Between all our usual season preview features, the ongoing U-23 countdown, the rumor tracking, the Akradiusz Milik will he or won't he saga and the official announcement of Marash Kumbulla as a Roma player, this has been one of the busiest weeks in CdT history. So much so, that we've yet to even begin the preview for tomorrow's actual match!
All in due time, of course. In the meantime, let's continue with our season previews. In the first part of our Roundtable discussion, we focused on the state of Serie A, making some league-wide predictions, but now we're shifting the focus to Roma: can Fonseca get them on the right path? What do we make of Fienga so far and where will Roma finish the season?
Once again, please note that this was largely completed last week, prior to the Milik and Kumbulla developments.
1. There’s still plenty of time left in the transfer window, but what do you make of Guido Fienga’s work thus far? Is the lack of activity a good thing or not?
Bren: Hard to say. If anything, I think it’s indicative of the club’s current predicament: they’ve got a lot of garbage to unload but they may have missed trash day. It’s easy for us to say “Oh, they just need to get rid of Pastore, Fazio etc.” but it’s an entirely different thing to find clubs who are actually willing to buy them—and I think the lack of activity is precisely due to that.
And since we originally set this up, it seems like he’s making up for lost time by getting Marash Kumbulla and potentially Milik and maybe even Torreira. It’s a flurry of transfers the likes of which we may have never seen before considering the circumstances. It’s certainly been an exciting week; Roma will definitely be a different team this season, hopefully Fienga has been working in concert with Fonseca to identify and acquire these players.
dallagente: 35 squad players turning up to the first day of Roma’s pre-season training, and a wage bill the size of a Champions League team. Why put off tomorrow what you can fix today? I’m OK with it.
ssciavillo: Fienga has the rather unenviable task of offloading a lot of Monchi’s mistakes. Just think about how much deadwood Roma has on the roster. If he can move just a few of them it’s a minor miracle. I think the loan move for Riccardi was smart.
As bren noted things have changed a lot from the time we started this. Now that these Kumbulla and Milik moves are in place this window just got a whole lot more exciting. Kumbulla paired with Ibanez and Mancini gives Roma one of the top, young defensive trios in Europe. Meanwhile, I think Milik is a great option to replace Dzeko. I’ll miss the big Bosnian Bomber, but the Pole is younger while producing similar results the past couple seasons. With Karsdorp likely staying Roma should be covered at RB. So, now it’s a matter of Feinga getting Smalling (or another veteran CB) if he can unload JJ or Fazio and a reserve striker.
Jimmy: I think he’s done admirably given the circumstances. He’s not a Director of Sport by any stretch of the imagination, so expecting him to unearth some gem this summer wasn’t realistic. If he can continue to shed some of the deadweight from the squad, I’ll say he did a good job and made the life of Roma’s next DS a lot easier.
2. Pedro was Roma’s first signing of the summer. How do you see him fitting in with Paulo Fonseca’s tactics?
dallagente: It depends on who gets the most regular game time around him, but if Lorenzo Pellegrini gets a full season then Pelle likes to drift wide right. Perez like to cut in and play through the middle, while Mkhitaryan can make it work with whoever. So I think that leaves a window for Pedro to take over Perotti’s role and work some creativity down the left. But anything can change if Pelle or Perez’s season doesn’t set the world on fire and they’re benched for Pedro on the right instead.
ssciavillo: I agree that he’ll likely play on the left of the pair behind Dzeko in a 3-4-2-1 or if Fonseca goes back to a 4 man backline then we’d probably see Pedro as a left wing.
Bren: If we’re sticking with the three-man formation, I think he’ll settle into one of the inside forward spots like he did with Chelsea, but I view him as a wide version of Mkhitaryan, so he’ll slot in and around the forward, with Fonseca likely riding the hot hand between him and Perez.
Jimmy: I think things get a lot easier for Pedro to make an impact quickly in Rome now that Nicolo Zaniolo is on yet another forced hiatus from football. Totally agree with Bren that he’ll slot in to an inside forward slot, probably with Kluivert on the other side. I’m looking forward to it.
3. Is there anyone you wished (or still wish, I guess) the club would sign?
dallagente: I actually wanted Cristiano Piccini last summer, and I wanted Ruslan Malinovskyi two summers ago. This summer I wanted Cristian Romero (on top of Chris Smalling) so basically everyone who’s now going to Atalanta instead.
ssciavillo: I’ve wanted Andrea Belotti as the heir to Dzeko for years. I’d still love to see it.
Bren: Can I still say Icardi? Is that allowed? All kidding aside, I’m 100% on board with Milik; I think he’d be a fantastic addition. I’d also be pretty stoked to see Armando Izzo arrive.
Jimmy: I’d be fine with Milik but I’m also fine with keeping Dzeko; personally, I still think it’d be nice if we signed Nahuel Bustos. With Schick gone for good, Roma is in need of an exciting forward prospect.
4. What excites you most about Roma this coming season?
dallagente: Amadou Diawara, and the team continuity. Also getting to see whether Pau Lopez can make a comeback, because why not?
ssciavillo: I’m excited to see if the team can pick up where they left off at the end of last season. The 3-4-2-1 really seemed to play to a lot of our players’ strengths. I think with most of the squad back and a second season of Fonseca will produce better results.
Bren: I’m excited to see what Ünder and Kluivert can do; I think it’s make or break for them this season. We’ve been waiting for things to click with them for two years now, but neither has managed to do so—if one or both can pull things together, Roma can be very dangerous.
Jimmy: I want to see what Riccardo Calafiori makes of his golden opportunity. I’m also excited to see if some of the players who disappointed last season (Bryan Cristante, Pau Lopez) can redeem themselves. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a comeback.
5. What worries you most about Roma this coming season?
dallagente: If we don’t get more courage from our full-backs then I fear we get outflanked, outnumbered and outgunned like the beatdown Sevilla gave us.
ssciavillo: The possibility that Roma can’t adequately replace what Zaniolo brings to the table.
Bren: I’m still not 100% convinced that Fonseca is the right man for this gig. So I can see a bleak stretch like we endured last winter leading to a mid-season change, which would then spur another redo. I don’t want that to happen of course, but he never really removed doubt from the equation last year. And remember, he wasn’t their first choice, nor was he a Friedkin hire, so he’s likely facing a lot of pressure this year.
Update: Now that we've seen such a flurry of market activity, I'm assuming Fonseca had a firm hand in advising Fienga in who to pursue, so we can assume this year's squad will be more fitting to his tactics, so perhaps things will flow more smoothly for him—still lots of pressure on him, though.
Jimmy: I’m most worried about what happens in Rome when neither Aleksandar Kolarov nor Nicolo Zaniolo are putting in a full ninety. They were key cogs in Roma’s squad last season, and although Zaniolo is only gone temporarily, Kolarov is not. Roma will probably miss both of them quite a bit.
6. Fonseca never really seemed to pull everything together last season, never winning more than three-straight matches prior to the shutdown, but then were among the hottest teams in the restart. So, what gives? Which was the real Roma?
dallagente: The players couldn’t handle all the options given to them in the build-up play. Those were stripped bare after the shutdown and you got sharper, faster, direct football. Is it the real Roma? We’ll see if their newfound self-belief carries into the new season, but again things can easily go wrong if our full-backs get destroyed in this simpler, more vertical Roma.
ssciavillo: I think a second season with most of the same players will help Fonseca instill his footballing ideas. However, I think we’ll see more of the late-season results as Fonseca continues to also adapt to his player’s strengths as he did by moving to a 3-4-2-1.
Bren: Well, what worries me is that Fonseca still prefers his 4-2-3-1 system, so is he going back to that? Or is this modified version what we’ll see going forward? The truth is obviously somewhere in between those two extremes, but I worry that he won’t be able to find that middle ground.
Jimmy: I think that the real Roma was the post-shutdown Roma that impressed on a long-term basis. Of course, I’ve been fooled before; I’m not too ashamed to admit that I was hard on the Rudi Garcia bandwagon back in the day.
7. Who is under the most pressure this season?
dallagente: Virginia Raggi. Seriously, who envies her job in election year? But inside A.S. Roma, I think Lorenzo Pellegrini has a make-or-break year ahead of him. He’s going to turn 25 next summer, he’s never had an injury-free full season in Roma and life - not to mention the Roma captaincy - could pass him if he doesn’t hook it all together now.
ssciavillo: Fonseca. He needs to impress his new bosses and prove that he’s the right man for the job. I don’t know if that necessarily means Top 4 is a must but the team must improve from last season.
Bren: Those are good points about Pellegrini, but I already sort of said Fonseca, so I’m sticking with that. He seems like a wonderful man, but he wasn’t a Friedkin hire, so anything short of top four and I think he may be gone, which is probably better for his long term health anyway.
Jimmy: It’s definitely Fonseca, but isn’t that true of nearly any coach at a big club?
8. Roma’s top scorer this season will be_____________?
Again: these were written before the event's of this week. If and when Milik arrives, we can probably swap out his name for Dzeko's in each of these responses.
dallagente: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, bang bang.
ssciavillo: Dzeko if he sticks around. He just always seems to be the focal point of the attack.
Bren: You both are afraid of making actual predictions, huh? If Dzeko says, I think he leads the pack with 17. If he’s gone, I could see Mkhitaryan approaching a dozen or so.
Jimmy: Justin Kluivert. He’s still only 21, and I think he may finally get his breakout season.
9. Finish this sentence: Roma will finish in the top four if….
dallagente: If Cengiz Under wins World Footballer of the Year.
ssciavillo: The majority of the young players (Mancini, Ibañez, Diawara, Villar, Perez, Ünder, Pellegrini, and Kluivert) take the next step in their development and Pau Lopez plays like the pre-Derby Pau.
Bren: Pau Lopez is not a good keeper. The sooner we all accept this, the better. I think Ünder and Kluivert are key, too. They can be that little extra edge Roma need to push them into the top four. If Ünder can stay healthy and score at least eight goals, I think Roma have a good chance to finish in the CL spots. A healthy and productive year from Pellegrini is equally important.
Jimmy: My prediction about Justin Kluivert comes true.
10. Finish this sentence: Roma will NOT finish in the top four because....
dallagente: Ouf, Cengiz. You almost had it.
ssciavillo: They’re riddled with injuries yet again.
Bren: They’re simply not that good? Isn’t that an acceptable answer? Juve and Inter will finish one-two in some order, so we have to ask ourselves: can Roma run with Atalanta’s attack? Was Milan’s restart form legitimate, and if so, are Roma really better/deeper than Milan? Roma falling out of the top four again wouldn’t necessarily be an indictment on the team’s quality, some of the clubs around them may simply be better.
Jimmy: Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert probably can’t replace Nicolo Zaniolo for six months, and Father Time will take its toll on Edin Dzeko.
11. Okay, so where will they finish?
dallagente: Like I said last time, I’ve got to go with Top 4. 4th place. Let me suspend disbelief on at least that much, otherwise football just isn’t the same. But if the latest transfer rumours are true and we’re signing Mattia De Sciglio while letting Smalling go then forget about it. I mean really forget about it. 6th or 7th place at best.
ssciavillo: I’m going to be optimistic and say top 4. That most likely means 4th place. I do think we’ll see improvements this season, let’s just hope it’s enough.
Bren: I think this is the final rebuilding year before Friedkin can truly put his imprint on the team, and it’s a year in which I think Roma will finish 5th. Although I'm excited about the new changes, it really still all depends on Fonseca: can he get them to buy in and internalize his style of play enough to over take the likes of Atalanta, Milan, Lazio and Napoli for that final CL spot?
Jimmy: I think they get fourth, particularly if Zaniolo can come back strong in February or March. I could be completely wrong, of course.
Well, you've heard our say. Please give us your thoughts on these questions and more!