It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll absolutely take it. After a deflating loss to Milan followed by an almost inexplicable collapse against Juve, anything less than a win against Cagliari would simply have been unacceptable for the Giallorossi, who went into the match having failed to win in each of their previous three matches.
Along with questions surrounding Roma’s ability to rebound from their crushing loss to Juve, a much-anticipated debut for Sérgio Oliveira was one of the major headlines going into the match, who started the match alongside Roma’s other newest addition, Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
An Oliveira penalty-kick ended up being the difference on Sunday, helping Roma weather a stubborn Cagliari and secure a much-needed three points. And having said that, we now bring back CdT’s newest series following a brief hiatus, where I examine three things I either liked, or didn’t like, from the match.
Sérgio Oliveira Is Our Best Player
Let’s get right into it, after one match I'm ready to say that Sergio is already the best player on our squad, easily. Okay...I don’t actually believe that (for now) but what a debut from the former Porto man. Winning and converting the winning penalty aside, in my mind it has been a LONG time since Roma had a midfielder that looked as cool and comfortable on the ball as Sérgio did against Cagliari, or at the very least, one you didn’t really have to worry about when they were under pressure.
Now, of course, is it entirely likely that I'm setting expectations way too high for Roma’s newest acquisition off the strength of a single match? Absolutely.
But having said that, credit to Pinto, Mourinho, and Co. for identifying and bringing in a player who could come in and be a MOTM candidate on their club debut. Oliveira may end up being a strictly rotational piece for Roma down the road, but the early returns seem extremely promising, and he seems to be the exact type of player you bring in during the winter market, someone that definitively gives your team a boost for the second half of the season.
It Might Be Time to Give Up On the Shomurodov Experiment
On the flip side of how much I adored Oliveira’s performance against Cagliari, Eldor Shomourdov’s contribution off the bench on the evening left much to be desired, at least in my eyes. The Uzbek international replaced Felix Afena-Gyan in the 75th minute, the same exact substitution Mourinho made in the Juve match, just minutes before Roma put the finishing touches on their collapse.
Thankfully, the Giallorossi avoided a similar implosion against Cagliari, but Shomourdov’s time on the pitch needed to be more productive, particularly in the context of how much Roma spent to acquire the former Genoa man. Players like Zaniolo and Abraham also weren’t as clinical as any of us would have liked them to be, but more than a couple counter attacks in the latter stages of the game were halted following an errant pass or weak shot from Shomourdov.
Granted, Eldor is a rotational piece for a reason, but for close to €20 million, you’d expect better returns from one of your first subs off the bench. I’ve been skeptical of Shomourdov’s value since he was brought in, to begin with, and lackluster contributions like he had against Cagliari only serve to reinforce that.
The Togetherness Is Still There For This Squad
Whether in previous articles or on episodes of our podcast, I’ve talked a bit about how in seasons past, some of the crushing losses that we’ve experienced so far this season, would’ve completely derailed the rest of the campaign. I can remember a handful of times during both EDF and Fonseca’s tenures watching this team and seeing a dejected group of players in matches following tough results. And granted, Roma weren’t perfect nor dominant against Cagliari, but securing a win in difficult circumstances is a great indication that the togetherness Roma have been desperate to cultivate is still there for this squad.
In Mourinho’s pre-match presser, he was asked about his comments on the squad following the Juve debacle, to which Mourinho responded by saying that everything he says to the media he says to the players themselves, and that he had the sense that they took his comments well. Of course, we’re not privy to the atmosphere in the dressing room, so who’s to say what the actual environment is like, but grinding out results such as the win over Cagliari certainly hints that everybody is still on the same page, despite the difficulties of the last few weeks.
Well, that’s all from me. With a midweek Coppa Italia against Lecce on the horizon, you hope that today’s result is the beginning of a winning run, something certainly possible given Roma’s upcoming run of games. The Cagliari win might not have been the prettiest, but truly the three points here is all that mattered. The win, combined with a sterling debut from Oliveira and a solid shift from Maitland-Niles, goes a long way in erasing the sour taste from Roma’s first couple matches in 2022, and hopefully serves as a springboard for the next couple weeks of the season.