As the holiday season draws to a close and New Year’s Eve beckons, Serie A football is inching closer and closer to its return. With that, things will pick back up for Romanisti and the writers of Chiesa di Totti, and not a moment too soon. 2022 was a potent mixture of agony and ecstasy for the Giallorossi. Still, as January approaches, Roma can be confident that many of the building blocks of a Champions League-level side are in place.
Of course, there is still plenty of work for José Mourinho and his men to do to make sure that the talent in this Roma side actually lives up to its potential. January’s slate of matches will be a critical proving ground for this side, with major matches against top sides and the start of Roma’s Coppa Italia schedule.
Add in the fact that league-leaders Napoli employs Luciano Spalletti, a man practically synonymous with winter league implosions, and you have to hope that the Giallorossi can enter 2023 with newfound vim and vigor.
January 2023’s Upcoming Matches
- January 4th: A.S. Roma vs. Bologna F.C. 1909
- January 8th: A.C. Milan vs. A.S. Roma
- January 12th: A.S. Roma vs. Genoa C.F.C. (Coppa Italia Round of 16)
- January 15th: A.S. Roma vs. A.C.F. Fiorentina
- January 22nd: Spezia Calcio vs. A.S. Roma
- January 29th: S.S.C. Napoli vs. A.S. Roma
Storylines to Watch
Will Roma’s Forwards Finally Find Form?
Despite featuring the most exciting confluence of attacking talent I’ve ever seen in a Roma uniform, the Giallrossi forwards were an incredible disappointment to start this season. Nicolò Zaniolo still isn’t up to the standard of play we expect from him; Tammy Abraham is looking like 2015-2016 Edin Džeko (that’s bad, folks); and Andrea Belotti looks like a shell of his former self.
With the signing of Ola Solbakken, Tiago Pinto has already made one move to reinforce this attacking corps. The reintegration of Paulo Dybala into the starting eleven after a long injury layoff should also help the Giallorossi rediscover their goalscoring ways. Still, if Mourinho’s men want to even sniff Champions League football next season, at least one of their forwards needs to start banging in goals.
Complain about the midfield all you want; grumble that Roma still needs a long-term solution in goal; those concerns are moot until the big investments Roma has made in attack start paying off.
Is Frattesi Headed Home?
Speaking of midfield complaints, there is no doubt that Roma’s biggest January mercato plot line will involve Giallorossi academy graduate and current Sassuolo stud Davide Frattesi. Frattesi has made it clear to anyone who will listen that he wants to return to Roma; he’s even reportedly spurned offers from the other big clubs of Italy in an attempt to force Sassuolo’s hand at the negotiating table.
The deciding factor here may be The Friedkin Group’s determination to keep José Mourinho around. It’s not a coincidence that rumors recently tied The Special One to the vacancies on the Portuguese and Brazilian National Teams. Mourinho and management have been in negotiations over a new contract for some time now, and you have to imagine that part of those negotiations includes Mourinho wanting assurances that the Friedkins will continue to invest in the squad every mercato.
Signing a player like Davide Frattesi wouldn’t be a coup on the scale of the Paulo Dybala signing, but it would be a signal to Mourinho that the Giallorossi will front the cash needed to improve the squad. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Frattesi in Giallorossi colors again by the time the January mercato comes to a close; it’s more a question of what Sassuolo will get back in return.
Will Dybala Stay Healthy?
If Roma’s short-term success partially hinges on its forwards finally scoring goals, it also hinges on Paulo Dybala’s health. This is the price you pay for signing a player like Dybala. When he’s on the pitch, he is one of the most captivating players on the planet. You just have to hope he can stay on the pitch.
Even with his injury layoff in November, there’s no chance that the Giallorossi would ever undo their decision to bring in La Joya. He’s the biggest signing Roma has had since Gabriel Batistuta, and he’s the kind of star Rome has been craving since Francesco Totti retired. It’s still crucial for Dybala to be as healthy as possible in 2023, for his sake and for the club.
It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see the major difference in quality displayed by I Lupi with and without Dybala in 2022. The offense became lifeless without Paulo, and although Romanisti definitely grumbled about his lack of playing time at the World Cup, we have to hope that Dybala’s lack of playtime for Argentina will enable him to propel the club he dedicated his World Cup win to into the stratosphere.
During my entire time as a fan of the Giallorossi, I’ve never felt that Roma was this close to entering the true upper echelon of European clubs. Even Roma’s miracle run to the semi-finals of the Champions League in the 2017-2018 season felt more like a Cinderella story than the start of a new chapter. 2023 could be the start of a new chapter for Roma, Mourinho, Dybala, and the rest.
A lot has to go right for that to happen, and several players need to rediscover their top form. Still, can’t you feel the hope in the air?