Roma’s 3-0 win over Trabzonspor confirmed their place in the European Conference League Group Stage (try saying that three times fast), but more than that, it showed the potential of this incarnation of the Giallorossi under José Mourinho. Sure, Tammy Abraham didn’t score, and there are certainly still ways the side can improve, but nevertheless, we should appreciate that Roma has come out of the gates with three wins from three matches. We’re not at early Rudi Garcia Era streak levels of excitement just yet, but the pieces all seem to be there for sustained success across competitions this season. It remains to be seen how injuries and tougher competition affect this side’s spirits, but for now, let’s enjoy the victories as they come.
[Author’s Note: I haven’t been able to find any statistical resources for the European Conference League yet, so these sainthoods are going to lean a bit more into generalizations and platitudes than I’d normally like. Hopefully, the usual sources start treating the ECL like a real thing sooner rather than later.]
Lorenzo Pellegrini has a complicated relationship with some parts of the Giallorossi fanbase. As the most senior Roman-born player left in the squad, he’s the true successor to Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi; the strain of that role would be a challenge for anyone, and that’s one of the reasons Alessandro Florenzi is plying his wares in Milan now. It’s certainly true that in his career to date, Pellegrini has sometimes struggled with consistency. If you ask me, though, a lot of that criticism has been over-the-top for a regular mainstay of the Azzurri and a midfielder who has consistently been one of the best in Serie A.
Given that, the performances that Pellegrini has put in so far during this young season suggests that the Roman might be finding a new gear under José Mourinho. Pellegrini was an incisive attacking midfielder against Trabzonspor, appearing nearly everywhere on the pitch and looking far deadlier with his free-kicks than he has in the past. In addition to that, Pellegrini balanced defensive and offensive duties well, hardly putting in a wrong foot anywhere and being careful not to force a play if Trabzonspor’s defense was prepared for it. Although he didn’t end up on the scoresheet this time around, the attacking chutzpah Pellegrini added to the game implies to me that him reaching a double-double this season for goals and assists isn’t out of the question; if anything, it seems more likely than not with three competitions on the horizon.
Pre-match, Mourinho suggested that he wanted three Pellegrinis, and post-match, Mourinho practically demanded that Tiago Pinto extend the playmaker as soon as possible. If Lorenzo is able to play this way with consistency, it’s easy to see why The Special One sees something special in Roma’s captain.
Nicolò Zaniolo has a lot riding on him right now. Even though the Trabzonspor match marked the first time in 400 days that he’s scored a goal in a real match, the expectations surrounding his career both in the present and the future must be a lot to handle for a 22-year-old. Despite playing remarkably little football at the senior level to date, he’s viewed as the future of both the Giallorossi and the Italian national team; the Roman press hounds his personal life at a level typically reserved for the Kylian Mbappés and the Harry Kanes of the world; and on top of all of that, he’s a new father.
Zaniolo’s performance in his first Serie A match post-injury was one we all want to forget, with his 52nd-minute red card hinting at the amount of nerves The Kid has now that he’s back from injuries many thought would derail his career. The flaws in his game had an outsize impact on his game against the club that nearly killed his career back in 2017; the physical qualities that make him such a unique prospect made him seem ungainly and unsure against Fiorentina. Against Trabzonspor, though, we saw the player we all know and love, one who can bully his way past defenders with slaloming runs and who can do things few other footballers can. Zaniolo’s goal certainly wasn’t the most impressive of his career, but quickly breaking his goalscoring duck post-injury is crucial, both for him and the club on the whole.
Congratulations, Nicolò, and welcome back. Here’s to many more where that came from.
See, Paulo? This is what it looks like when you actually play Bryan Cristante in a more natural position, and not at center-back. He’s a nice guy, and he’ll do a serviceable job doing just about anything on the pitch, but you shouldn’t make a Budweiser Clydesdale do dressage.
See, Eusebio? This is what it looks like when you let the player who scored double-digit goals for an excellent Atalanta side get goalscoring chances, instead of completely changing his role to fit boring tactics.
I’m more than a little intrigued by the idea of Mourinho putting Cristante in the role that has nominally been Jordan Veretout’s for the last few seasons, or perhaps in more of a Nainggolan-esque role. I think the results could be incredibly exciting.
Rui Patricio’s transfer to Roma received a subdued reaction, with some suggesting he might not even be much better than Pau Lopez and others not understanding why the Giallorossi would be interested in buying a goalkeeper on the other side of thirty. Matches like this one make it clearer why Roma went with Patricio. His experience between the sticks and ability to lead the defense has proven incredibly useful so far this season, and given the youth that defines the rest of the Giallorossi’s defense, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mourinho specifically went for an older keeper to balance out the inexperience elsewhere.
That, and little things like this:
Nei cerchi neri le esultanze dei giocatori del Trabzonspor sul colpo di testa di Victor Hugo.— Jacopo Aliprandi (@AliprandiJacopo) August 26, 2021
Nel cerchio bianco il guantone di #RuiPatricio che con un guizzo ha salvato la porta. Un vero portiere. #ASRoma #RomaTrabzonspor pic.twitter.com/b6HgpHCxR1
When I see Patricio’s impressive play in a Roma kit, my mind automatically jumps to Morgan De Sanctis. Patricio was certainly more expensive than De Sanctis, and he has a much stronger pedigree at the club and international levels. Nevertheless, if the Giallorossi continues to get class performances out of the Portuguese number one, Rui might turn out to be a rich man’s De Sanctis. There’s no doubt that he’ll have rough games every now and then. That’s part of being a goalkeeper at any level, and even Alisson Becker has rough times between the sticks here and there. Yet Patricio’s form to start the season should certainly quiet some of the doubting among Romanisti about him being an upgrade on Roma’s other options at goalie.
The Stuck-In-Betweens and Sinners
Not applicable. Let the good times roll while they’re rolling, and three wins and a clean sheet out of the first three matches of the season definitely qualify as good times.