With a perfect four-for-four start to the season (all competitions), Roma is riding high at the moment. After brushing past Trabzonspor to qualify for the Europa Conference League group stages and defeating Fiorentina and Salernitana in league play by a combined 7-1 scoreline, José Mourinho's tenure as Roma manager has gotten off to a flying start. From the tangibles (quicker transition play, better finishing, more efficient pressing) to the intangibles (body language, mental fortitude, and grinta), The Special One is already making an impact in the Eternal City.
However, despite their quick start to the season, Roma's work is far from done. With the summer transfer window set to close tomorrow, Roma GM Tiago Pinto is frantically searching for suitable, last-minute reinforcements for Mourinho's squad as they prepare to sink their teeth into the meat of the schedule.
Speaking after his club's 4-0 undressing of newly-promoted Salernitana yesterday, Mourinho addressed the need for added depth:
This is a good group. If you look at the bench today, then obviously I would like a bit more quality, a bit more experience – because you always run into moments when a squad needs to have a bit more experience, and not just when they are on the pitch. It’s clear that there are other teams who have more options than we have.
But I like working with these lads and I like going up against bigger sides and playing to win. Perhaps we will lose some and perhaps we will draw others – but I don’t want to change the approach of the team just because we are playing against one of the big sides. And that’s how we have to go forward, little by little
And if you've tracked Roma's transfer market this summer, then you can probably guess where Mourinho wants these reinforcements: midfield. After trying in vain to land Granit Xhaka from Arsenal earlier this summer, Roma has spent the past several weeks being linked to an assortment of defensive midfielders ranging from Teun Koopmeiners (who seems set to sign with Atalanta) to Fulham's Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (who is apparently heading to Napoli).
With two of their intended targets heading towards direct rivals, it's fair to ask why Roma wasn't able to land either midfielder, and the answer likely lies in the club's redundancies, namely holdovers from the Monchi era like Steven Nzonzi and Javier Pastore, whose onerous contracts have seemingly hamstrung Pinto's ability to make any last-minute purchases this summer. Taken together with players like Federico Fazio, Amadou Diawara, and perhaps even Gonzalo Villar, Pinto has to clear the deck before adding any new metaphorical patio furniture.
However, if Pinto is able to move some or all of those pieces, sources in the Italian media, namely Calciomercato, have linked the Giallorossi to several lower-profile defensive midfielders like Bayern Munich's Corentin Tolisso, Aston Villa's Douglas Luiz, Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek and even Dortmund's Axel Witsel.
According to these sources, Luiz has emerged as the favorite among this group of midfielders but his €30 million price tag may prove a bridge too far for Pinto and Roma, as would the salaries of players like Witsel and Tolisso.
All of which likely means one thing: Roma's roster is set until January. But don't let that dampen your spirits.
Despite Mourinho's desire to add experience to the midfield, there is more than enough talent (albeit young talent) to weather the storm for a few months. If Mourinho can take a leap of faith and give significant minutes to young players like Ebrima Darboe or Edoardo Bove—particularly in less critical matches (however one defines that)—then he'll not only save Roma money on the market, but he'll keep players like Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante fresh for the long haul.
As always, stay tuned but spare a thought for Tiago Pinto, who will likely be glued to his phone for the next 24 hours.