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Roma's Goalkeepers Failed to Meet Expectations This Season

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Roma spent a fortune to bring in Pau Lopez, but did he live up to expectations?

Torino FC v AS Roma - Serie A

Goalkeeper, like nearly every position on the squad outside of striker, underwent another massive face lift this past summer. After Wojciech Szczesny made way for Alisson Becker, the Brazilian Don Draper was sold to Liverpool and replaced with Robin Olsen ahead of the 2018-2019 season. Unable to recapture his World Cup heroics, Olsen was unceremoniously shipped off to Cagliari, putting Roma in yet another quandary between the sticks.

After spending the spring of 2019 churning through Alessio Cragno, Mattia Perin, Alphonse Areola and Bart Dragowski rumors, Roma finally settled on Real Betis’ Pau Lopez to don the gloves at the Olimpico, marking the fourth straight year in which Roma started the season with a new keeper.

Given the steep decline from Alisson to Robin Olsen, Roma really had no choice but to change keepers again, but how did swap number four turn out?

Before we answer that question, let's first take a look at Pau's understudies to get the full picture of Roma's goalkeeping performance this season.

Daniel Fuzato

Juventus v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Appearances: 1 | Cleansheets: 0 | CdT Hype: Endless

After nearly two full seasons on the bench, we finally got a glimpse of young Daniel Fuzato, who earned his first ever Serie A start against Juventus in Roma's Round 38 victory; their first over Juve on the road since 2011.

In his lone start, Fuzato faced 11 shots, three of which were on target, one of which he saved and one of which he had no chance to save. In short, he didn't see much action in his only start with the club thus far, but he was solid enough in his debut, showing good technique, quick reflexes and aggression in his 90 minute cameo to end the season.

We're still quite high on the young Brazilian keeper, who signed a new deal with the club last month, but his immediate future likely lies with another Serie A club on loan for the 2020-2021 season.

Final Grade: Incomplete

Prediction for Next Year: I suppose there's an outside shot he sticks with Roma next season, but Fuzato latching on with a lower end Serie A club could the best move for his career at this point.

Antonio Mirante

AC Milan v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Appearances: 7 | Cleansheets: 2 | Goals Conceded: 7

The Italian David Duchovny had an unexpectedly busy season in 2019-2020, garnering five league starts and two more in the Europa League. We're only talking about 600 minutes in total, but Mirante was fantastic in his limited role, pitching two cleansheets and playing to 7.23 match rating (per WhoScored) and even more impressive 7.48 (per SofaScore). He also wound up with a 0.7 PSxG +/-, the league's 15th best mark, showing that, despite his age, he's still quite the shot stopper.

Now, if he was pressed into full-time service perhaps those stats wouldn't shine so bright, but Mirante was exactly what one wants from a reserve keeper: always at the ready and capable of keeping the team afloat while the number one keeper is out.

Final Grade: B+

Prediction for Next Year: Mirante remains under contract through June 2021, so barring a change in heart, expect to see Mirante as the number two again next season.

Pau Lopez

SSC Napoli v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Appearances: 40 | Cleansheets: 8 | Goals Conceded: 52

And now we get to the heart of the matter, the suddenly controversial Pau Lopez. After coming to the capital on a €23.5 million move last summer, the expectations were sky high. No, he wasn't meant to be Alisson, but with plenty of youth and athleticism to spare, Lopez was seemingly tailor made for Fonseca Football®.

And the early returns for Lopez were pretty solid: five wins and three cleansheets in his first seven matches in all competitions, including a stellar performance against Lazio in the fall derby. He wasn't quite as flashy as Alisson, but you felt more secure with him back there than Robin Olsen.

Really, that was the prevailing notion for much of the season, but then I did some digging and the guy I thought was pretty solid, and perhaps even a bit better than average, soon looked anything but.

Case in point. Here's how Lopez stacks up against his Serie A foes this season (these are the ranks only, not gross totals and cover league play only):

  • Goals allowed (9th most)
  • Save % (15th)
  • Total saves (15th)
  • Saves in the box (15th)
  • Saves out of the box (13th)
  • Cleansheet % (17th)
  • PSxG +/- (42nd)
  • Total Passes > 40 yds (11th)
  • Pass accuracy > 40 yds (7th)
  • Punches (26th)
  • High Claims (21st)
  • Avg goal kick length (13th)
  • Cross stop % (13th)
  • Defensive actions outside penalty area (2nd)
  • Runs out (10th)

Granted, some of these stats are at the mercy of Fonseca's tactical preferences (anything related to passing distance, for instance) and Lopez is among the league's best outside of the area, but when we look his shot stopping ability (PSxG +/- and saves) and areas that measure aggression and reading of angles/trajectories (punches, high claims, cross stop %), Lopez not only fails to look like a €23.5 million keeper, he doesn't even look like an average keeper.

So, what do we make of this? Are these numbers products of adjusting to a new league or was Lopez exposed for what he truly is: a skilled keeper with the ball at his feet but poor almost everywhere else?

Well, last season with Real Betis, Lopez was La Liga's 23rd rated keeper and conceded more goals and played to an even lower PSxG +/- than he did with Roma this season. He fared a bit better in crosses, punches and high claims last season with Betis, but nothing about his performance in La Liga suggested that he should have fetched the 11th highest transfer fee ever for a goalkeeper.

Will all of this point towards a new keeper on opening day for the fifth consecutive season next month? If rumors of Premiership interest carry any weight, the only stat that will matter in the end is cold hard cash: Roma need it and Lopez might fetch it.

I can't stress this enough, but I had no hard and fast opinion on Lopez either way before curiosity led me to look at the statistics last month. And while some may quibble with goalkeeping stats, the data Lopez has compiled over the past two seasons paints the picture of a terribly over-rated goalkeeper. He may be silky with the ball at this feet, but he lacks basic shot stopping competence and suffers from a lack of aggression and explosion coming off the line to contest aerial balls.

Lopez has four more years remaining on his deal, so there is plenty of time to hope that Marco Savorani, Roma’s goalkeeping coach extraordinaire, can work his magic, but for a club that needs to maximize every dollar, better bargains can be found in between the sticks than Lopez.

Final Grade: C-

Prediction for Next Year: This is a tough one. If Roma were changing managers, I'd feel more confident in saying Lopez will be definitively sold, but at the end of the day money talks. If Roma can grab even just €20 million for Lopez, I say he's a goner and I think he winds up with a midtable Premiership team like West Ham or Newcastle.

Poll

Who will be Roma's starting keeper next year?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Pau Lopez
    (116 votes)
  • 11%
    Antonio Mirante
    (69 votes)
  • 11%
    Daniel Fuzato
    (72 votes)
  • 58%
    A new signing
    (357 votes)
614 votes total Vote Now