clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Beating The Big Boys: Has Roma Finally Cracked the Code?

Mourinho has changed a lot in Rome since his arrival. But has he made Roma a worthy opponent against the big guns of Serie A?

Tammy Abraham (Roma striker) greets the fans after the... Photo by Fabrizio Andrea Bertani/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

During the season 2020-2021 under Paulo Fonseca, Roma only won one ‘big’ match in Serie A: 2-0 vs. Lazio on matchday 37. All the other games vs. Inter, Juve, Milan, Atalanta, and Napoli resulted in either draws or defeats, including the 4-0 demolition in Napoli, a 4-1 blowout in Atalanta, and the 3-0 smackdown in the first derby. And between all that, Roma narrowly avoided defeat at home vs Inter and vs Milan away. Yikes.

Fast forward to 2021-2022, Year One of the Mourinho Project wasn’t much better. The defeats weren't as big (3-2 to Lazio, 1-0 to Juve, 2-1 to Milan), but there were still horrible defeats, like the 4-3 loss to Juve, the typical ‘Roma Happened’ stuff of dreams—self-destructive behavior on full display.

Painful memories, especially because the Roman tifosi desperately want to return to the big stage and hang out with the top clubs from the north. They want to be at the same level and prestige. Just like 2001 or 2006-2008. It’s true you need to amass most of your points vs lower teams if you want to finish in the top 4. For instance, losing against, say, Venezia or Genoa will hurt more in the end than a loss to Juve or Milan.

But if you can’t win a single time against a bigger club, that also hurts your pride, motivation, and mentality. Winning creates winners. To believe in an upset even though the odds are against you. People will fear a team that won 2-1 against Inter more than a team that won 5-0 vs Salernitana.

We hoped the coming of José Mourinho would inspire the players and create a winning mood, not a loser's mentality, to stop being pushovers and become a force to reckon with. Alas, last season didn’t introduce the big turnaround we hoped for. Still, progress was made... if you look closer.

AS Roma v Atalanta BC - Serie A Photo by Danilo Di Giovanni/Getty Images

Last season Roma won twice against Atalanta, including an amazing 4-1 affair in Bergamo, and they handled Napoli pretty well (two draws). Roma also demolished Lazio in a 3-0 derby win, and in case you forgot, Roma won a certain European trophy (although Roma never faced quality clubs like Bayern, City, or Real).

In Mourinho’s second season in charge, so far Roma has drawn in Juve (mind you, not the worst result possible, given the number of losses at the Allianz Stadium lately), and they even won in Inter, their first win against the Nerazzurri in years.

Yes, there was the one-nil loss at Atalanta, a match many viewed as undeserved, but Atalanta are now Serie A leaders together with Napoli, so it only confirms their status as a ‘big club’. Losing points vs La Dea is a shame but not a big problem as long as you defeat the Monzas, Sampdorias, and Bolognas of this world.

The 4-0 loss in Udine was, at first, an unexpected hiccup, but in hindsight, it doesn’t hurt that much, in my opinion. That day they were simply the better team. Remember, Udinese are currently considered the surprise package of the season. They defeated Inter 3-1, and their only loss so far was away in Milan. Surely they will steal points from the other top clubs as well.

Two defeats in Serie A so far but two ‘acceptable’ results. It’s not like they threw away a 3-1 lead or lost in Cremonese. Baby steps.

Obviously, it’s still too early to say that Mourinho succeeded and Roma is back among the big boys. But progress is progress, and we’ll get there eventually. We still need a few tweaks here and there, and we got to start finishing those chances so games like Atalanta won’t happen again.

FC Internazionale v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

If we look at the big matches in the near future—Napoli and Lazio at home and Milan in early 2023—Roma should be in full throttle with Belotti and Camara 100%, a couple of new additions (a CB and Ola Solbakken), and maybe, just maybe a cameo from Gini Wijnaldum.

But this current Roma can and should be able to win against the likes of Napoli and Lazio at home with the help of the Olimpico crowd. Or at least give them a run for their money. It seems Mourinho has Lazio’s number judging from recent results, so we’re slight favorites in the derby.

Beating an impressive Napoli, though, would really turn some heads in Italy and make Roma a real contender for the top 4 and scare the likes of Milan and Juve, especially if they can follow up that statement win with a derby victory two weeks later on November 6th.

Could it be possible? Beating three big clubs in the space of five weeks? Will Year 2 be the right one? Only time will tell.