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Roma's Player of the Year: Lindsey Thomas

Fiorentina may have Tatiana Bonetti, but we’ve got Lindsey Thomas. The Frenchwoman is Roma Player of the Season in my book.

AC Milan v AS Roma - Women Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Reading two seasons’ worth of Serie A Femminile coverage around the web has reminded me of one obvious adage: Goalscorers capture the imagination. It got to a point where the match ratings and player votes were lopsided enough that I wrote into L Football, this past spring, to tell them I felt the “Best Player of the Week” votes constantly being jam-packed with nothing but strikers was getting over the top. If it wasn’t already.

Ultimately, goals decide games and will always get more attention than they arguably deserve. That’s especially true when we’re still covering a sport that’s going without match analytics; the same crutch that us writers usually rely on to make the other areas of the pitch sound romantic.

For now, we’re reviewing the business end of the pitch: goals, assists and everything in between. At first this started out as a review of Roma’s entire front-line, but then I realised I had more than I expected to write about it’s best forward.

I know that Agnese Bonfantini has the superwoman physique, is Italian and undoubtedly captures the hearts and minds of Roma fans, but Lindsey Thomas is Roma’s MVP and Player of the Season—in my book—for 2019-2020.

AS Roma v Juventus - Women Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

For most of this season, I favoured Andressa to take the MVP accolade. But when you look at Thomas’ contribution and constant presence in this team, she’s the providing the most answers for the Giallorosse right now.

The signing from French club Dijon slotted immediately into Roma’s lineup, and arguably never left, as Thomas racked up 1,280 minutes of league play from 14 league starts and 16 league games. That’s the most game time of any Roma player this season, even more than first-choice keeper Camelia Ceasar.

Thomas also racked up the most assists of any Roma player (5), and finished at the club’s top scorer (9 goals). That puts her in the same echelon as Milan’s Valentina Giacinti (9), Sassuolo’s on-loan Daniela Sabatino (12), and Fiorentina’s all-round playmaker forward Tatiano Bonetti (12 goals).

Once again, Juve’s Cristiana Girelli put clear daylight between herself and all Serie A rivals up front (16 goals).

But, unlike Girelli, Giacinti and Sabatino, neither Tatiana Bonetti nor Lindsey Thomas are penalty-takers for their respective clubs.

AS Roma v Juventus - Women Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

That puts Lindsey Thomas in a category of her own, considering it is her debut season in Serie A; one where Thomas would have undoubtedly finished with double-figures from open play if 2019-2020 had been brought to its natural conclusion (she would have already done so, had a couple of chances away at Verona been put away).

When Thomas claims that Betty Bavagnoli tells her that she “just needs to believe in herself more”, that sounds absolutely spot on. The more Thomas sees how much of a difference she makes, the more Roma win games.

Thomas is not just a difference-maker in this league, but a top-level striker. In fairness to her younger teammates, the Frenchwoman just turned 25-years-old this spring and is in the prime of her career. But even so, Thomas walks the walk all the way, making herself a constant fixture in the starting line-up thanks not just to her goals and assists, but sublime link-up play.

We won’t hit you with any tactics boards in post, as most of the team’s build-up problems that the Giallorosse are working to overcome were dealt with when talking about the midfield early this week. Betty Bavagnoli is looking to keep building on an ambitious, possession-based style that takes some time to get ticking all the way into 6th gear, but the short-term trade-offs of drilling that style into the team are the same. Mainly, that attackers often go spells of the game looking isolated and starved of the ball.

That’s been the case since 2018’s inaugural season. Martina Piemonte’s aerial game couldn’t fix it last season, but Bavagnoli must be thanking her lucky stars that Lindsey Thomas has proven to be the ‘Weapon X’ of this year’s team.

AC Milan v AS Roma - Women Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

When fielded in the middle, Thomas shows an ability to time her drops between the lines and make herself open to receive a pass that is second to none in this league. She makes it easy for the Roma back-line and midfield to find her, while she’s already thinking 1-2 moves ahead of the defender as Thomas immediately flicks the ball on the feed Annamaria Serturini, Agnese Bonfantini or Thomas’ other teammates into the game.

You’ll often see a Roma player immediately go to celebrate with Thomas, simply because the Frenchwoman figures herself into the passing chain more often than not, and puts things on a plate for her teammates whenever Thomas isn’t scoring them herself. Younger talents Serturini and Bonfatini haven’t learnt this side of the game yet, as they prefer to use their blistering pace to run off the shoulder and stretch defences. But even in this area, Thomas is on a par with her teammates.

Roma’s number 19 isn’t short of pace, and she can slide through a change of gears at a moment’s notice that often catches defenders off guard. Her ability to peel off defenders and make herself free at the far post is lethal. She knows when to stretch games out wide and when to attack through the middle. Thomas versatility makes her truly unmarkable on her day. From any of the three starting positions up front, she finds her way onto the scoreline every other week.