After an uplifting back end of January raised Romanisti hopes everywhere, those hopes promptly came down to Earth after Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Inter in the Coppa Italia Quarter-finals. The gap in quality and chutzpah between the Nerazzurri and the Giallorossi was on full display, as Mourinho’s men were kept goalless and allowed a quick goal from Edin Džeko to set the tone for the full ninety.
Matches like Tuesday’s make it clear that Roma is no longer one of the absolute best clubs in Italy. We can quibble over how much of that is due to the resurgence of both Inter Milan and AC Milan, and how much of it is due to a relative drop in quality in Roma’s squad (Jordan Veretout is no Peak Radja Nainggolan, folks). Still, if you’re religiously reading Chiesa di Totti, you know that all signs point towards I Lupi being in the first year of a project, not at the peak of what this core can do.
Some players are likely here for the long haul, including Lorenzo Pellegrini, Tammy Abraham, and Nicolò Zaniolo; others, like Roger Ibañez and Jordan Veretout, will most likely leave the club if the price is right. So while there seems to be less and less to play for in Serie A this season, and while the Europa Conference League might not be the flashiest trophy for the Giallorossi to win, let’s all make a pact to understand where exactly Roma is on the timeline and try to enjoy the best moments whenever possible. As for the worst moments? Well, CdT will be griping along with you every step of the way.
September 12, 2021: Roma 2, Sassuolo 1
As the Giallorossi head to face a Sassuolo whose attack has been neutered due to suspension, we get to look back at yet another last-second win from the first half of the season. Stephan El Shaarawy’s goal in the 92nd minute provided José Mourinho with a win in his thousandth game as a manager, but take a look at our post-match Final Thoughts and chuckle:
Credit to this team for digging deep and finding the winner after a particularly frustrating night, it’s clear to see that Mourinho has made significant progress in changing the mentality of the team, it’s not hard to imagine the Roma of last year settling for the point, or conceding a last-minute winner to Sassuolo.
If 2022 has taught us anything about this Roma side, it’s that they’ve got a long way to go until they’re conquered their weak mentality. Losses to clubs like Juventus, Milan, and Inter should be practically expected until big changes happen there; however, wins against the Sassuolos of the world can and should be viewed as possible.
What To Watch For
Can Roma Show Grinta Again?
Ah, grinta. Practically the first Italian word you’re forced to learn when you become a Romanista (okay, capitano might come before it), it’s a quality of grit and grind that many Romanisti believe is crucial to any successful Roma side. Grinta seems to be in short supply these days around Trigoria, with few players truly embodying that energy on a night-in, night-out basis.
As I said before, it’s clear that Roma is in the second tier of Italian clubs right now, behind the title contenders of Juventus and the Two Milans. For Roma to confidently assert itself as one of the best clubs of the rest, though, it’s imperative for the Giallorossi to rediscover its collective grinta. Players like Tammy Abraham, Nicolò Zaniolo, Gianluca Mancini, and Sergio Oliveira have the potential to live up to that expectation of Roma players, but too often weak performances from other squad members bring them down to a place where they’re no longer comfortable fighting for every inch on the pitch. If Roma wants to get anything out of this season, even an ECL trophy, grinta will be key. That same point will hold true for tomorrow’s match against Sassuolo, even with Giacomo Raspadori and Gianluca Scamacca both out due to suspension.
Who Replaces Zaniolo Up Front?
Of course, Raspadori and Scamacca aren’t the only players out due to suspension for tomorrow’s match; our very own Nicolò Zaniolo will be missing as well after receiving a straight red for dissent against Genoa. Despite his mediocre goalscoring form, Zaniolo’s been an ever-present part of Roma’s starting eleven this season, so it’s honestly a fair question to ask who might replace him in his unique role paired with Tammy Abraham up front.
For my money, I’d expect to see Eldor Shomurodov get another chance in the starting lineup. The Giallorossi are likely going to hold on to Shomurodov for a while yet, as there’s little to no way for them to recoup his transfer fee considering his lack of form with I Lupi. Add in the fact that Carles Perez has seemingly fallen off the face of the Earth, and the odds of Shomurodov getting a start against Sassuolo start looking rather high.
Of course, the Uzbek Messi will have to do something with that start if he hopes to sniff the pitch again once Zaniolo returns from suspension; after the introduction of Felix Afena-Gyan to the squad, it’s become clear that Mourinho puts the teenage wunderkind ahead of Eldor in the depth chart. Yet I think there’s space for Shomurodov to develop into the second striker role behind Abraham. We all saw how impressive he looked creating assists in his first few weeks in Rome, and given that Roma are still playing in two competitions, it will be critical to have four forwards who can play in any given match.