We're not entirely sure what's going on with Roma and José Mourinho at the moment, and it's probably safer we don't ask, but one thing is for certain: something is amiss in the Eternal City. With the club struggling for form and Mourinho growing increasingly frustrated with the quality of his squad, the viability of Roma's Mourinho Makeover has come under question from pundits in the Italian and English-speaking media.
To his credit, Mourinho has routinely and flatly denied any rumors of unrest in the locker room and was even able to inject a bit of nuanced optimism into the discussion after yesterday's draw with Sassuolo:
When you find yourself behind in the 90th minute and then find a way to draw, it does change things a bit from an emotional perspective. If you had asked me before the game if I would be happy with a draw, my answer would have been no. If you asked me the same question at half-time, I would have given you the same answer. But then if you asked me the question after 90 minutes tonight I would have said, ‘Yes, please’...this result gives me the feeling that the squad will keep on fighting until the very end
One definite quality about this group of players is the empathy and friendship they have for each other. We can be poor – anyone can say that Mourinho or his players are not good enough – but no-one can say we are not very, very united.
We are, and for that reason no-one can hurt this group in that way. In terms of footballing ability and technical quality then we might have our limits – the second goal might cause me a sleepless night tonight, it was nightmare stuff – but we are a really close-knit group. That’s undeniable
The rumors of discontent certainly made for entertaining reading over the past week (depending on one's opinion of Mourinho, of course) but we have to credit The Special One for confronting that head-on and mining the depths to find something positive to say about his squad in the wake of another disappointing performance.
In that light, let's jump straight into this week's Sinners & Saints!
When you snatch a point from the jaws of defeat in the game's final moments, you get the first halo, and such was the case with the much-maligned Bryan Cristante. Roma's 26-year-old midfielder didn't play much last nite (only 21 minutes) but in addition to scoring a late equalizer, Cristante was up to his old tricks, completing 92% of his passes while also chipping in two tackles.
Without that goal, he doesn't sniff this list, but his last-minute heroics likely spared us plenty of off-the-pitch drama this week.
Roma's other goal scorer strung together 90 pretty solid minutes, firing three shots on goal while putting two on target. In addition to his penalty conversion, Abraham won four of seven duels, chipped in two key passes, set up one scoring chance, completed his only cross, and even cleared two balls for good measure.
Another short-time standout, Veretout was incredibly efficient in limited action against Sassuolo. In only 13 minutes, Veretout completed all 10 of his passes, set up two shots for his teammates, completed two of four crosses, and swung in the corner that led to Cristante's last-gasp equalizer.
It's been a while since Viña donned our post-match halos, but the 24-year-old left-back was solid as they come last night. In 76 minutes, Viña won 13 of 17 duels, won a match-high eight tackles, cleared one ball, and completed one of three dribble attempts.
Mkhitaryan was instrumental in nearly every passable attacking move Mourinho's men managed last night. In 90 minutes, the Armenian veteran completed 83% of his passes, including an impressive seven of nine long attempts, chipped in three key passes, completed three dribbles, blocked one shot, intercepted two passes, and completed three tackles. A busy day for the 33-year-old.
Yeah, he was momentarily hung out to dry after Hamed Traore's 47th minute shot on goal struck Chris Smalling's torso, which seemed to alter his sense of timing just enough for a moment of indecision to take root. However, despite that unexpected hiccup, Patricio was still in a position to make the save and even got multiple body parts on the ball but still watched it trickle over the goal line.
We all love his potential (like, a lot) but last night proved one thing beyond all doubt: you can only expect so much precision and sound decision-making from a 19-year-old kid in Serie A. Felix flashed his usual combination of pace and acceleration, but he blatantly ignored a Tammy Abraham run into the box that likely would have produced a goal (or, at the very least, a clear-cut chance) with a simple through ball into the six and misfired on his own attempts at Andrea Consigli's net.
He'll be fine and the lessons he's learning this year will go a long way towards ironing out these wrinkles in time for the 2022-2023 season and beyond, so don't sweat this particular performance.
As is so often the case when Mancini gets the proverbial pitchfork in our S&S countdowns, his transgressions really owed more to lack of activity than any noticeable error. In 76 minutes, Mancini managed only one tackle and four duels won while adding to his team-leading yellow card count.
Statistically speaking, Karsdorp was...fine. However, with culpability in both Sassuolo's goals, Karsdorp's defensive limitations were on full display. On Traore's first strike, Karsdorp inexplicably focused more on the man with the ball than the man (Traore) that was running right behind him, opening up a clear path on goal. And the less said about his performance on Traore's second goal the better—he was abused by Traore, who tossed him aside like a worn-out ragdoll before settling the ball and beating Patricio.
Stuck In Between
- Chris Smalling: The Rui Patricio own goal was eventually credited to Smalling, but with a man bearing down on him and firing at will, attempting to block the shot was the right move, and as we mentioned above, Patricio still should have stopped it. Apart from that, Smalling was passable: six tackles won and 85% passing
- Lorenzo Pellegrini: It was a rather subdued return to league action for Roma's captain, who struggled mightily passing the ball (only 58% completion) but managed to intercept three passes and won just over half of his duels.
- Carles Pérez: It’s hard to tell exactly what his role is, and even harder to see how he has a future with Roma beyond this season, but he ran his heart out in 13 minutes last night, so there's that.
- Eldor Shomurodov: See above but add €17 million to the equation.
- Sérgio Oliveira: For perhaps the first time in his brief Roma career, Oliveira wasn't a revelation. He completed 82% of his passes, won three duels...and that was about it.
- Ainsley Maitland-Niles: He played a couple of genuinely enticing balls towards the near post that unfortunately went wasted, but didn't really make a mark in his 14-minute cameo.
- Marash Kumbulla: 90% passing, three clearances, and three tackles. He's really settling into a nice groove in 2022. Roma were wise not to give up on the 22-year-old defender.
That's it for this rendition. See you back here next weekend!