Goalkeeper is typically the most stable position in football; if you’re a big club, a world-class goalie like Gigi Buffon, Iker Casillas, or Hugo Lloris can be your man between the sticks for years and years. For one reason or another, Roma has not had that kind of uniform presence at goalkeeper for as long as I can remember. Sometimes the player brought in to be the new #1 option falls flat on his face, like Maarten Stekelenburg; other times, like with Alisson Becker, the new man is just too good, getting attention from the true superclubs of Europe.
Roma’s current situation at goalkeeper is somewhere in between those two poles. Pau Lopez’s first season in Rome wasn’t nearly as bad as a Stekelenburg, but he didn’t light up the world with his saves in the way that Alisson or even Wojciech Szczęsny did. There were even a lot of rumors suggesting that Lopez wasn’t going to stick around Roma much longer, but the shortened summer break has seemingly forced Roma to give the Spaniard one more try.
Other than the lack of movement on the Pau Lopez front, the largest move that happened for Roma’s goalkeepers this summer was Daniel Fuzato’s loan move to Gil Vicente, a top-flight Portuguese club. We have next to no idea what Fuzato could become, but his absence from Rome does increase the stakes for both Pau Lopez and Antonio Mirante. Here’s a quick dive into the best and worst case scenarios for the Giallorossi at goalkeeper this season.
Goalkeepers: Pau Lopez (#1 Option), Antonio Mirante (Backup), Matteo Cardinali (Break Glass In Case of Emergency)
Best Case Scenario
Obviously, the best-case scenario for the Giallorossi is that Roma’s €23.5 million man pays back his transfer fee in his second season in Rome. His communication with Roma’s bolstered defense of Mancini - Kumbulla - Ibañez - (maybe) Smalling improves drastically from his first season, and as a result, Roma finally turns market value into one of the top defenses in Serie A.
There’s nothing to indicate that Lopez has the potential to become the next Alisson, but famed goalkeeping coach Marco Savorani has certainly helped many a goalkeeper reach new heights before. Remember, when Szczęsny first came to Rome, he was seen as an Arsenal reject, someone who couldn’t really cut it playing for a big club in the Premier League. His move to Juventus and current position as first-choice goalkeeper shows that things can change for any goalie.
In this scenario where Lopez becomes a key facet of Roma’s defense, there is quite obviously no room for Antonio Mirante or youth goalkeeper Matteo Cardinali to make any noise, but really, if Roma is to reach her goals in the 2020/2021 season, we shouldn’t have to see either of those players take the pitch.
Worst Case Scenario
Which brings us to our worst-case scenario. Bren did an excellent breakdown of Pau Lopez’s performances this past season, and in short, it wasn’t always that pretty, particularly for the transfer fee Lopez commanded:
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)
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.
The worst case scenario for Roma (barring injury) is that Lopez’s confidence is shot after such a mediocre season, and he is unable to follow through on what potential Gianluca Petrachi saw in him. His shot-stopping ability simply never materializes, and when Antonio Mirante is put in to replace the Spaniard, it rapidly becomes clear that a 37-year-old goalkeeper cannot be the starter for a club with aspirations of the Champions League. If Mirante fails, well, best of luck to Matteo Cardinali, but do the words Mauro Goicoechea mean anything to you?
Considering the lack of depth and questions surrounding Pau Lopez’s ability, there’s not too much wiggle room for Roma’s goalkeepers this season. Consequently, there isn’t much wiggle room for Paulo Fonseca and the rest of the Roma squad. When Serie A restarts this weekend, be sure to keep an eye out on Pau Lopez’s performances; he could save or doom Roma’s season very, very quickly.