*Note: This piece is purely hypothetical and by no means a rant or statement against Fonseca. He’s Roma’s coach and I will back him until the minute he leaves us*
With four second places and a third place in Serie A, two Coppa Italia and a Supercoppa, Luciano Spalletti has made quite a legacy in Rome. There are haters and there are admirers. One thing you can’t deny is that Luciano almost always delivered the goods when he sets foot into Trigoria. He even managed it in two different decades (2005-2010 and 2016-2017).
Now, let’s assume for a minute Spalletti would indeed be brought in by Baldini this very day and start his third spell at Rome, how would AS Roma line up for the remainder of the season? I know a lot of tifosi are asking for a change. No more 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 like EDF, Ranieri or Fonseca. Why not try something different? A 3-5-2, 4-4-2, anything. A change of scenery.
Luciano knows the Roman environment very well and his 4-2-3-1 is renowned in Italy and beyond. But he also frequently used the 3-4-2-1 formation in his second stint at the club, which worked like a charm as well. A massive total of 87 points in the season 2016-2017 was the result and some memorable games like 4-0 in Villareal, 3-1 over Inter or the two-nil derby win.
The three man defense is a formation that suites nearly every player and has been suggested by many people around the club, so let's take a look at who takes the stage in Spalletti’s 2020 version.
GK (Wojciech role): Pau Lopez. I like Mirante a lot and he’s a more than decent as a second choice, but Pau Lopez is our number one, even though he may have a lot left to prove. Roma paid a lot of money for his services. Good feet, quick, agile. A modern keeper and perhaps even better than Wojciech if he just keeps a cool head. And please, let’s just forget his ‘Goicoechea moment’ in the derby, shall we?
CB 1 (Manolas role): Mancini. A young, quick, talented, athletic CB with a lot of energy. Yes, I like ‘em that way. Still rough around the edges but Gianluca has all the right attributes to succeed in Rome, just like Kostas. A hot head at times but there’s a reason why those guys are fan favorites in the Curva.
CB 2 (Fazio role): Smalling. You can’t omit our best CB so far. Chris just needs to be included, the leader of our defense and a towering presence. You would be tempted to once again say Fazio (because duh, he’s still at the club) but he’s also 3 years older and sadly Federico looks far from his prime nowadays. Smalling is our new Fazio 2.0, only a quicker version.
CB 3 (Rüdiger role): Roger Ibanez. The spring chicken of the defense. Antonio was just 22 when he joined Roma and not an obvious transfer at the time. However, he immediately made an impact and won fans over. Ibanez would be this year’s surprise du chef. I think if Luciano came back, he would give Ibanez a lot of minutes. Roger’s still a kid and don’t worry, he will make errors but that’s simply the learning curve of a centreback. Get up, get over it and go on. There’s always Pau, Smalling or Mancini to help him out. He won’t turn into Marquinhos 2.0, but I’m with ok with a Castan-like performance.
RWB: (Bruno Peres role): Zappacosta. Surely you can’t give it to Bruno now, who’s been pretty shite recently. But Davide could be the solution. Luciano likes them Italian fullbacks (Cassetti, Tonetto, Panucci) and at RWB, Davide could focus more on the attacking department instead of being a pure RB. Davide also played this role at Torino between 2015-2017 and looked just fine. He can exchange minutes with Spinazzola if he’s gassed.
CM 1 (De Rossi role): Diawara. I haven’t given up on Amadou just yet. Yes, he looks subpar lately but we can’t forget how he bossed the midfield before
Roma corona happened. All he needs is one good game and the train is back on track. Muscles + brains. Diawara is Spalletti material, plain and simple.
CM 2 (Strootman role): Veretout. Less physical than Kevin, but a dynamic midfielder and plenty of stamina. A strange mix/lovechild of Strootman and Nainggolan. Someone who can fire up the team, put some dynamite in their asses. I bet Luciano is already salivating, having someone like Jordan on your team.
LWB (the Emerson role): Kluivert. Now I’m going full ‘WTF’ now, but I think it can work out. We all know Justin can hustle, is lighting fast and isn’t afraid to do some dirty work. He’s no Maldini but he can cover the left side and do his defensive duties. I see some similarities with Emerson. Kluivert will never be a goal-scoring machine like his father, he’s a different type of player so Roma won’t be missing a lot of goals from Justin if he would turn into a LWB instead of LW. If we have to defend a lead, then Kolarov can be subbed on.
CAM 1 (the Nainggolan role): Zaniolo. Ok, I cheated a bit since he’s not yet 100% fit but when he’s ready, The Kid will walk into this formation with ease. He can slot in central midfield too, but playing closer to goal, behind our main striker, would give Nicolo more freedom. Boy Wonder can score, run, pass, dribble, shoot, turn water into wine or win the presidential election 2020 in the US. Fact is: Zaniolo is Roma’s future and the Nainggolan role in this formation can bring out the best in him.
CAM 2 (the Salah role): Mkhitaryan. Not as fast as Salah, but a major offensive threat nonetheless. Henri can start the attack from the centre or go out wide and interchange with Kluivert. Just like Diawara, Mickey’s a perfect player for Spalletti’s type of football because he knows how to run, where to run and, most importantly, why he runs.
ST (the Dzeko role): Dzeko. Hey, I wasn’t going to say Kalinic, right? Edin’s a bit older now but just like a fine wine, he aged very well. Edin blossomed under Spalletti in 2017 and scored 29 goals in Serie A in 37 games. He won’t reach that same figure this season or in the next one, but with this lineup and support from guys like Zaniolo, Mikhi and Kluivert, he can still bang in 15-20 goals. What’s missing is a suitable replacement on the bench.
ROMA (3-4-2-1): Pau Lopez; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Zappacosta, Diawara, Veretout, Kluivert; Zaniolo, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko
So that was my version of Spalletti’s 3-4-2-1 anno 2020 and with our current roster. Think you can do better than priest JonAS? Blasphemy! Uh, I mean, feel free to share your formations in the comment selection!