As we wind down our week-long review of Roma's 2020-2021 season, we'd like to thank all our readers, commenters, and lurkers for sticking with us through this unprecedented season. The season as a whole was disappointing but having our little community here made the dregs of a seventh-place season far more palatable than it would have otherwise been.
And we especially want to thank those of you who took the time to complete our Season Review Reader Survey; we really do value your opinions on all things Roma. So, without further ado, and before we shift completely into transfer season, let's dive into the results!
Who Was Roma's Best Attacking Player This Season?
Hey, look at that! Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who wears #77, won this vote in a landslide, capturing 77% of your votes. With 15 goals and 11 assists in 46 matches, Mkhitaryan was a revelation for Roma this season and would likely have been in the league MVP conversation were it not for some minor injuries and a slight dip in form earlier this spring.
Fingers crossed that Mkhitaryan and José Mourinho can smooth things over because losing Mkhitaryan would be a crushing blow to Roma's hopes next season.
Who Was Roma's Best Defender This Season?
Another blowout and another pretty obvious result. Gianluca Mancini took a giant step forward this season and looks like Roma's next great center-back, and if you're not giddy at the prospect of Mancini continuing that growth under Mourinho, check with your physician. Leonardo Spinazzola and Rick Karsdorp pulled up second and third, indicating that perhaps we've finally solved that pesky full-back riddle.
Who Was Roma's MVP This Season?
In a slightly closer vote than the attacking player of the year, Mkhitaryan took the top honors this year with 45% of the vote, ending out Lorenzo Pellegrini and Jordan Veretout to lay claim to our unofficial MVP award.
Who Was Roma's Best U-23 Player This Season?
In our closest vote yet, Roger Ibañez bested Gonzalo Villar and Ebrima Darboe as the club's best U-23 player. With 40 appearances and just a touch under 3,000 minutes, Ibañez was a rock for Paulo Fonseca's defense this season, defying the club's somewhat questionable defensive tactics to emerge as one of the league's best young defenders.
And with his late-season cameo, Ebrima Darboe did shockingly well in this vote, while Reynolds, Pérez, Diawara, and Kumbulla either arrived too late or faded quickly once the season reached the halfway point. Either way, that's a pretty solid group of young talent, which is going to make for one closely contested U-23 countdown this summer.
Who Was Roma’s Best New Signing This Season?
After a 17 goal debut campaign with Roma, this vote pretty much decided itself. Besides this, Roma was surprisingly quiet on the transfer market this season. If Roma wants to improve on their seventh-place finish next season, they'll need bounce-back seasons from the rest of the names on that list, each of whom struggled for markedly different reasons.
In addition to basic polling questions, we also asked for your extended thoughts on several key issues from the 2020-2021 season. Here are some of the best results—there were a lot of great submissions, so I apologize we couldn't include more of them!
Roma fell well short of the top four this season, what exactly held Roma back this year? Was it avoidable or were we fated to finish mid-table?
In the first half or so of the season, I really thought we could finish in second to fourth place since the tactic of defeating only the smaller clubs worked very well. Looking at the second half of the season, this could have kept working, because other Top clubs lost points to the smaller ones. But for some reason, to this day I’m not 100% sure why Roma failed to keep up the tactic of sweeping away smaller clubs. There obviously was a flood of injuries, but the players also seemed to have no real motivation anymore. In my eyes, Fonseca also played his part, with his tactical errors, but it was mainly this lack of moral in the second half of this season that denied us the Champions League ranks.
I think this Roma squad is stronger than most teams in Serie A and with the right circumstances, they can very well challenge the top 4. I believe injuries played a massive part in our collapse over the winter break and I would have loved to see Zaniolo thrive in Foncecas attacking system. Roma also relied on Smalling heavily last season and this season he did not perform to the level expected (also due to injuries) which significantly weakened our defence. And the little fight between Fonceca and Dzeko didn’t help our attack.
I think what held us back was our mishmash of players. Our roster is the result of nearly four different sporting directors and you can see that in how noncomplementary most of our players are with each other.
It's the squad mostly. Not having a top-class center forward and a mid-field destroyer really hurt this team. I think in a world where Fonseca switches to a 3 man mid-field earlier Roma still struggles without that player. Darboe fits that profile well but probably wouldn’t have been called on in January when the change needed to be made.
The roster was disjointed by both design and availability. At the beginning of the season and each week, Roma cobbled together a set of 11 players to go out on the field, but it never seemed as if they fully gelled, as if they were good players in good positions, but they didn’t know how to unlock each other’s full abilities as a team. It didn’t help that injuries meant that we played midfielders as centerbacks
Individual Mistakes. This starts with the players and travels all the way up through management. Each individual had different mistakes: we saw our crop of young defenders/midfielders turning the ball over plenty in dangerous areas (we gave away so many goals), attacking mids/forwards not capitalizing on golden chances, and coaching staff failing to adapt the formation and/or match strategies to the players that were available due to injury and suspension.
Of course, there is also the early season debacle with Diawara (feels like a million years ago now) which was an office job mistake. While I wouldn’t say Roma’s mistakes were surprising or egregious, it just highlights that when the team cannot afford the greatest individual talents or banks on young defenders, the team will more than likely be susceptible to lower quality players making mistakes or inexperienced mistakes on pitch.
As a personal opinion, I think that tournament football puts immediate importance on each match and that’s why we saw less mistakes and more success in the Europa League - despite one absolutely awful half against the most pretentious team in sport. Contrast this with the league where significance of each week’s match can sometimes be lost on the players and our failures in that respect. I would also add that fans may have made the players feel more responsible or pressured to show success and that this motivation could have created a different story for Roma this season. A top 4 would have been an accomplishment for this squad but at the same time a 7th is a little bit of a slap in the face considering how tight the fight for fourth was that we didn’t get to participate in
Despite the doom and gloom, give us 2-3 things Roma fans should be pleased with this past season
Before Fonseca lost the plot it looked like our mentality was improving, less instances of “Roma happened” for about half the season. Our young core improved a bit, it looks like we can build around players like Mancini, Pellegrini, hopefully Zaniolo.
Mattias “the swede” Hjalmarsson
The ressurgance of several condemned players (Karsdorp, Spinazzolla, Pau-ish)
Friedkins keeping it cool, don’t leak shit and showing balls in signing Mou
Fonsecas absolutely superior bangs
1. The rise of Caliafori at left back . He’s a talented dude, with a lot of potential.
2. The announcement of Mourinho as manager. Shows intent and drive to push beyond mid-table results. Last time we had such a strong coach was Capello, and he won the league! (Albeit with great help from Totti and Batistuta)
Dzeko moving up in the scoring records. Whatever your opinion of him is, he is a great striker, and I think that is evidenced by us always trying to replace Dzeko with a younger Dzeko but finding it immensely difficult. Congrats Edin, whether or not you are here next season thank you for your service!
Our vice-captains. Often under the radar, Capitano Europa Bryan Cristante and Mini-Materazzi Gianluca Mancini shouldered a lot of the weight in Rome this season. Two players who continued to work hard throughout the season and while they had their ups and downs ultimately they sacrificed a lot for the team this season.
Finally, TFG. I think they’re making good moves, showing a personal interest in success of the team (everyone loved to hate on Jimmy for this) and generally provide a more serious atmosphere towards the business of Calcio in Rome.
Pellegrini’s progress, spinazzola’s revival, a young defense (ibanez, kumbulla, mancini) that might be really good in the future
1: I think that the likes of villar and ibanez finally showing us how good they are and they are getting a place in the squad.
2: Young players with potential are getting a chance like calafiori and darboe they look like they have alot of potential.
3: We were so close yet so far from winning a trophy but what can you really expect we seem to slip up more often this season but it shows we aren’t completely falling apart and that we are making some progress so thats good to see.
From an individual player perspective, who were some of the biggest surprises and disappointments this season?
Biggest surprises were Mkhitaryan having a Dortmund esque season in the first half and a Man Utd like one in the second. Chris Smalling also was disappointing. Pau Lopez had a better second half of the season, especially in the Europa League. Veretout and Mancini improved leaps and bounds
Pellegrini was a pleasant surprise. Showed what we all expected from him from the beginning. Karsdorp really turn himself around and he’s an absolute starter. Finally, Darboe! What a player. Can really command Roma midfield in the future if healthy.
Disappointments are Smalling. Not being able to stay healthy was really unfortunate. I was really expecting more from Kumbulla and Diawara as well
Borja Mayoral: I believe he has what it takes to be a starter or an above-quality sub. This was a good deal and I hope we make a permanent move for him.
Rick Karsdorp: While I always had faith in his quality, I had given up on him on account of the injuries. I am still a bit bearish going forward. But it was good to see him leave so many negative past experiences behind a put-together a very solid season.
Disappointment: Paulo Fonseca: While I appreciated the three at the back experience (a formation I believe gets an unjustified bad rep) his inability to find solutions to Roma’s recurring issues was a disappointment. It is hard to understand and truly grasp the intricacies of Manager’s job, but sometimes t seems a coach simply gives up on trying to read a team’s deficiencies and blindly charges on hoping for the best. Well, I guess we all do it !!
Biggest surprise was probably mkhi, we knew he was a quality player but double figures in both goals and assists is impressive and not something I saw coming. Biggest disappointment was smalling. He was so good last year and he kinda just fell apart, probably some due to injuries but that Man U game was awful
Villar and Lorenzo. Villar because you just don’t expect a young player from the 2nd division to come in and kick-ass right away. It must be said, he regressed a lot around March; however, that’s quite in line with the rest of the squad going down to shits as well. Hard to blame him for not lasting his first full pro-season.
Lorenzo because he really turned a corner this year. It had to be this year and I think he did it. Still not a superstar, but I think he turned on something in his head this year and imo, was the only player with good consistent performances during the season, even if others performed better throughout the season. If he’s thick-skinned enough, he’ll do well under mourinho; otherwise, I can see this year being a one-off year for him.
Roma was as high as third at varying points this year but dropped off rather dramatically in the late winter/early spring. Apart from that, what in your mind was the turning point of the season?
The Atalanta game. Leading 1-0 at HT and conceding 4 goals in the second half. There were some games where we did not show up at all (Lazio and Napoli). I think eventually the ability of not winning those games against the top sides cost us dearly. As mentioned earlier, Fonseca’s tactics and a long injury list compounded things. I just hope we finish 8th and avoid the Conference League
I think that the 3 defenders system was good for a change but we needed to switch back to 4-2-3-1 way earlier than we did. With all these injuries I think it also that we drop alot of goals because of that. When we dropped points players got irritated, such as the Dzeko Fonseca insident where a big turn for us losing points
Although difficulties most definitely pre-exist this point, around matchday 27 against Parma. The results alone show this, with just one win in eight Serie a fixtures. At this point of the season, Roma were still in the running for the top 4, just two points off of Atalanta. We clearly struggled in rotating the squad here. The rotation players couldn’t do the job required, and the usual starters were primarily needed against Ajax and Shakhtar in the Europa League. Injuries didn’t help either.
It’s less a moment in time than a continuum, but physically and mentally, Roma always seem to lag behind other clubs. Obviously the injuries spiked at an inopportune time this season, but no amount of new physios or different training regimens seems to stem Roma’s inability to stay healthy or keep their legs through a full season.
I think that Fonseca’s back 3 “solution” simply got figured out and the team had no way of reinventing themselves to stay one step ahead. It’s hard to say when exactly this happened, so let’s say it was more of a gradual decline. Either that or, you know, the team lost that “Courage” that Fonseca loves so much.
Starting from February it all went down hill. In my opinion we didn’t have the players two play in two competitions. So when they were faced with a choice, it felt like the players decided to give it their all in the Europa league. Which is fine but we didn’t have the quality subs to keep the ship a float.
The turning point was the 0-2 loss to Parma, in my opinion. We didn’t get good results against bigger sides, for various reasons, but we would’ve been fine had we continued to use Fonseca’s tactics and the talent advantage to feast on the minnows. The loss to Parma felt like we went from “solid but underachieving” to “maybe we’re just not that good?”
The 3-0 loss to Lazio followed by the loss in the coppa Italia to Spezia and the disaster off the pitch with Dzeko and Fonseca marked a clear turning point. Even if we didn’t fall off immediately after, the drop in morale combined with the restart of the Europa league where Roma had to play more often than every other Italian team marks the start of the decline of Roma in Serie A.
Lastly, imagine you are Paulo Fonseca, what parting words of advice would you pass on to José Mourinho?
Convince the Friedkins and Pinto to bring back Totti and De Rossi in some form. Take credit for it and the fans will back you from day 1.
tell pinto to sell diawara and get a proper, consistent holding midfielder. also avoid using a two-men midfield in big games
Boa sorte. You’ll need it .
Our youth players aren’t all that bad and please fire the medical staff!
Get rid of pastore, find a goalkeeper and don’t miss on the young guys.
Passion, passion is everything, the colours. Maybe better word the grinta. “La forza del branco è il lupo la forza del lupo è il branco”
Don’t park your car next to Pinto or De Sanctis
Pick a signature look for the touchline, CDT is supposedly about Calcio but low-key it’s a GQ subsidiary.
José if you can teach this guys to properly finish their chances you might have a chance! Try to bolster the midfield and keep some good subs and top 4 is yours. And one more thing, use more primavera players For the conference league!
the guy who wrote the Radja fan article once:
The only way to make Rome irrationally love you and ignore your flaws, is to be more insane than the city itself.
If I were Fonseca, and I had to pass advice on to a guy like Mourinho, I’d advise him to trim the fat, and consolidate with the young talent that we do have. Mourinho loves brand names, but the brand names we do have are mostly shit (Lopez, Santon), too old (Dzeko, Pedro), or have settled into approaches that are directly in conflict with what Mourinho likes to do (Mkhitaryan). Guys like Calafiori, Darboe, and Kumbulla are still young enough to be molded in the image Mourinho wants. Plus, it’d save money for some of those brand name purchases I’m sure Mourinho wants to make. Now, would Mourinho would take that advice? I highly doubt it.
Rome is unlike any other city and the pressure is different. Ignore the noise. Discover the beauty of this unique city and let that inspire you and your players passion. Greatest city on earth.
Big thanks to everyone who contributed to this; there really were a lot of fantastic responses and I really wish we could have included more. But we'll definitely continue to elicit your feedback throughout the summer and into the future.
This marks the official end of our 2020-2021 season review coverage, so if you missed anything, check out the stream below. And stick with us as we shift our coverage to the Women's Coppa Italia final this weekend, transfer season, and Euro 2020.
It's shaping up to be a busy and exciting summer of football!