Not a bad way to end the month, huh? After a shaky start to the month with a draw against Bodø/Glint and a crushing loss to Venezia, it couldn’t have been more important to come out of the international break firing, and in terms of results that’s exactly what we’re seeing, with the Giallorossi winning all three of their matches after the break. A critical win against a tough Torino side had Jose Mourinho all smiles in his post-match presser.
Read the transcript below published on the team’s site, with some closing thoughts from yours truly.
Did you plan it like that: set the side out to sit deep and spring away on the counter-attack?
“Not really, but a bit deeper than usual yes. Their two central defenders sit really deep so it’s not easy for us, with two forwards, to really press them. So we want to wait for the next phase with Mkhitaryan and Carles Perez.
“They are a good side defensively though. I thought we could have got a second goal, and that would have allowed us to play a bit differently in the closing stages. But I really like winning in this manner and I told my players afterwards that I prefer it to winning 5-0: because this is a win of spirit and determination.
“We didn’t have Cristante or Veretout but Diawara had a good game, Mkhitaryan was amazing and Perez, who wasn’t playing in his real position, did well too. I am really pleased with the players, it’s a team win.”
In the second half Perez seemed to play a bit further forward – it was almost a 4-2-3-1 when you had the ball…
“When you are playing against a side that defends man-to-man then you make it easy for them if you don’t vary things a bit. Zaniolo could drop in, Mkhitaryan could change with Perez … at times Zaniolo would go wide to force the opposition into different decisions.
“With the man-marking it is always the case that sooner or later someone makes a mistake. It was important that we defended well, but I would have liked another goal. But when a game finishes like that, with all of us defending across the pitch, I really like wins like that. We dominated against Genoa and Zorya but today was a different type of win.”
What do you make of the understanding between Zaniolo and Abraham?
“That understanding started away from the pitch – there’s a small group of the younger lads that are always together, including Bryan Reynolds and Rick Karsdorp. Maybe it’s good for Nicolo to learn English. The connection on the pitch is easy to see because they have those qualities – but it would be wrong of me not to mention Mayoral, Shomurodov or Felix too. They may not have played today but they are all really good and in attack we have lots of options.
“Now we have a few issues in midfield, unfortunately. It looks like Pellegrini will be out for a few weeks, but overall the group is a strong one.”
How important is it to have a player like Chris Smalling back?
“He’s a top player with a lot of experience, but one we need to manage in the right way because he’s got a bit of an injury record behind him at the moment. Mancini and Ibanez have been very reliable. I have never seen Rick Karsdorp play as well as he is right now, while I always thought El Shaarawy was a purely offensive player who was best used to change games from the bench – and now he’s doing what he’s doing.
“I’ve never got negative feedback from the players even after a few of the defeats, and I really like that. This win has delighted me: for Diawara who has hardly played, for Perez who hasn’t had many more chances, for Mkhitaryan who was getting criticism in the newspapers not long ago. It’s a victory for them.
“There are great teams above us and behind us, but we’ll keep pushing forward. I’m looking forward to seeing my friend Sinisa Mihaljovic on Wednesday but it will be a tough game against Bologna.”
How about that for a change of tone from Mourinho? After seemingly endless post-match press conferences where the Portuguese tactician lamented his lack of both quality and depth in the squad, it seems that there is nothing like three wins on the bounce to right the ship. Of course, this is exactly what you want to hear from your manager, especially considering Roma have shown they are capable of bouncing back from a rough stretch following October’s poor string of results.
It’s great to see him praise some of the role players in the squad, such as Diawara, Perez, and Mayoral. It sends a message to some of the other role players in the squad that if you make the most of your opportunity when called upon, you may find yourself back in Mourinho’s good graces in no time at all.