Is it just me, or was that the longest international-break of all time? After what seemed like an eternity having to wait for our beloved club to resume play, we’re finally on the eve of a crucial clash with Genoa. No doubt Jose Mourinho is well aware of the fact that this a must win game, particularly given the criticism thrown his way the last month. Tack on the news that both Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar are out for the foreseeable future due to positive COVID-19 tests, as well as the rash of injuries the squad is currently dealing with, and you get the recipe for a classic Mourinho press conference, which is exactly what we received today.
Read the transcript below published on the team’s site, with some closing thoughts from yours truly.
I was reading an interview in Gazzetta dello Sport with Antonio Conte, where he was speaking about his first few weeks at Tottenham. He said, “Here there is everything you need to do a good job, although there is still a lot to work on. Patience will be required and I need to be able to find it.” It seems to me that sentiment is similar to the situation at Roma: do you have that patience? Especially after what Tiago Pinto said during the week: “We are ambitious, but we won’t buy an ‘instant team’.”
What are your memories of Andriy Shevchenko?
“The first memory I have of him is the first time I watched him play. I was making a file for Barcelona, for a Champions League game. The first game of our day was PSV Eindhoven against Dynamo Kiev. That was the first time I watched him play.
“After that, he went on to make history. There’s not much more to say. When you win the Ballon d’Or, when you win the Champions League and so many other titles, you are the one who made history. And that history is fantastic, befitting of a fantastic player.
“Now this is his first challenge as a club manager, but as the head coach of Ukraine he did really, really well. He showed that he has a clear idea, a philosophy, and leadership too. Perhaps it’s a silent type of leadership, because that’s the type of coach he is.
“I would love for what happened to me to happen to him: I lost my first game as a manager, and then I went on to win a lot of them. So I hope that he loses the first one [tomorrow], but after that he goes on to enjoy a lot of success, a lot of happy moments as a coach.”
Considering both Bryan Cristante and Gonzalo Villar have tested positive for Covid-19, could Lorenzo Pellegrini play a different role tomorrow – playing more in the middle of the park to help move the ball forward?
“The work we’ve done during the week, which you guys with your sources have followed, ends up going in the bin. There’s no doubt about that. Everything we worked on in training we lost in the moment where we lost an important player like Cristante. And we already had a lot of issues before that.
“For example, with three left-backs sidelined. It’s clear that we need to find different solutions and that there are people who will have to make a sacrifice and perhaps play in positions that they are not familiar with. We need to piece the puzzle together in a way that allows us to play well, put in a good performance and try and come away with the points. But, it’s true, it’s a tough period for us.”
Could Pellegrini be one of those asked to sacrifice himself and play a bit out of position?
“This is an interesting opportunity to see which of you [journalists] is the best – because there is only one person who knows how we will play tomorrow, and that’s me. My coaches don’t know, the players don’t yet know. Nobody inside Trigoria knows. The agents don’t know. So your sources have all run dry.
“It’s a strange situation, but it all happened so quickly. Obviously today in training we didn’t work on things in a formation, and so I will have to take a few decisions later. It will be a fun exercise for you guys to try and work out what the starting XI will be tomorrow.”
In Venice you moved to a three-man defence in that emergency situation, so there is the feeling that you could go back to that again tomorrow. With Cristante gone, could Zaniolo somehow be used in his place?
“Cristante and Zaniolo … I don’t really understand what the link is there. I don’t see Zaniolo as a No. 6. While Cristante has played as a centre-back for us, because it was an option available to us at the time, I don’t really feel like Zaniolo could play centre-back.”
I was asking which position Zaniolo could play in the side if you do go to three at the back.
“But I have not said we are playing with three at the back, or four at the back. Your sources have told you that on two or three days of training this week we worked with a three-man defence, which is true. But I am not telling you now how we will play.
“Nico is not one of the players that can change the situation now that we are without Bryan. Everyone knows the positions that Nico is capable of playing in.”
This game seems to have so many question marks surrounding it – is that the hardest part for you? Are both teams almost going into this game blind?
“I would not say blind, but certainly with a few difficulties. They will have those too, because they will not know how we are going to play or which players will play.
“But the biggest issue for us two – for me and for Shevchenko – is that we are going to be without a lot of key players. That’s my biggest issue.
“When you go up against a side that have a new coach it’s natural that you have a few more doubts about how they are going to play. But, as Shevchenko said in his press conference, it won’t really be his playing style we see straight away tomorrow – it will be about using the players he has available to try and get a result.
“In our case it is difficult to find a common thread because we have these issues: we don’t have a left-back available to us; Spinazzola, Vina and Calafiori are all out. Even at centre-back we have issues, given that Cristante – an option in midfield or in defence, whether we play with four or three there – is not available. It will be difficult, because at the end of the day both sides need the points. Everyone always needs points.
“But, as is almost always the case with us, it will at least be an exciting, enjoyable game – with plenty of desire, both to win and to play well. Everyone knows that our games have been fun to watch this season. Except perhaps the one against Bodo [away] – that was fun only for them.”
There is a lot of enthusiasm around Genoa right now – is this the sort of game you need to get control of early on, or will you need to be patient?
“I understand what you are saying. It’s not just the players, and those around Shevchenko, but the stadium and the fans too. I think this week the arrival of new owners has already given the club a new injection of hope and excitement. So it will definitely be a tough atmosphere for us.
“A beautiful stadium, a hostile atmosphere – that’s what we want though. We will also have lots of fans there – I don’t know, one or two thousand – and they will give us motivation too. It often happens that difficulty brings the group even closer together. I don’t want to say we need to be aggressive from the start – we need to want to win from the very start.
“As I’m always saying, it’s possible that we don’t win – and that has already happened a number of times this season – but we can’t go out on the pitch thinking that we can’t win the game. Even in the most difficult moments, we can’t ever be thinking like that.”
I’m still cackling at the opening to this presser. Fair question, excellent tie-in to his time at Tottenham, only to get hit with “Next question.” I absolutely love it. Aside from that, although I understand Mourinho’s frustrations with the predicament that the squad is in, this press conference had an air of Mourinho being resigned to his fate rather than being defiant in the face of adversity. I’ll of course reserve judgment until tomorrow, where we can see for ourselves how the team will line up and how prepared they are for this match ( I don't believe for a second that neither the players nor his staff know who will play tomorrow), but some of Jose’s comments today have me wary for the game tomorrow, namely that the work done this week in training has gone out the window in the wake of Cristante’s positive test.
Having said that though, Mourinho is still clearly trying to protect his players and manage expectations during this tough period. I’m unbelievably curious as to who all will play tomorrow and how we’ll line up, we can only hope that regardless of both, the players will look to be on the front foot and take the game to Genoa from the opening minute.
At this point, I think Mourinho is counting down the seconds till the winter market opens, where the club can finally acquire the reinforcements that Mourinho is so desperate for, but as a side pushing to return to the Champions League, Roma cannot afford a let down in this next slate of games leading up to the clash with Inter in a couple weeks.
CdT Hosted FIFA 22 Tournament
Unrelated to Mourinho’s presser, I know. But as CdT’s resident FIFA aficionado, I would be remiss if I didn’t gauge interest in a potential FIFA 22 tourney hosted by CdT. I love the idea of you, the readers, Roma Twitter, and any and all Roma fans going head to head to determine who’s the FIFA king (or queen) of the Romaverse. I’m an Xbox guy myself, so that will get preference in organizing a tournament, but depending on interest I’m happy to set something up for the Playstation users as well. Details to be determined depending on interest, so feel free to vote in the poll below!
Would you be interested in a CdT hosted FIFA 22 tournament?
Yes - Xbox
Yes - Playstation
Thanks, but no thanks.