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Once Again, Serturini Set The Pace for Roma's Forwards

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The diminutive dynamo continues to stake her claim as the greatest player in Roma's brief history.

AS Roma v AC Milan - Women’s Coppa Italia Final Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Following an inaugural season in which the club managed a surprising fourth-place finish, Roma seemed poised to ride Annamaria Serturini's coattails to even greater heights in 2019-2020. After bagging 11 goals for the Giallorosse in their 2018 debut season, the world was Serturini's oyster. Those 11 strikes were well off the capocannoniere pace set by Milan's Valentina Giacinti, whose 21 goals led the league, but Roma's offense seemed in capable hands and Serturini even parlayed that performance into a place on Italy's 2019 World Cup squad.

Unfortunately, Serturini took a slight step backward last season, scoring only four goals in 16 appearances. But where Serturini struggled, Agnese Bonfantini and Lindsey Thomas soared, combining for 16 goals in 31 collective appearances in the pandemic-shortened 2019-2020 season. Roma still struggled for consistency at the actual center-forward position, but Serturini and Bonfantini's alternating hot and cold streaks allowed Roma's attack to keep pace with the league's most prolific sides.

And somewhat amazingly, that pattern continued for the third season in a row. With Bonfantini and Thomas both struggling for form and fitness this season, Serturini rebounded with another solid effort, scoring nine goals in 16 league appearances, leading the club in scoring for the second time in three seasons.

In between her darting runs from the left and curled shots towards the far post, Roma endured a torrent of ups and downs from their forwards this season, so, while it may be difficult, let's do our best to assess Roma's goal scorers.

Player Reviews & Ratings: The Forwards

For each of Roma’s forwards, we’ll offer a quick look at their individual highs and lows and then assign each player a numerical grade out of 10. Given the relative lack of reliable data for Serie A Femminile, the data may be a bit light compared to our rundown on the men's side, but we'll make do!

First up, Mighty Mouse herself...

Annamaria Serturini

Annamaria Serturini of AS Roma in action during the Women... Photo by Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images

Stats (All competitions)

  • 25 appearances
  • 9 goals (0.48 per 90)
  • 2 assists

Season Summary

We sort of hinted at it in the introduction, but 2020-2021 was a redemption act for the 23-year-old Bergamo native. After leading the club with 11 goals in the ‘18-'19 season—a career-high and more than double her previous personal best—Serturini struggled to follow that up the following year, plummeting all the way down to a measly four goals scored.

After going scoreless through Roma’s first three matches, Serturini caught fire, scoring in three consecutive matches to close out October. She had her fair share of narrow misses, but she brought the goods every week, blazing past any and all comers down Roma's left flank, cutting in and squeezing into the narrowest of spaces to unleash shots from every conceivable angle.

Starting her Serie A career at the tender age of 16 with Brescia, nearly every defender in the league has read the Serturini manual front to back, which goes a little something like this: picking up the ball just past midfield, she'll quickly—and I mean quickly—breeze past you with a first step that would make a young Allen Iverson blush, then she's going to race down the left flank before cutting in from roughly 20 yards out. Now, at this point, presuming you've caught up to her, you have two choices: you can press her and risk being dribbled past...again, or you can play it safe and back off a bit, but that still won't prevent her from picking out the far post with a perfectly weighted curled attempt.

We're not suggesting that she's one-dimensional, but we've yet to see a defender that can stop her from doing this. Besides, there's nothing wrong with being predictable as long as you're effective, and as her 0.43 goals per 90 minutes suggest, Serturini is good for a goal nearly every other match.

As she continues to mature, we'd love to see some more nuanced passing and playmaking, particularly as it relates to her chemistry with left-back Elisa Bartoli and whoever happens to be Roma's striker of the moment, but we can't complain—she's been a rock for Roma through their first three seasons.

Outlook for Next Season

While she's not a Roma native, Serturini seems well on her way to achieving the same adopted Roman status that made heroes out players like Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman, and Nicolas Burdisso, among others, in recent seasons. Serturini, who just turned 23 last month, has ample room for growth and should continue her role next season as one of the club's most important players and one of the league's most dangerous scorers.

If Roma can finally find a suitable center-forward, expect Serturini's numbers to improve in a host of categories. Without a reliable counterweight in the middle, defenses were able to key on Serturini at times, robbing Roma of their most reliable threat in the final third. With a more consistent presence in the middle of the frontline, Serturini's linkup play and ability to interact with the rest of the attack should improve. Make no mistake, part of her intermittent isolation is her fault, but the parade of failed strikers the club has employed thus far hasn't exactly helped the situation.

But even if the club runs it back with the same cast, expect Serturini to check in with another 10 goals or so as Roma continues to fight for their first-ever Champions League appearance.

Final Grade: 8 out of 10

Serturini rebounded nicely from a disappointing 2020 season, and with a little more luck this year, she may have set a new career-high in goals scored. If she can refine her passing and playmaking a bit more, she could become a legitimate MVP threat.

Agnese Bonfantini

AC Milan v AS Roma Women - TIMVISION Women Cup Final Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Stats (All competitions)

  • 23 appearances
  • 1 goal (0.08 per 90)
  • 2 assists

Season Summary

I'm not sure there's a player in the entire organization who had a more disappointing 2020-2021 than the player we hailed as the Italian Alex Morgan last spring. Sure, that was a bit hyperbolic and somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but the 21-year-old Bonfantini bears more than a passing resemblance to Morgan on the pitch. A deceptively quick long-strider, Bonfantini, much like Morgan, excels when running and defenders and is equally adept dribbling around them in tighter spaces, while her size, speed, and burst are all on pair with the American superstar.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum: Bonfantini took a gigantic step backward this season. Her 2020 surge was fueled, in part, by an epic second half in which she scored five goals before the league shut down, so streakiness might just be part of the Bonfantini package at this early stage in her career, but the numbers don't lie.

Bonfantini's minutes, appearances, starts, goals, and assists all saw a dip from Roma's last full season (‘18-’19). Unfortunately, without the benefit of advanced analytics, we have to rely on anecdotal evidence more than we'd prefer, but after starting the season entrenched on the right flank, Bonfantini soon fell out of Betty Bavagnoli's favor, practically disappearing from the starting lineup around the holiday season.

Perhaps it was due to some early season finishing issues, a lack of defensive effort, or something else entirely, but Bonfantini saw her percentage of full 90s drop from 19% in 2018-2019—again the last full season prior to this year—down to 12% this year. Being yanked in and out of the lineup isn't an issue for more established players, but for a kid as young as Bonfantini, who is still essentially figuring out who she is as a player, this can be quite detrimental to her development.

Nevertheless, even as a second-half change of momentum sub, Bonfantini was a threat on presence alone. Even if she was struggling for consistency, opposing defenses had to respect her pace and aggression, traits she uses to mirror Serturini on the opposite flank.

When all is said and done, this season will likely be nothing more than a blip on the back of Bonfantini's Panini card.

Outlook for Next Season

As we discussed last week, Bonfantini has suddenly become transfer fodder as Roma and Juventus are reportedly discussing a loan swap that would see Bonfantini head north in exchange for Benedetta Glionna, who enjoyed a breakout campaign of her own at Empoli this year under Roma's new manager Alessandro Spugna.

If, however, things remain unchanged, look for Bonfantini to enjoy her own rebound in 2022.

Final Grade: 5 out of 10

No matter the reason, Bonfantini simply wasn't up to snuff this season, especially not compared to the pace she set for herself in 2020. Brighter days remain ahead for the Italian Alex Morgan, though.

Lindsey Thomas

AC Milan v AS Roma Women - TIMVISION Women Cup Final Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Stats (All competitions)

  • 24 appearances
  • 3 goals (0.11 per 90)
  • 4 assists

Season Summary

Thomas, a 26-year-old forward from Saint-Claude, France was Roma's leading scorer during the abbreviated 2019-2020 season and followed that up with another solid performance this year. While her scoring rate took a big hit from 2019-2020, Thomas led the Giallorosse with four assists and was deployed practically everywhere in the attack by Bavagnoli this season.

Whether she was holding down the right or left-wing in the 4-3-3 or becoming a de facto trequartista in Roma's late-season switch to a 4-2-3-1, Thomas put in the hard miles this year, holding up play, killing the clock, winning corners, and doing all the unceremonious tasks required from wide players when they're not busy scoring goals.

Thomas's first season with the club, when she led the way with nine league goals, was a career-best for Roma's #19, so in that respect, her performance this season (only two league goals) was incredibly disappointing, but her effort was beyond reproach in 2020-2021. And never was this more evident than in Roma's Coppa Italia finale against AC Milan, where Thomas logged 103 incredibly taxing minutes, doing all the dirty work to help deliver the first trophy in club history.

More goals would have been great, and likely would have helped Roma's spot in the table, but her playmaking and work rate was second to none.

Outlook for Next Season

Well, with rumors of a move to Milan springing up over the past few weeks, Thomas appears to be in the same boat as Bonfantini: a player in dire need of a 2022 bounceback who might find relief outside of Roma. If, however, she returns to the capital next season, expect Thomas to be Spugna's Swiss Army Knife.

Final Grade: 6 out of 10

A few more goals and we could have pumped this grade up a bit, but the unsung aspects of Thomas’ season were enough to mitigate her lack of punch upfront.

Paloma Lázaro

FC Internazionale v AS Roma- Women Serie A Photo by Andrea Bruno Diodato/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Stats (All competitions)

  • 24 appearances
  • 9 goals (0.43 per 90)
  • 3 assists

Season Summary

With two goals in her first two Roma matches—and six in the club's first seven to start the season—Lázaro, a 27-year-old Madrid native, seemed like the final piece of the puzzle for Roma. Following frustrating experiments with the tall, talented but unproductive Martina Piemonte in 2018 and the hardworking but equally unproductive Amalie Thestrup in 2019, Lázaro started the season like a bat out of hell.

By Matchday 14, Lázaro had racked up eight goals (a career-high) and two assists. Tall, strong, and swift, Lázaro looked like the perfect complement to Roma's bevy of speedy wingers. Capable of running with Serturini, Thomas, and Bonfantini and strong enough to hold up play in the middle, Lázaro seemed primed to help Roma reach the Champions League.

But then the wheels fell off...completely. While Lázaro remained a mainstay in the starting lineup, she failed to score in Roma's final eight league matches, frequently looking disconnected from the rest of the attack, though she did score in the second leg of Roma's Coppa Italia semifinal against Juventus in late April.

Despite the sharp decline late in the season, Lázaro enjoyed the best year of her career in virtually every respect.

Outlook for Next Season

Objectively speaking, Lázaro’s spot in the lineup should be unquestioned, if for no other reason than she's the only legitimate striker on the roster old enough to rent a car. But with her size, work rate, and ability to play the aerial game, she's done more than enough to earn and keep her spot in the starting lineup...(here comes the but)...but Roma are already being linked with several strikers, including the shoot-for-the-moon target, Everton's French forward Valerie Gauvin.

If Lázaro returns to Roma next season, she must, must, must become more efficient in front of goal. Without the benefit of detailed, publicly available stats for this league, we can't definitively say that Lázaro missed more sitters than the next striker, but she was guilty of some pretty glaring misfires. If she can cut back on those moments, then she'll provide the physical punch Roma has lacked in the middle since the club's inception three years ago.

Final Grade: 7 out of 10

Much like her compatriot on the men's side, Borja Mayoral, we can quibble all we like about the finer points, but nine goals and three assists in 24 appearances is a pretty solid return.

The Rest

Serturini, Bonfantini, Thomas, and Lázaro saw the lion's share of time on Roma's frontline this season, but Swedish import Marija Banusic joined the club in January but apart from a golazo bicycle kick, she failed to make her mark, making only five appearances. Similarly, youngsters Alice Corelli (132 total minutes) and Serena Landa (4 minutes) spent the season on the sidelines, though Landa had a nice spell with San Marino before suffering a season-ending left knee injury in May.

Final Thoughts on the Forwards

Until the league achieves full professional status, we can expect the year-to-year roster volatility to rule the roost. With most players essentially existing on yearly contracts, stability isn't exactly a hallmark of Serie A Femminile, though Roma has been fortunate enough to retain the core of their squad over the past three seasons.

Reading the tea leaves, Serturini feels like the only lock to return to Roma next year but we certainly hope the club makes every effort to retain Bonfantini and her enormous potential, while Thomas and Lázaro could really break either way. Milan is reportedly keen on adding Thomas to their frontline to partner with Valentina Giacinti, and the lure of the Champions League may prove too much for Thomas to resist.

Even if Roma does sign a new striker, Lázaro would, at the very least, remain a productive rotational piece for new manager Alessandro Spugna. But fresh off a career year, she may prefer to remain a starter with a different club.

Those concerns, while important, are really just window dressing. The future of Roma, at least with respect to the forwards, rests firmly with Serturini and Bonfantini. If they can continue to build on their early successes, iron out the wrinkles in their respective games, and become more complete players, Roma's forwards could soon be the envy of the entire league.