for his aerial and tactical ability. The former is probably an indictment on his less than ideal height for the position. Where Cragno falls short is in his anticipation, which is reflected in his fairly low defensive action numbers as a sweeper.

Juan Musso

Torino FC v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Current Club: Udinese

Market Value: €20 million

Age: 26

Height: 1.91 m (6’3”)

Performance This Season

Argentine keeper Juan Musso arrived in Italy for the 2018-19 season after Udinese scooped him up from Racing Club in his native Argentina. Musso quickly established himself as the number one for the Bianconeri in his maiden season and has emerged as one of the peninsula’s more intriguing keeper prospects since then.

Musso’s Udinese side has been a bit tougher to breakdown than I could’ve ever expected this season. I had them pegged for the relegation battle, but so far the Bianconeri sit 12th in the league on 15 points with one match in hand. Udinese has done it with one of the best defensive records, but worst scoring rates in the league. It’s not an ideal way to secure points, but, as we’ve often seen, the best defenses usually tend to be more successful than the best offenses during crunch time.

After missing two matches due to a meniscus injury suffered on international duty in October, he’s the only guy in this group not to play all of his team’s matches, playing in only 11 of 13 matches.

In those 11 matches, Musso has allowed 13 goals, which translates to 1.18 GA/90—the 6th best rate in the league. Meanwhile, the Argentine has faced just 30 shots and saved 19 of them, which is good enough for a .600 save percentage. That ranks only 19th among the 23 qualifiers and is lower than 18th place Mirante’s .615. It’s a surprisingly low number for a keeper of Musso’s quality.

Of course, traditional stats like that could be skewed, especially when you consider the fact that Udinese packs it in defensively, limiting opponents' shots on target. As a result, teams typically have to hold out for higher quality chances against Udinese. So, while Musso may not face a great number of shots, he faces quality shots, which means Musso has fewer chances to make routine saves to boost that percentage compared to others on the list.

However, for as few goals as Musso has allowed, the advanced metric of Post Shot xG scores Musso as a -1.5. That number ranks 24th among Serie A keepers, but is still better than Roma’s overall -2.8 PSxG +/-.

In terms of passing, Musso completes 70.5% of his passes, while his launched ball rate of 40.7% ranks in line with Cragno’s 39.2%, but his completion percentage of launched balls (37.4%) ranks 21st of the 23 qualifying keepers. In terms of average pass length, his 36.4 yards ranks 9th in the league.

Musso rates highly in his command of the area on crosses. Naturally, playing fewer matches, Musso has faced fewer crosses than other keepers (62) but stops them at one of the highest rates in the league at (9.7%). In comparison, Roma’s keepers stop crosses at a 4.9% rate.

Musso also has been fairly aggressive outside of the penalty area with 0.80 defensive actions per 90, which is the 8th best mark in the league. That number is almost in line with the 0.86 posted by Roma’s keepers; Musso averages 13.7 yards from goal on those actions.

Longer-Term Trends

With a .769 save percentage last season and .752 in 2018-2019, Musso's current save percentage (.600) seems like a bit of an aberration, as do his PSxG +/- figures: his current total (-1.5) is far worse than his prior two seasons with Udinese (+3.7 and +2.8).

Meanwhile, in his three-season Udinese career, Musso has consistently been strong against crosses. Additionally, Musso’s overall passing percentage has hovered around 70% in that time. However, he has become more aggressive as a sweeper this season, which likely comes down to tactics under manager Luca Gotti.

How Does He Grade?

According to SofaScore, like Cragno, Musso ranks strongly in both his shot-stopping ability and ball distribution. However, Musso also ranks fairly high in his aerial ability and his tactical awareness. He’s rated far above average in all four categories. Musso’s weakest area is in his anticipation, where he ranks just below average.

Marco Silvestri

Hellas Verona FC v FC Internazionale - Serie A Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Current Club: Hellas Verona

Market Value: €6 million

Age: 29

Height: 1.91m (6’3”)

Performance This Season

Prior to this season, Silvestri probably wasn’t a name that intrigued you. In fact, before last season, the Italian wasn’t even a regular in Italy’s top flight, or any top flight for that matter. Prior to arriving at Hellas for the 2017-2018 season, he bounced around with various clubs at various levels, making just three appearances in Serie A with Cagliari. The majority of his experience prior to Hellas’ promotion to Italy’s top flight last season was with Leeds in the English Championship and stops in Italy’s lower divisions.

However, that all changed last season when Silvestri became Hellas’ starter, and his star has risen ever since. Unlike the other trio of keepers on this list, Silvestri is the only one playing for a top-half side. For the second season in a row, Hellas Verona is outperforming expectations and Silvestri has had a big hand in that.

Silvestri has played all 14 of Verona’s matches so far and Hellas has the 3rd fewest goals conceded (14), trailing only Napoli (12) and Inter (13). So it should come as no surprise that Silvestri’s 1.00 GA/90 is tied for 3rd lowest in Serie A.

But just because Hellas has a stout defensive record doesn’t mean Silvestri doesn’t see his fair share of shots. The Gialloblu are often content to cede possession while attempting to press opponents into mistakes, which has resulted in Silvestri facing 58 shots—the sixth-highest total in the league.

Nevertheless, with his net being peppered with shots, Silvestri has stood stall, saving 44 shots at a league-best .776 rate. His PSxG +/- rate of -0.2 may seem poor, but considering that 0 is basically average, Silvestri is essentially stopping the shots that he is expected to.

Taking into account Verona’s style of absorbing pressure and then trying to break, Silvestri has attempted the most launched passes in the league by far (314), which also translates to the highest percentage of launched passes attempted (69.2%).

And when Silvestri boots it, he really boots it. His average length of 47.1 yards is six yards better than second-ranked Mattia Perin of Genoa. However, even though he’s completed the fourth-most launched balls (96), he's only completed 30.6% of those attempts, the worst rate among the 23 qualified keepers. The next worst rate is Gigi Donnarumma at 35%. And his overall passing completion rate of 44.4% is also very low.

Moving to a team like Roma, a club that tends to hold possession against weaker sides and play on the counter against bigger sides, Silvestri would have to make a stylistic change, focusing more on shorter passes than launched balls. However, when he does launch the ball, he would have one of the best hold-up strikers in the league (Dzeko), so we can expect his success rate to climb a bit.

In terms of other actions, Silvestri has faced the second-most crosses (146), but has the 20th-worst stop success rate (3.4%), though it's better than Mirante's (2.4%), Silvestri, like Cragno, tends not to stray too far from his line, averaging just 0.34 defensive actions outside of the penalty area and performing those actions just 13 yards from the goal.

Longer-Term Trends

Even though he’s the oldest keeper on this list, Silvestri is the most difficult one to get a long-term read on due to his limited top flight experience. Last season, much like this one, Silvestri rated highly in his save percentage, ranking sixth in the league (76%). However, that high save percentage didn’t translate to a high PSxG +/-, as Silvestri was 19th at +0.3.

Similar to last season, Silvestri had a very low overall passing completion percentage, but that’s likely attributed to Ivan Juric’s tactics as Silvestri attempted 100 more launched balls than the next guy. But, even in this area, Silvestri wasn’t particularly successful completing just 26.9% of his 718 attempts.

How Does He Grade?

After examining his numbers, it’s not surprising that SofaScore grades Silvestri strongly in just one area: shot saving ability. Silvestri has great reflexes, which has allowed him to post a strong save percentage in back-to-back seasons. However, the only other area where he ranks better than average is in his tactical awareness. In every other area, Silvestri ranks right at or just above the mean for his position.

Bartlomiej Dragowski

Juventus v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Sportinfoto/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Current Club: Fiorentina

Market Value: €15 million

Age: 23

Height: 1.91m (6’3”)

Performance This Season

The 23-year-old Dragowski is the youngest player on this list, but don’t let his age fool you. Despite lacking a ton of top-flight experience, Dragowski has already earned a cap with his native Poland. That’s no small feat considering Wojciech Szczęsny regularly starts for the national side and is backed up by veterans Łukasz Fabiański and Łukasz Skorupski. Giallorossi fans are familiar with two of those three and Dragowski likely projects to be the heir to Szczęsny long term.

Dragowski became a regular starter in Poland’s top flight at just 17 and after two seasons as Jagiellonia Białystok’s number one was purchased by Fiorentina. Dragowski played sparingly with the Viola and was loaned to Empoli for the first half of the ‘18-’19 season. The experience gained there sprung him into the number one role for Fiorentina and Dragowski hasn’t looked back since.

This season Dragowski has played all 14 of Fiorentina’s matches and, much like Cragno, plays in front of a very leaky backline. The Viola have under-performed in many aspects, so it’s no surprise that he’s middle of the pack in goals allowed with 1.50 per 90 minutes. And much like his goals-against average, Dragowski’s save percentage is good but not great at .684 percent on 57 shots faced.

While those numbers aren’t all that impressive, the recent clean sheet against Juve means that Dragowski is actually slightly outperforming his Post-Shot Expected Goals by +0.5. That currently ranks 5th among keepers with at least five starts and is the best among the four keepers on this list. He’s also only one of eight keepers (regardless of number of starts) to post a positive figure in this advanced metric.

Dragowski also ranks highly in terms of his sheer number of launched passes completed with 85 but considering he’s attempted 203 his actual completion percentage (41.9%) is fairly low compared to other keepers. And his overall passing percentage is lower than Musso and Cragno at 66.3%.

In terms of sheer number of passes attempted, Dragowski has been one of the most active keepers in the league. His 359 passes attempted ranks 5th in the league and he leads the league in thrown passes. Of those 359 passes, 47.4% of them are launched passes of more than 40 yards. That ranks fourth in the league. And the average length of his passes is the second longest in the league.

Dragowski doesn’t stop opponent’s crosses into the penalty area as well as Cragno and Musso, but his 5.5% rate is middle of the pack and is still an upgrade over Mirante (2.6%) who’s last in the league among qualifiers. In terms of being a sweeper, Dragowski is comparable to the other keepers on this list with 0.43 defensive actions outside the area per 90 minutes.

Longer-Term Trends

In terms of save percentage, Dragowski is slightly under-performing this year compared to his prior two seasons. His best rate came on loan with Empoli during the ‘18-’19 season when he saved nearly 77% of shots; that came down a bit when he was recalled to Fiorentina in January (71%) but remained in line with his first full season as the Viola starter when he stopped 72% of shots during the 2019-2020 season.

Meanwhile, his PSxG +/- performance has consistently hovered around 0.0 to +0.5 during his time with Fiorentina, though never reaching quite as high as his six-month loan spell at Empoli (+1.9).

Additionally, Dragowski’s overall passing percentage and launched ball completion percentage have been in line with this season’s numbers. So have the advanced metrics on crosses and in his performance as a sweeper. If anything, we can say Dragowski has been solid and consistent in his time in Italy’s top flight.

How Does He Grade?

And indeed, SofaScore’s grading speaks to Dragowski’s consistency. The Pole is the only keeper on this list not to grade 80+ in any of the five categories but also doesn’t rank below the mean in any either. Dragowski ranks highest in his ball-playing ability (79) and is also solidly above average in his tactical awareness. However, he is only slightly above average in his shot-stopping ability, aerial ability, and anticipation.

Who Should Roma Pursue?

From a financial and logistical standpoint, making a move for a keeper in January will always be a difficult proposition. First off, Roma would likely have to find a taker for Pau Lopez in goal. And while this could happen in a loan swap, Lopez would probably move to a less successful club and may instead prefer to stick with Roma and battle it out with Mirante to be the top dog the rest of the way, proving he can be counted on at a top club in 2020-21 and beyond.

Additionally, Roma would have to find a club willing to part ways with a quality keeper mid-season and likely take on a riskier keeper in Lopez. If Roma was to pursue any of these four keepers in the upcoming mercato, I’d tend to think that Silvestri would be the most likely candidate. The Italian carries the lowest price tag and Roma has done business recently with the Gialloblu.

However, if I were Tiago Pinto, I’d err on the side of caution in pursuit of Silvestri. Taking nothing away from his performance over the last 18 months, the long-term trends show Silvestri to be a great reflex save keeper, but not particularly strong in many other areas.

If Roma could get him on a loan swap with a fairly affordable option to buy (under €10m) then I’d be all for Silvestri in January. He’d be an immediate upgrade over Mirante and Lopez. However, from a longer-term perspective, I’d prefer Roma to go in a different direction.

Given his numbers and the price tag Fiorentina would likely slap on him, I’d eliminate Dragowski. In an ideal world, I’d like Roma to either survive the rest of the way with what they have or pursue a six-month loan for a solid if not spectacular veteran like Salvatore Sirigu who could be re-energized playing for a bigger club. Then they could pursue Cragno or Musso in the summer.

Both players would cost Roma upwards of €20 million, which is always a big risk as we saw with Lopez. However, either one would provide the Giallorossi with a keeper that’s proven in the Serie A and just coming into his prime years—both are 26. Both provide superb shot-stopping ability with the added benefit of being able to distribute from the back—exactly what Roma thought it’d be getting in Lopez. Given his height advantage, Musso is better in the air, but Cragno is also solid in this area.

I’d be ecstatic if Roma could pull off a move for either this summer. But something tells me they’d be more likely to land Cragno. Roma’s been linked with the Italian in the past and the Giallorossi have done some business with the Sardinian outfit in recent seasons. Additionally, Inter has reportedly been eying Musso as a replacement for Samir Handanovic, which could drive his price up to well over €30 million. Therefore, I think it’s time Roma make the move for Cragno come the summer, as it’s better he arrives (two years) later than never.


Who would you like to see Roma pursue at keeper?

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