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The Great Roma Questionnaire Extraordinaire, 2021 Edition: Roma Preview

The groundwork has been laid, can Mourinho complete the build this season?

AS Roma Press Conference Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

If you missed yesterday's discussion about the state of Serie A as a whole, you can catch it here. Today, we're shifting the focus to our beloved Roma. After another summer of upheaval, albeit one with a greater degree of planning than we've seen in the past, the Giallorossi are once again staring into the unknown. Will their José Mourinho makeover produce results or is this just another hampster wheel?

To answer those questions and more, we assembled the crew to run through all the key talking points before Roma’s Serie A season begins tomorrow.

Please note: some of these answers were submitted prior to Roma's official acquisition of Tammy Abraham.

Enjoy!

Let’s not get too cute here, José Mourinho's signing with Roma was the story in the Romaverse this summer, if not the entire league. We talked about it in the immediate aftermath of the signing, but now that we’ve seen his summer training regimes and a few friendlies, have your opinions or expectations for Mourinho’s first year with Roma changed?

AS Roma Press Conference Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Bren: I haven’t seen every single second of the pre-season schedule, but Mourinho’s fondness for hard-nosed play and no-nonsense personalities already seems to be trickling through the squad, which is exciting so long as it produces results in the end. I am excited that we’re seeing a return to the 4-2-3-1 for no other reason than it gets more of Roma’s best attackers on the pitch at once.

As far as expectations are concerned, that will depend—in part—if Pinto is able to sew up Tammy Abraham and a defensive midfielder. If he drops, say, 65M on those two players before the end of the window, then expectations should be slightly higher. But, right here, right now—several days before the opener—I think we’re still looking at a 5th to 7th place side, but that can certainly change if Shomurodov, Viña, and the other new signings hit the ground running.

Update: We signed Abraham! I’m not entirely sure yet that he can single-handedly push them from that 5th-7th range to being a Champions League team, but he certainly has the potential to do that—we just have to hope he’s unfazed by the expectations and hits the ground running.

dallagente: It’s more like things off the pitch have changed my expectations, which is thanks to both Pinto and Mourinho I guess. At first, before Spinazzola’s injury, it seemed like they were chasing more of the same old, same old. But then Spinazzola picked up an injury, Pinto refused to bid more for Xhaka and it looked like Pinto and Mourinho switched their strategy up entirely without cutting a single promo in the press to let anyone know. I won’t deny Rui Patricio is a bad signing but after that the rest is encouraging. The Vina signing changes a lot, the frontline stacked for pace changes a lot. I’m liking this a lot. I haven’t seen all the pre-season games but not much has changed on the pitch yet from what I have seen, except we’ve ditched the counter-pressing almost entirely. Other than that I think it’s going to take more time to have an effect on this team because a lot of them still rush forward too quickly, and not enough people take responsibility to carry the ball without Spinazzola in the team. Though that may no longer be an issue with the new signings.

ssciavillo: I haven’t seen a whole ton of the preseason matches either, but so far the results have been encouraging. You can see that Mourinho is definitely working to toughen up the mentality of the team which is something we expected with his hiring. The defense has been less leaky so far as well. Now with Abraham and Eldor joining the attack, I’m optimistic that the goalscoring will improve. That’s a winning combination. So to me, these moves have solidified Roma as a top 4 contender. The signing of a true DM would only make the side stronger if it happens.

Before the preseason opened, I was hopeful Mourinho’s experience could manage the side to a top 4 finish, now I’m a bit more optimistic considering the way Pinto and management are backing him with signings.

JonAS: Well it’s clear as daylight the Friedkins’ aim is to return to the Champions League ASAP. You don’t hire Mourinho and splash millions in a Summer mercato only to do as good/bad as last season. So the top 4 should be the target but the competition is immense as Napoli, Atalanta, and Lazio are in the same situation as us. It’s gonna be a long and tough battle.

So far the pre-season results were ok but we haven’t really been tested yet although it’s a good sign we held the 0 against sides like Porto and Sevilla. It shows we’re building a strong and sturdy team again, no more fragile mentality. Then again the flood gates were open vs Betis but that game (the only one I saw live so far) was a disaster from the referee. And yet it showed the passion and aggressiveness that’s typical of Mourinho.

And I agree with Bren, if the new guys pick up the pace and the usual MOTM like Zaniolo, Mancini, and Mikhi are on fire, then Mou’s first season will be a success.

Jimmy Miotto: My expectations for Roma under Mourinho are the same as they were before any of the signings this summer: we should be fighting for a place in the Champions League, and hopefully getting one relatively easily. The pre-season is like any pre-season, in the sense that using it to judge future success would be a mistake. However, I’m very excited by the transfers Pinto has brought in, and I think that we’re slowly seeing the formation of a new-look Roma that can maybe find more silverware than the Džeko-era Roma ever did.

We’ve seen more than a few fiery moments from Roma during their summer schedule, which many attribute to Mourinho’s win at all costs approach. Apart from Xs and Os, talk to us a bit about what kind of mental shift you’re expecting from Roma this season compared to life under Fonseca or EDF.

Trabzonspor v AS Roma - UEFA Conference League: Play-Offs Leg One Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Bren: I expect a “no excuses” mentality to rule the roost. Mourinho isn’t known for his empathy or patience, so I don’t expect him to rationalize defeats or struggles for anything other than what they are: a failure to execute. So, in that light, that will be a refreshing change in the post-match pressers. So, provided the locker room doesn’t implode from this zero-sum attitude, I’m actually excited to see how Roma fares with a manager who doesn’t suffer fools gladly.

dallagente: I’ve heard Mourinho come out with a laundry list of excuses over the years, from blaming fixture scheduling to blaming medics running onto the pitch at the wrong moment. It’s the same kind of thing we’ve seen with Antonio Conte at his clubs, and context influences a lot of how this kind of behaviour is remembered. When you’re winning you can get away with it and people call you “demanding”. When you’re losing, it’s pathetic. Roma is a club that loves to persecute itself and feel hard done by, and Mourinho could try and play up that sense of injustice at times, trying to create a siege mentality out of it if results don’t go Roma’s way fast enough. I really hope he doesn’t and i hope Roma plays well enough that we don’t give Mourinho any reason to feel the need of going that route. Time will tell. I’d love to just see Roma get on with it, period. I don’t need the try-hard grinta dramatics, just keep your head on executing as Bren said.

ssciavillo: I agree with the other guys. I expect a “no excuses” type of mentality be the one that Mourinho’s side is built on. But, like dalla said if things go wrong I hope we don’t end up becoming the crybaby side that whines about every little thing that doesn’t go our way. Also hope that Mourinho can get Roma to shake the mental fragility they showed so often under Fonseca last season against other big sides in Serie A last season. That in the end was probably the biggest factor in the demise of Fonseca and his side.

JonAS: Yeah, I’m glad there’s a wind of change under Mourinho. There’s a new boss in town and one who doesn’t hold back. Finally. I was fed up with the gentleman approach like Fonseca or EDF. They just couldn’t man up and throw a player under the bus (figuratively speaking of course) when needed. José will light a fire under their asses and that should result in… errrr. Results.

The big question is though if the players will accept this from Mourinho and for how long. A clash of egos is the last thing Roma needs when it’s in a rebuilding phase. If let’s say Zaniolo or Karsdorp are excluded by Mourinho after some time, well good luck with replacing them on the pitch.

Jimmy Miotto: Just like everyone else, I’m expecting to see a “no excuses” mentality develop in the squad, which is a relief after the past couple seasons of “lots of excuses”. I’m also expecting to see a lot more hunger in the players - guys like Shomurodov and Karsdorp don’t seem the type to rest on their laurels, and I hope that Mourinho can nurture that mentality in the rest of the squad. I also hope that this Roma doesn’t have a glass jaw, which Steven already touched on, but that might take a bit longer than developing Mourinho’s trademark “team of bastards” mentality.

Okay, what about those tactics. What excites you about Mourinho’s Roma this season and what worries you?

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Bren: I’m excited to see Shomurodov or Abraham (or even Mayoral) supported by the likes of Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan, Zaniolo, and El Shaarawy; that’s an awful lot of talent, intelligence, and athleticism. Mourinho’s Spurs teams were generally Top 10 in most major attacking categories, so I think, if everyone stays healthy and buys in, we could be looking at one of the highest-scoring sides in the league.

I’m not really worried about anything in particular. After all, how much worse could it get? We’ve been also-rans for three years now, but I think we’d be wise to heed some of the warnings from his time in England, particularly with Spurs when he was seen as a bit of a drag on the team’s spirits—at least from a fan perspective, but that narrative can quickly snowball, whether it’s accurate or not.

dallagente: It’s become clearer to me why Spurs were never going to take to Mourinho’s style and it’s no one’s fault. It was just incompatibility. When you get used to years of seeing a Pochettino team that’s so relentless in trying to close down space, and then you switch to a coach like Mourinho who ditches counter-pressing, that was never going to go down well in North London. At Roma, ditching the counter-pressing is not going to be such a big deal. So far all Mourinho has done is revive Paulo Fonseca’s very first incarnation of Roma back in 2019/2020 with some different principles to it, and Mourinho is also a very game-to-game manager like Fonseca was; they both change the team’s collective tactics depending on the opponent so there’s some continuity there in terms of how Roma will approach the bigger picture of an entire season.

Personally, I’m excited about there being fewer instructions in the final third under Mourinho. I think his reputation as a “defensive” coach looks like being well off because we’ve been getting 5 to 7 players forward each time. We even threw 7 players forward against a stronger team like Sevilla! There’s nothing I’ve seen so far that worries me. The way we defend more passively now takes some getting used to watching as a fan but it’s outweighed by the positives. It does worry me that we might come up short on concentration at the back when defending a lead.

ssciavillo: The thing I’m certainly most excited about is seeing an attack featuring the likes of Abraham, Zaniolo, and Shomurodov running at defenses and being supplied with plenty of service from the likes of Pellegrini and Mkhitaryan. Roma could be very, very dangerous on the counter-attack if things go according to plan. Plus, like dalla said, Mou’s reputation of a defensive-minded manager doesn’t really stand up when you see 7 players pushing forward.

I’m also looking forward to the prospect of our three promising center backs maturing under Mourinho’s tutelage and taking the next step in their development. If Mancini can harness his aggression, Ibanez can eliminate the brain farts, and Kumbulla just gets more comfortable in a back four we could have a stacked defense with Smalling providing the veteran leadership.

No, one thing really worries me too much, but if we are going to sit back and absorb pressure rather than counter-pressing, then getting Mourinho a true DM would be nice.

JonAS: Agreed dalla, I don’t think we’ll see a very defensive side this season. Of course, we’ll defend a 1-0 lead after minute 80 instead of trying to score a second one. Mourinho’s only aim is to win, ugly if necessary. But with so much attacking talent at his disposal, his 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 hybrid will flourish and we’ll see a couple of 3-0 or 4-1 wins, at least I hope.

However, I’m curious if Jose can truly exorcise the typical Roman brainfarts (see Porto’s last-minute equalizer this Summer). We have big, tall defenders but Smalling, Ibanez, and Kumbulla are not perfect. And Rui Patricio hasn’t impressed me either.

Jimmy Miotto: As much as I think we’re going to see a stronger defense this season, and as much as I’m excited by the continued development of Gianluca Mancini, Ibañez, and Marash Kumbulla, like everyone else it’s the new forwards (and forwards returning from long injury layoffs) excite me the most. I’m hoping that Shomurodov, Abraham, and Zaniolo can function as a very fluid front three, with Borja Mayoral acting as a super-sub when necessary. Now, all we need is to hire a couple of priests from the Vatican to exorcise Trigoria, and the Scudetto is ours for sure. (Knock on wood, of course)

The other HUGE story of the summer is the departure of Edin Dzeko. What will Roma miss most from their legendary number nine? In other words, how will Roma’s offense function without him?

FC Internazionale Training Session Photo by Mattia Ozbot - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

Bren: It’s too soon to tell of course, but if Abraham is the nominal replacement, a lot will change. Many fans grew sort of tired of Dzeko towards the end, but he is one of the best and most complete strikers of his generation; there aren’t many players who can score, holdup and create quite like he can, so we may see a dramatic change in approach this season.

With Shomurodov and (possibly) Abraham, I’d expect to see a faster and more direct Roma, which is certainly exciting, but I’d worry about how Roma will score the grimy goals when that’s not working.

dallagente: Roma lost a club legend, punto. I expect in those games where teams park the bus then Mkhitaryan will step in to be that turnkey player between the lines. And I always say it never hurts to be efficient at scoring from corners and set pieces.

ssciavillo: I think Dzeko is one of those great players whose greatness isn’t truly recognized until he’s gone. I think his personality turned some fans off the last few years, but the man is a club legend at this point. The attack this year should be much quicker and more direct with Abraham and Shomurodov being his replacements coupled with the return of Zaniolo.

JonAS: Although I liked Dzeko and he truly was one of Roma’s best no 9 in history, I became irritated lately with his play and composure. Edin never was a Usain Bolt but at times he looked so uninspiring, slow, and absent. He just stood there, complaining, jogging. After all those years it was time for a fresh face, new blood.

Dzeko had the ability to score beautiful AND ugly goals. He’ll be missed but now we have three options up front for the striker position (all three of them have a unique profile) and Zaniolo is back too. I predict we won’t miss Edin that much.

That said, Roma got a lot of bang for their buck after buying the Bosnian Bomber.

Jimmy Miotto: Roma did get a lot of bang for their buck from Džeko, it’s true, but nevertheless I’m also happy to see him leave. For all the talk of “Roma 2.0” year after year, the star of the show never changed; once Totti and De Rossi left, it was the Džeko Show week in and week out. I don’t know if Tammy Abraham is going to slot in as the next superstar of Rome just yet; this could be a season where Abraham impresses but Zaniolo truly cements himself as the next great Italian to play for Roma. Regardless, I don’t think Roma will have an issue finding offense this season, no matter who of Roma’s attackers supplies it.

The other headline-grabber of the summer was the acquisition of Tammy Abraham. He’s not Dzeko, so paint a picture for us: How will Roma’s attack function with Abraham vs. Dzeko?

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Bren: Whoops, guess I sort of just answered that! But with Abraham and Shomurodov’s pace and athleticism, I think we could see an almost 1980s Lakers Showtime mentality with Roma in attack—there’s just so much pace on this side now. If Mourinho can resist the urge to park the bus after going up a goal, this is an attack that can push towards 75 goals or so.

dallagente: There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said by Bren. We’re obviously expecting much more efficient finishing from close range with Abraham but it’s not just about him. There’s now so much pace, ability to isolate and take on defenders across our whole frontline that Roma could take Serie A for all its worth in such a high-pressing league. It’s so trendy in Italian football to try and press, win the ball back high and early and our frontline can make any team regret trying that now. The only question mark is mid-season, when teams adapt and start parking the bus against Roma, then we’ll see what Plan B or C is.

ssciavillo: Speed kills. And that’s what Roma’s attack will be predicated on this season. Roma will look to catch teams out in possession and then hit quickly on the break with Abraham, Zaniolo, Mkhi, Eldor, and Pellegrini. Like dalla said, we could use the high-pressing trend to our advantage. However, as teams adjust it’ll be interesting to see how Roma adjusts.

JonAS: Well, if you have three experts like these guys above me throwing so many details at you, then this tiny little Belgian hasn’t much left to say. Excellent analysis.

Jimmy Miotto: This is what I get for answering last: all the good answers have already been said. I’ll just add on to what Steven said and note that Matias Viña and Rick Karsdorp might play a significant role in that “Speed Kills” attacking mentality. They’re not Spinazzola, but I think they both could be up to the task.

The Mourinho and Abraham hype has almost made Nicolo Zaniolo an afterthought. Can Mourinho push him to the next level? What should our expectations be this season for Zaniolo? What does a successful ‘21-’22 season look like for him?

Trabzonspor v AS Roma - UEFA Conference League: Play-Offs Leg One Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

dallagente: This is the first season where I’m genuinely excited to watch Zaniolo play. In the last few seasons, we surrounded guys like Zaniolo or Spinazzola with the type of shy-and-retiring teammates that just made those two ball hogs, head down, carrying the ball, and wasting seconds giving the other team time to get back into position. Now we’re seeing a Zaniolo who can sometimes stay back and look to collect the ball deep, but just as often look to make runs forward off the last defender. Maybe he’s doing more of the latter now because there’s less chance of injury than his old style of trying to muscle and take on the whole world, or maybe he’s just more confident that his teammates will find him in such a pacey Roma side now. Either way, I’m really looking forward to him getting goals.

ssciavillo: I think it’s natural to forget about some of the guys already on the side with all of the excitement around incoming transfers like Abraham. However, in the end, Zaniolo might go down as Roma’s best “signing” this season after he missed all of last season. With the club surrounding him with like-minded players who can push the pace with him, Nico could be even more deadly this season. A successful season for him starts with staying healthy and ends with putting up double-digit goals in all competitions. If he really emerges then maybe he hits that mark domestically. However, if he’s healthy, I’d be shocked with less than ten, while shredding defenses apart on the counter.

JonAS: Yes, I think he could reach 10+ goals and assists in ALL competitions. We can’t risk burning Nico from the start though. Sub him, rest him, the season will be long enough and we have enough bodies up front. I predict Mou will make Zaniolo a more all-round player who will also focus on his defensive duties and work for the team. And keep him down-to-earth, although extremely talented, Zaniolo still has a lot to prove. And Jose is the perfect man to guide Nico to stardom.

Jimmy Miotto: I don’t know if I’d go as far as Sean and say that this is the first season I’m excited to see Zaniolo play (I’ve been a fan of his from the jump), but I definitely think this might be the season that catapults him into superstardom. Because of those pesky injuries, he hasn’t really strung together one world-class season just yet. It’s been snippets here and there of Nicolò tantalizing us with slaloming runs and beautiful goals, only to be tragically cut short by injuries (sometimes in the middle of those runs themselves). If Zaniolo does as JonAS hopes and breaks into the double-double club, while avoiding significant time off due to injury, I think that’s an incredibly successful season for him. I also think it might make those whispers about giving him the #10 kit grow louder, even if I hope Roma holds off on doing that for now.

As we sit here, Roma hasn’t signed Granit Xhaka or a defensive midfielder of any sort, but do they really need one? How crucial is a legit DM to Mourinho’s tactics?

Brentford v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

dallagente: With the latest Roma signings, I now feel like Veretout could be a lot more important than I originally expected. I still feel it may be Veretout’s last season in Rome because he can’t defend, but with Vina and Karsdorp at full-backs who both enjoy passing the ball early rather than driving it forward, that leaves us at risk of being short of numbers in attack unless you have deep-lying midfielders who are mobile enough to get up there and join in. Veretout is very much that kind of guy.

I don’t think Roma needed a guy like Xhaka even if I get the attraction to a player who’s physical with a beautiful eye for passing (I mean I love defensive midfielders in general so really, I get it). But Euro 2020 was a far less intense (pressing-wise) style of football than Serie A, and guys like Xhaka lack both the pace and discipline not to get caught out in the Italian league without moving backward in the search for space and basically working as a makeshift centre-back. We already have that guy at the club in Cristante.

I’m personally hoping the team signs a CDM in the mould of Zakaria, Anguissa, Renato Sanches, Sabitzer. That type of guy who is physical, defensively sound enough but is good on the ball and can dribble out of pressure. I think that would make Roma the kind of team that makes opponents feel like they’re sometimes playing against 12 men. But if you don’t have that and you have to play Cristante or Diawara, ok, it’s not like that’s unworkable for the first season. But I’d only see Roma as a Top 6 team and not necessarily a Top 4 contender in that case.

ssciavillo: I never thought about Veretout’s importance in the side this season the way dalla explained it, but it makes perfect sense with Spinazzola out. With Veretout often driving forward we’ll need a ball winner in the midfield. However, I don’t want Pinto to purchase someone just to say Roma signed a DM. It needs to be the right profile.

In some ways, I’m glad the Xhaka deal fell through because if we want that kind of DM then Cristante can play in a similar way. I’d much rather the profile dalla described in his last paragraph “physical, defensively sound enough but is good on the ball and can dribble out of pressure”. We’ll see if that kind of player arrives or we stand pat, but with all the good that’s been done this mercato, I won’t be upset if we have to wait one more season for the right DM.

JonAS: A DM would be the icing on the cake this summer. A guy like Emerson or De Rossi. Veretout, Cristante or Diawara aren’t out-and-out DM’s while Darboe is still rough around the edges. Sell Diawara, perhaps loan Darboe and bring in a guy like Zakaria, a midfield enforcer. Roma’s very own Makelele. Then Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 is truly ready for take-off. There’s still time for Pinto to make it happen. That way, Veretout, and Cristante can focus on what they do best: box-to-box, run towards goal, shoot, score goals.

Jimmy Miotto: I agree that a DM would be a nice touch to end the summer mercato, but I don’t think it should happen considering how much midfield deadweight the Giallorossi are dealing with. N’Zonzi and Pastore are the obvious ones, but even players like Amadou Diawara don’t really seem to fit with this incarnation of Roma - they need to be gone before we sign another first-team midfielder. I’d love for the Giallorossi to sign a player like Renato Sanches or Teun Koopmeiners, but I doubt it happens considering how hard it has been to get rid of anyone this summer. I also hope that Mourinho’s tactics can be adjusted from using a Xhaka type to using a Cristante type—I want him to find success in Rome soon because he seems like a critical guy for locker room cohesion and definitely has the talent to contribute to a Champions League level side (just look at his highlights from Atalanta and Italy if you need any proof).

Which player is under the most pressure to perform this season?

AS Roma Training Session Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

dallagente: Whether we like it or not and whether or not it’s fair, it’s Tammy Abraham. When you’re carrying a price tag that’s just a half-mill short of being the club’s record signing, all eyes are on you. The other guy under pressure is Rui Patricio because he’s been poor this preseason and he apparently wasn’t even Roma’s first-choice signing.

ssciavillo: I agree it has to be Abraham because of the price tag and expectations that will come with it. However, the pressure will build on Patricio if he costs Roma goals early on.

JonAS: Abraham and Rui are obvious answers. Still, I’m gonna go for Zaniolo and his hype train that just keeps on rolling. Finally, he’s back. The biggest talent in Rome but also a kid with a lot of baggage at a young age (injuries, personal life in the media, fathership). People expect him to immediately perform like nothing happened and be our next Totti but if he hasn’t scored by November, there will be critics. Or worse, he’ll be sold next year.

Jimmy Miotto: It’s Abraham. Sorry Tammy, but we Romanisti are a fickle bunch. I just hope you can break double-digits in the goals department, otherwise, the complaining will be loud enough to shake the Olimpico.

Bren: I can't argue with any of those, but it has to be Abraham. At a potential €45 million, this kid won't get much leeway. He needs to contribute immediately.

Which player do you think will surprise Roma fans this year?

Football friendly match AS Roma - Raja club athletic Casablanca Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

dallagente: Recently I can’t shake it: I have a good feeling about Matias Vina. I also have a gut feeling about Edoardo Bove doing well this season if he’s still a Roma player on the 1st of September.

ssciavillo: I like the shouts from dalla and I think Bove could be a real surprise if he’s not loaned out. But, I’m going to go with Cristante. If another DM doesn’t arrive on the mercato, I believe that Cristante will fill the role and perform just as well as Xhaka would’ve. He may not be the player to drive the ball forward, but he’s physical enough to win duels and he can spring counters with his accurate long balls. He might be one of the most underappreciated players on the side, but there’s a reason why managers value him.

JonAS: I read so many good comments about Vina so he’s my pick too. It sounds like we have a new Spinazzola/Tonetto/Riise on our hands. Did Pinto release his inner Sabatini?

(Please don’t kill me, Calafiori. I like you too)

Jimmy Miotto: While I’m heartened by Steven’s choice of Bryan Cristante, I’m going with Nicola Zalewski myself. A recent interview of Zalewski’s dad by Polish site Sportowe Fakty has me rooting for this guy in a huge way. Not only has he impressed both myself and José Mourinho during preseason, and not only has he gotten his first call-up to the Polish National Team, but it sounds as if his father is in the midst of a tough fight with cancer. Just as it was touching to see Ebrima Darboe visit his home country for the first time in years once he made it with Roma, seeing Zalewski score for Roma with his father in attendance might bring tears to my eyes in a way the Giallorossi haven’t since Flo’s Nonna hug and the respective retirements of Totti and De Rossi.

Bren: Hmm, this is a tough one. I'm going to get crazy and say Marash Kumbulla. We're already seeing Chris Smalling's injury woes resurface, so if Kumbulla can settle into that third center-back role and take to Mourinho's teachings, he could make some tremendous strides this year.

Who leads the club in scoring this year and how many goals will he score?

AS Roma Unveil New Signing Tammy Abraham Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

dallagente: I’ll go with Zaniolo, as one half of the Two Man Power Trip with his tag-team partner Eldor bringing out the best in Nico (and it helps to have Abraham as their mystery third man).

ssciavillo: With Abraham’s arrival I’m going to tip him with 15 goals. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s Zaniolo either.

JonAS: Tammy, and make that 20 goals. Dzeko who?

Jimmy Miotto: I wouldn’t be surprised by Tammy, Nicolò, or Borja (yeah I said it) leading the goalscoring tally this season, but I’ll go with Abraham scoring 23. Nicolò will get that double-double, though, so that might be even more of the story by the end of the year.

Bren: It better be Abraham, right? I'll say Tammy nets 18 league goals in his first year with Roma.

Finish this sentence: Roma will finish in the top four this season if….

Trabzonspor v AS Roma - UEFA Conference League: Play-Offs Leg One Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

dallagente: … they sign Denis Zakaria and he stays healthy.

ssciavillo: Mourinho’s tactics fix Roma’s leaky defense and the young attack can punish opponents on the break.

JonAS:... if they finish top four. Ha! That was some weird Inception sh*t, isn’t it, my friend?

Jimmy Miotto: Lorenzo Pellegrini is in the Serie A Team of the Season.

Bren: Abraham scores more than 15 goals, the midfield remains healthy and Mkhitaryan plays as well as last year.

Finish this one: Roma will NOT finish in the fop four this season if….

Real Betis v AS Roma - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

dallagente: … they panic-fire Mourinho in the winter, and bring Pedro in from the cold as the club’s caretaker player-manager.

ssciavillo: Injuries force the big players to miss considerable time.

JonAS: Ok, so I can’t make the same pun twice in a row. Let’s throw in some horror… if Mancini and Karsdorp tear their ACL.

Jimmy Miotto: Injuries. Just... too many injuries.

Bren: Significant injuries to any of Zaniolo, Mkhitaryan, Abraham, or Ibañez and regression from Mkhitaryan, Pellegrini, and Karsdorp.

Okay, so where will Roma actually finish this season?

AS Roma Press Conference Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

dallagente: I started out this summer thinking Roma can finish top six no matter what. You didn’t need a new coach for that, as last season was such a league historical low for the club that any coach, even another year of Paulo Fonseca, would bounce back up the table. But now if Roma gets that final CDM signing across the line then they should see themselves as a top four contender. And why not have a go at another deep run in the cup competitions either way?

ssciavillo: I think Roma will push for the top four for the entire season. I don’t know if they’ll be able to get over the hump after three seasons, but I think they’ll be in the mix until the very end.

JonAS: Very close to top four but it’s impossible to make a prediction with so many teams in the running. Sarri’s Lazio and Spalletti’s Napoli are serious contenders. And are we really as good as Atalanta or Milan right now? Luck and injuries will determine a lot.

Jimmy Miotto: I said second in the Serie A roundtable and I’m sticking by it. Roma is the only club that got substantively better this summer, and quite a lot of the Champions League-level clubs sold key players. Wouldn’t it be the perfect story for Mourinho to make his comeback the moment he returns to Italy?

Bren: I'm going to say they'll finish a close but still disappointing 5th or 6th. This is still a transition year; an exciting one for sure, but we can't expect Mourinho to smooth everything out in one summer.

Finally, on a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that Roma finally figured out their project? In other words, is this finally it? Can Mourinho and the Friedkins finally build a sustainable winner? Has their first summer together given you more confidence?

Football Serie A Roma-Crotone Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

dallagente: For me, the most important thing, in the short term, is Tiago Pinto’s Monchi revival on the mercato. It’s exciting to go back to having a transfer policy that can provide the coach with several different options, tactical flexibility, and signing young players from abroad where - if they fail - they still have a market to move them onto, and hopefully, Mourinho is the experienced manager to be able to handle all Pinto is throwing at him and be flexible in turn. But most of all it’s going to be down to the Friedkins to prove they don’t panic under pressure and don’t make rash decisions or panic-firings when things are difficult.

We haven’t actually seen how the Friedkins react with a packed Curva Sud and Olimpico crowd booing and whistling the team off the pitch when results aren’t going to plan. Those moments will come and that’ll be a revealing time. On a scale of 1-10, I’m at a 3 because it’s early days and we haven’t seen the real character of the club’s management under pressure just yet.

ssciavillo: I’m going to go with a cautiously optimistic 7.5. I like the work Pinto has done on the mercato so far to support Mourinho’s tactics. It’s refreshing to see a clear plan in the works to put the manager in a position to play the way he wants to with players that can do what he asks of them. We still need to see how things progress over another mercato or two, but it seems like there is a sustainable plan in place.

JonAS: A 6. Baby steps, people. I think we’ll still need a full season under Mourinho to tweak some things here and there. If we reach CL, then fine, we have more money to spend next Summer. Some more deadwood gone, 2-3 extra additions, and then maybe Roma can push for a Scudetto in 2022-2023.

Jimmy Miotto: 5. I like the moves we’ve done so far, but we haven’t seen how the club responds to Roma happening just yet. I hope the mentality that “Goonies Never Say Die” (not the Gooners, mind you) is being installed in the club from the ground up; if it is, then I’m very, very excited to see where this incarnation of the Giallorossi can go.

Bren: Yeah, a five feels about right. It's a bit difficult to give them a precise grade at this point, but they're putting a lot of faith into Mourinho and Pinto, so I'll be extremely curious to see how much resolve they'll have if things don't go right. In the past, Roma showed little patience with their managers and directors of sport, which led to the constant cycle of churning players, tactics and philosophies. If they can break that cycle, this could be the first genuine step into an actual remaking of Roma. It's exciting but it's hard to give them blind faith considering, oh, the past 15 years of Roma history.


Stay tuned for our Fiorentina preview later today. In the meantime, give us your thoughts on these prompts and more!