We're more than a month into life under the Coronavirus cloud, and while I'd like to think that we as fans have adjusted to life without competition, we're clearly still struggling, grasping at any sporting straw we can find. From televised 2K games between NBA players to reruns of WrestleMania to that video of the volleyball playing dog, fans are lapping up anything remotely representing and/or reminding them of actual live sports. And god bless the leagues and their media partners for attempting to give us our fix.
But, as we all know, nothing is better than the real thing. And without a definitive end-date to the pandemic, no one is quite sure when leagues will resume play and what they'll actually look like. From the notion that all NBA teams will play in one venue in Vegas to the thought of cramming 100 MLB games into little more than three months, we’ve heard some pretty wild ideas how to conclude various leagues all over the world.
So, why not throw one more idea on the pile? What if, with time and safe venues running short, Serie A concluded their season with some sort of Round Robin five-a-side tournament played over a few weekends?
I can picture it now: A hurried but exciting five-a-side tournament with the only people in the stands being the next sides up to play, maybe the players mothers are sitting on the far side of the pitch with home made signs embarrassing their sons in grand little league tradition, and maybe we'd get some XFL-style in match interviews with the players.
It's a crazy idea for sure, but what would Roma's best five-a-side squad look like?
Here are a few options from the depraved minds of your CdT contributors. Feel free to leave your lineups in the comments.
GK: Lopez | D: Mancini | MF: Diawara | F: Ünder, Kluivert | Subs: Pastore, Veretout
My five-a-side is all about ball possession and athleticism. You don’t need a stonewall defense in this format, so I’m focusing on speed, agility, and touch in tight spaces.
Lopez gets the nod in goal because, well, because he’s the only real keeper on the team, but his reflexes and distribution would take to five-a-side like a duck to water, so he makes the cut. I was tempted to put Fuzato here just to make sure he’s still around, but I’m comfortable with Pau back there.
Chris Smalling is probably Roma’s best defender, but I’m opting for Mancini’s touch and lateral speed. Plus, as we saw earlier in the year, he’s not too shabby as a defensive midfielder. In this format, Mancini provides enough physicality to bully opponents off the ball while not slowing down the pace of play too much.
Diawara’s selection is obvious, right? Dude has touch and intelligence for days, plus in this type of football, we might even see a greater glimpse of his offensive repertoire. Bottom line: Diawara keeps the ball moving under normal circumstances and doubly so in this compacted football format.
Upfront, I’m leaning on Ünder and Kluivert’s unbridled speed and agility. Whether this fictional five-a-side takes place outdoors or with the benefit of boards and walls inside, you can’t stop these two in this format. Kluivert and Ünder may not be the finished products in grown-up football, but they’d be world beaters in this less restrictive environment.
Pastore’s touch and Veretout’s energy would be my bench tools.
GK: Lopez | D: Mancini | MF: Diawara | F: Zaniolo, Carles Perez | Subs: Pellegrini, Kluivert
I’m taking a similar approach to bren here but with some key differences up front. I’m going with players with some ball playing ability in the back and midfield. I’ll combine that with two of Roma’s more technically gifted players up front who can operate in the tight spaces of five-a-side.
In goal, Lopez is the obvious choice and not just because he’s Roma’s starter. Like bren mentioned already, Lopez has superb reflexes; something that’s key in this smaller format, where shots come at the keeper fast and furious. Additionally, Lopez is good at playing the ball on the ground, which is an added bonus in this quick moving game. Having a keeper that’s more than a shot stopper just makes the team that much more dangerous in attack.
Smalling has undoubtedly been Roma’s best defender this season, but I think Mancini’s game is more suited to five-a-side. Not only can Mancini match the physicality of opposing strikers but he’s also quick enough to close down the spaces in front of Lopez as the “lone” defender.
There’s only one obvious choice here, and I love Pellegrini for his passing and vision, but Diawara’s all-around game makes him ideal for this compact set-up. Diawara can move the ball in tight spaces to play in my side’s attackers, while also providing extra cover for Mancini. We’ve seen just how great Diawara is at breaking up opposing play on the standard pitch, so I’d imagine he wouldn’t be fun to play against in a compact playing area.
While I was tempted to go with at least one of the speedy attackers that bren opted for, I wanted to add some variation to my formation. Zaniolo was always going to be part of my side, but chose to go with Perez as my second forward as a surprise inclusion. What I love about these two is their ability to take players on with the ball. That’s an invaluable asset in tight spaces. Additionally, I love Zaniolo’s combination of pace, technique, and physicality. He can both bully defenders with his strength or dribble past them. Meanwhile, Perez is also pacy enough to beat defenders without the ball.
I’ll round out my bench with Pellegrini’s vision and passing and Kluivert’s pace to add another dimension to my attack.
GK: Lopez | D: Kolarov | MF: Diawara | F: Pastore, Mkhitaryan | Subs: Fazio, Zaniolo.
I want a five-a-side that can dribble to move the ball up and beat any opponent, make themselves open for teammates and, most importantly, know how to have fun.
What hasn’t been said about Pau Lopez and Amadou Diawara already? If keepers were judged by their feet, Lopez is the best keeper in Serie A this season and never ducks the responsibility to help in possession. The superlatives for Diawara’s ball-control and technique when receiving the ball are endless.
I’d have Kolarov in the backline as I want to trust my rearguard-player to be a deadly finisher, when he inevitably has to move up into attack at times. To that end, Fazio doesn’t hesitate to bury the ball when he’s in the opponent’s box and the big Argentine is deceptively good at dribbling with opponents with technique and timing alone (because we damn sure know Fazio isn’t athletically dribbling past defenders). So Fazio makes the bench.
With a reduced pitch, both Fazio and Kolarov’s stamina and age are less of a factor. Their experience and ability never to dwell on mistakes are crucial to keeping the team riding on a feel-good wave through up and downs.
Up front, I want Javier Pastore. He’s the man - on a par with Diawara - with the ability to receive the ball in the tightest of spaces, under the most pressure. Whether he has to pick the ball up at the back, middle or try and win the ball from up front doesn’t matter to Pastore. Everything said for Pastore goes for Mkhitaryan, who seems to relish playing defence even more than Pastore on his best day. Another thing I like about Miki is that he’s ice-cold in the box, with a deadly sense of when to slot the ball under or around the keeper, without Miki so much as looking up at goal before scoring.
Who’s backing them up from the bench? I could have gone with Kluivert or even Villar, but I went with Zaniolo. Because why not? Even though Zaniolo needs a lot of space to run into ahead of him in order to do his best, I feel like if we’re behind on the scoreline and need a comeback win, you want someone to make the opponent think twice about trying to go mano-a-mano with for the ball. Zaniolo’s imposing frame is that very weapon to turn the tide.
GK: Lopez | D: Smalling | MF: Veretout | F: Zaniolo, Ünder | Subs: Diawara, Kluivert
Pretty much agree with all that’s been said about Lopez. While he’s still not the next reincarnation of Alisson or Casillas, Pau is good with his feet, has quick reflexes and can even move forward to help his midfield when attacking. In Belgium we call it a ‘vliegende keeper’, a fly keeper or rush goalie.
Everyone else chose Mancini (younger) or Kolarov (fan favorite), so I dared to pick Smalling. But not just because I want to be different, oh no. Smalling is a physical beast, tall, fast, experienced, good in aerial duels. Mancini may be the more intriguing prospect but I bank on Chris to save the day since he’s less error prone than Gianluca and dares to kick a ball away when the going gets tough.
In midfield Veretout is my choice. He sometimes reminds me of Radja: a dynamo, relentless and fierce. Diawara has vision but in those quick 5 vs 5 games, I choose a more energetic and tougher type like Jordan with a bit more pace. He can clean up the mess but also help the two attackers further up the pitch, always ready to do the dirty work. The Swiss Army Knife from the team.
Up front Zaniolo and Ünder are my guys. Well, ‘kids’ actually. Two of the most gifted players on Roma’s squad. Fast, not afraid to dribble, oozing with talent and with a mighty good and precise shot which is very important on a smaller pitch. One taller, one smaller attacker to complement each other (agility-strength). I fear Dzeko might be to much of a ‘lamp post’ for this type of game.
On the bench there’s Diawara for obvious reasons stated above by my fellow colleagues and Kluivert, to run at tired legs in the dying moments of the match.
GK: Lopez| D: Mancini | MF: Diawara | F: Zaniolo, Kluivert| Subs: Pellegrini, Smalling
Pau Lopez gets the spot in goal because he’s our best goalkeeper and it isn’t particularly close. He’s not as flashy as Alisson and he’s not as big a name as Sczezsny was, but he’s dependable between the sticks and has height, reflexes, and even some sweeper-keeper ability on his side.
Beyond my personal fandom for Mancini, I think that his ability to boss people around (with shades of a younger Fazio’s game) makes him the perfect defender for a five-a-side game. The idea for my non-Pau Lopez players is to have a team that can run for ages and track forwards and backwards, and Mancini has more juice in his legs than Smalling at this point in their respective careers.
Diawara’s skill set fitting into a five-a-side match has already been discussed ad nauseam above me, so I’ll let others speak on it better than I ever could.
Zaniolo and Kluivert are pacey young forwards who have the ability to track back. They’re technically gifted and they can score some fun goals. Zaniolo would most likely be the workhorse when it came to getting actual goals in the net, whereas Kluivert would be more of an assist machine. Regardless, I think they both are quite up to punishing any goalkeeper on the planet if they’re given free reign.
My subs are Pellegrini (he’s simply too good to leave out of this team, despite his lack of versatility when compared to Diawara) and Smalling (he’s also just too good, and if I wanted to have two defenders on the field at once, I love that Smalling-Mancini pairing).
Those are our picks, who would you take in your five-a-side team?
Which Roma player would be your first pick for a five-a-side match?
This poll is closed