Just imagine for a second that Fabio Capello would somehow wind up in Rome this summer and start his second tenure at the club. His goal? Nothing less than celebrating the Scudetto in 2020-2021. Difficult? Harder than completing Dark Souls on Playstation? Well, not really. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! Fabio would just reach back to his old recipe of the 3-4-1-2; a tried and trusted system that brings out the best of each and every player on the team.
For those of us who just saw a lot of different digits and no cohesion or visual concept (aka The numbers Mason, what do they mean??), let me explain.
3: Three central defenders (so no fullbacks) who guard the back-line and the keeper. Preferably a mix of right and left-footed defenders.
4: Two attack-minded fullbacks/wing-backs who own the entire right and left side of the field. They are extremely important for this system as they do their job on both the offensive and defensive end of the pitch. They’re fast and need to have a lot of stamina. Run, dribble, cross, block, movement, tackle; they can do literally everything. They don’t need to be world-class in one particular element, but they need to be decent/good in ALL of them. The other two players are preferably a box-to-box midfielder and a defensive midfielder who protect your defense, boss the midfield, and make sure the department up front doesn’t feel isolated. These two guys are thick as thieves; there needs to be a ‘click’. They also need to have a good understanding with the wing-backs for this formation to work.
1: Aaah, the trequartista. The attacking midfielder who links the midfield and the attack. The Totti position. An excellent play-maker who knows how to score and/or sprinkle with assists. With three central defenders and two central midfielders, this guy has more than enough room to focus on the attack. This is the creative compartment of the formation.
2: Two strikers but not the same profile. One is tall and strong, the other one is smaller but quick and agile. Always a good combo. The ‘second striker’ can draw away the opponent’s defenders from the main, big striker, who is the goal-scoring machine of the team. Together with the trequartista, they make a formidable tridente from hell.
All right, now let’s mix this all into an AS Roma 2020 Edition with our current crop of players. Who fits the bill?
The Keeper: Antono Mirante
Now, I’m probably gonna get a lot of slack for not choosing Pau Lopez, but back in 2001 the keeper was a certain Antonioli. He wasn’t the youngest anymore when Roma won the Scudetto (almost 32) and he was no Buffon or Casillas either. However, he was a more than decent keeper who did his job: solid, communicative and he knew Serie A inside out. Don’t tell me that doesn’t smell like Mirante to you. So my vote goes to Antonio... Hey, look at that, his name even sounds like the one from his 2001 counterpart!
The Central Defenders: Mancini, Fazio, Jesus
I didn’t like omitting Smalling, but I reckon this combo would do very well and I needed at least one left-footed CB so enter Juan, exit Smalling. Age-wise, this is perfect. There’s one older captain (Fazio), an up-and-coming talent (Mancini) and one player in his prime who’s neither a senior nor a spring chicken (Jesus). All three of them are no pushovers and physical freaks. Combined they can brag with tons of Serie A experience, sixteen seasons in total. I can see similarities between Samuel-Fazio and Zebina-Juan Jesus too. Fazio needs to be included because he’s our CB with the best feet while Mancini provides some youthful enthusiasm. Jesus feels the most comfortable in a central defense with three people, so that’s a nice bonus.
The Wing-backs: Spinazzola, Kolarov
Damn, the 2001 guys were Cafu and Candela, let me tell you, that’s a huge legacy. On the left I couldn’t help but pick Kolarov. He has the best left foot on the team, maybe even Italy. His engine is amazing and he can both defend and attack. You need him for the free kicks and corners as well. Although Spinazzola probably hates that right side, I think he’s the best option out there. We don’t know in which state Florenzi will return from Valencia and although Bruno Peres is a ‘Cafu type of guy’, Leonardo is younger, mentally stronger and Italian, which is a plus concerning my ‘Italian quota’. Both players are familiar with this whole ‘aggressive wing-back’ role too so they should fit right in.
Defensive Mid and Box-to-Box: Diawara and Zaniolo
Two of Roma’s most talented kids and they would love this system. Diawara is strong, has vision and can take on the Emerson role. The guardian of the midfield. For the Tommasi position, I doubted between Cristante and Nicolo, but Cristante is still too hot ‘n cold for me. Obviously this would mean Zaniolo taking a step back and operating deeper in midfield, but at his age and with his talent, why not? I think he can still contribute a couple of goals and assists in one season and with Diawara next to him, he can easily move higher up the pitch whenever he feels like. He will have a lot of work cut out for him and Nicolo loves that challenge.
Trequartista: Lorenzo Pellegrini
Pellegrini is a kind of player who can both frustrate fans, but also let them fall in love. Let me be clear: Lorenzo is not and will never be Totti, but with his particular set of skills, he’s suited for this role. He will have less defensive duties (which, let’s be honest, is something he’s not good at) and can focus on supplying the attackers. Creativity is no problem for Lorenzo, as long as he’s free to roam on the pitch with Diawara, Zaniolo watching his back. The potential between these three is enormous and a lot of clubs in Europe would be jealous of Roma.
The Tall and Small Striker: Dzeko and Kluivert
It was pretty clear from the beginning there is only one man fit to take on the Batistuta job: Edin Dzeko! I think enough has been said about Edin, the man’s pure quality and a damn fine striker, so he will be the main guy up front. Next to him, I picked Kluivert as the ‘Montella’ partner for Dzeko. According to my research, they are literally the same height! It was a tough choice between him and Ünder but I believe Kluivert’s ceiling his higher. While Kluivert is currently playing as a winger, it would be quite easy to transform him into second striker where he can still run, dribble or go out wide and exchange positions with Kolarov or Spinazzola. He does need to work on his finishing touch, but daddy Patrick can guide him through that process.
So the verdict is:
AS Roma XI Scudetto Edition: Mirante / Mancini Fazio Jesus / Spinazzola Diawara Zaniolo Kolarov / Pellegrini / Kluivert Dzeko
Five Italians, five guys younger than 25, four guys older than 30. A good mix between golden oldies and prodigies if you ask me. Let’s not forget the guys who will act as the Delvecchio, Guigou, Zanetti or Nakata’s of 2020: They remain a vital cog of this machine: Ünder, Cristante, Mickey, Veretout etc.
That was my take on the 3-4-1-2 implementation for the current Roma team. What’s yours? Should Smalling, Pau or Ünder be included? Do you feel Santon or Perotti need a mention? Not enough love for Mickey as trequartista? Feel free to unleash your lineups in the comments!