In our ramp up to Serie A's long awaited restart, we traveled back in time to remind you where Roma was in March, we've reset our expectations for the restart, and gave you a few names that must click right away in order for Roma to retain any shot at fourth place, but today we're going in the opposite direction. Gianluca Petrachi cobbled together a pretty solid roster despite some pretty hefty financial obstacles, but there are a few faces in the squad who might find their job in jeopardy if they stumble out the gate come June 24th.
What follows isn't an indictment of their talents, but given Roma's mandate—fourth place or bust (and I do mean bust)—and the prospect of an unprecedented summer sell-off, these guys have little room for error once Serie A resumes later this month.
Just yesterday, we noted that Spinazzola actually has a golden opportunity in this new reality. With 12 games jammed into basically two months, Spinazzola should have plenty of minutes at his natural left-back spot...buuuuut, let's be real: Roma already got rid of this guy in January and he’d be wearing the black and blue of Inter Milan if Antonio Conte weren't such a stickler for medical exams.
Picture this scenario, if you will. Spinazzola gets an early start at left-back and plays well enough for the first two-thirds of the match, but then maybe be flubs a keypass or two or leaves a man open at the far post and Roma drops points at the death, something they can ill afford since they basically have to go 12 for 12 to edge out Atalanta for fourth place.
With a razor thin margin for error, would it shock you to see Fonseca run Kolarov into the ground through the summer? He may be a bit older, but there aren't many players in better shape than Kolarov.
Petrachi has already deemed Spinazzola surplus to requirements before, so if he slips up at all, his days in Roma lightning bolts may be numbered.
Granted, this may not matter since he'll likely be sold anyway, but Cengiz, as explosive as he might be, has had his fair share of ups and downs in his young career. Plus there is the little matter of Carles Perez, Roma's winter signing from Barcelona who seems like more of a Fonseca-type winger than Ünder. And after a slow integration to the first team, Perez saw significant minutes for Roma in the Europa League, so he was clearly earning Fonseca's trust before the shutdown and if he gets off to a hot start it may come at Ünder's expense.
In truth, this is really a no-win situation. If Ünder goes on a tear, his value will go up and he'll be a goner come August. Conversely, If he struggles and loses playing time to Perez, he'll likely be sold to make way for the young Spaniard.
I guess what we're saying is, enjoy every last drop of Cengiz. These next two months will likely be his last in a Roma shirt.
Literally Anyone Who Plays Right-Back
As much as we decry Roma's plight at full-back, it's really been more of a right-back problem over the past...uh...twenty years. From John Arne Riise back in the day to Lucas Digne and Kolarov in recent seasons, Roma have always found a way to fill the gap at left-back, but they've struggled for continuity and quality on the opposite flank.
While I'll always maintain that Alessandro Florenzi was better than his detractors made him out to be, he did have some significant defensive limitations. But, let’s be honest, nearly every year they brought in competition for him, and each and every year he emerged victorious.
But once Florenzi was loaned to Valencia in the winter, things really got bleak. Bruno Peres bleak. With Ale gone, Paulo Fonseca really had to get creative. Left with no other option than to play Spinazzola out of position, pull Davide Santon off the bench, or roll with a guy who spent the previous several months in the Brazilian minor leagues, Fonseca opted for the latter—giving Peres his first taste of Serie A action in nearly two years.
As much as the next two months present an opportunity for these players, Spinazzola in particular, they could just as easily see their Roma job security slip even further if they fail to impress. Spinazzola could find himself on his third team in as many years, Santon could be kicked down the table to a relegation battler while Peres’ European career could come to an unceremonious end.
While we're at it, let's throw the three forgotten names into the mix: Florenzi, Zappacosta and Rick Karsdorp. Crazier things have happened, but if Florenzi really makes his mark with Valencia over the next couple of months, might he be welcomed back with open arms? If, however, he flounders then he may wind up in football limbo, enduring loan after loan.
The situation for Roma's other right-backs is a bit cloudier, but no less tense. For Zappacosta, he simply needs to prove he's healthy before Roma officially renew his loan, while Karsdorp has to get his head right and prove to Roma he's a reliable option.
The next two months will be unlike anything the footballing world has ever seen, but some things never change: perform or you're out.