As we enter April, there are two months remaining in the season and the Giallorossi have played just over 75% of their league schedule. And with the last international break out of the way, it’ll be full steam ahead as Roma returns to both league action and the Conference League quarterfinals. So, as the Giallorossi gear up for the home stretch of the 2021-2022 campaign, José Mourinho’s first in charge, let's examine some of the storylines to keep an eye on the rest of the way.
How Long Will the Unbeaten Run Continue?
With the 3-0 derby thumping of Lazio prior to the international break, the Giallorossi are now unbeaten in nine straight league matches (5W-4D). Additionally, Roma has only lost once since the end of January (losing to Inter in the Coppa Italia).
We expected a change in mentality when Mourinho was hired, and it seems like that's beginning to happen. During that nine-match run, Roma has won points late in matches by fighting back to draw or snatching a late winner multiple times. Those are the kind of matches that Roma wouldn't have been able to salvage in past seasons. And those points could be crucial in the race for Europe.
Now, we’ll see just how long the Giallorossi can extend the unbeaten run with eight league matches remaining. Roma plays Sampdoria and Salernitana out of the break before the big boys come calling in Napoli and Inter.
Will Roma Improve on Last Season’s Final Results?
For much of the fall and winter, social media was rife with comparisons of Mourinho’s point total through X amount of matches and those of his predecessor, Paulo Fonseca. Thanks to Roma's aforementioned run of good form, those comparisons have quieted lately.
Last year, Roma stumbled into the end of the season, barely finishing 7th on 62 points. That was the lowest point total for the club since 2012-13 when Zednak Zeman’s Roma also ended on 62. Currently, Roma has 51 points through 30 matches. That puts the Lupi on pace for 64.6 points based on their current average of 1.7 points per match. However, given the current run of form, it’s certainly likely the Giallorossi push higher.
It’ll be up to Mourinho to finish the season on a high and eclipse last season's point total and seventh-place finish. And they’ll likely need more than 64 to do that considering how tight things are with Atalanta, Lazio, and Fiorentina in the race for fifth and the automatic EL place. And speaking of the Europa League, there is another way to achieve qualification.
Will Roma Finally Lift a Trophy?
We all know it’s been ages since Roma last lifted a trophy. When I first started following the club in the mid-2000s, the Giallorossi were lifting Coppa Italia trophies and nearly winning the Scudetto in what felt like almost every season. I thought that would be the norm for life as a Roma fan. I guess I got duped because Roma hasn’t earned any silverware (save a Bonsai tree, which I guess can’t even be considered silverware since it’s wood) since that last Coppa in 2008. We’re now in the 14th consecutive trophyless season.
That could all change this spring though. While Roma has struggled domestically in recent years, the Giallorossi made an unexpected run to the Europa League semi-finals last year and are now in the Conference League quarterfinals.
We all know why José Mourinho was brought here: to win that next elusive trophy. Obviously, the ultimate aim during his contract would be the Scudetto, but you have to start somewhere. And the UECL would be a good jumping-off point for a club looking to end its trophy drought and build a winning reputation under Mourinho and the Friedkin group.
Next up for the Giallorossi is Bodø/Glimt. Yes, the same Bodø from the Conference League group stage; the club that inflicted the worst defeat of the Special One’s tenure, so it should provide an opportunity for revenge.
If Roma advance past the Norwegians then it’ll likely be Leicester City followed by Marseilles in the final if the tournament plays out as expected. We’ll see if Roma has what it takes to win the inaugural final and lift the club’s first trophy in well over a decade.
Can Roma Continue to Improve Against the Bigs?
It’s been well documented just how poor Roma was against the top six the last two seasons under Paulo Fonseca. In fact, Roma’s only victory last season against a top side was a meaningless derby victory in the penultimate match of the season. So far this season, Roma has won three matches against the same six sides: Atalanta (twice)and Lazio.
Mourinho and company know that eventually finishing in the top four and returning to the Champions League will require defeating the direct competition for those places. So, the Roma manager will be keen on adding to that total before the season ends as the Giallorossi look to build momentum to close the season and into next season.
Roma has two more cracks at European challengers to finish the season when it faces Napoli and Inter in back-to-back weeks later this month. It’ll be interesting to see if Mourinho can mastermind a couple more decisive victories against big sides like he did in recent weeks against La Dea and the Biancoceleste.
Will the Defensive Improvements Continue?
When he was hired, Romanisti hoped that Mourinho's more pragmatic approach would yield better defensive results than his predecessor Fonseca. However, the early returns for Roma weren’t great to start the season. The worrying trend continued into the winter and was punctuated by the seven combined goals Roma allowed back-to-back to AC Milan and Juve to open 2022.
Nevertheless, since then, the Giallorossi have kept five clean sheets in their nine-match league unbeaten run. That nearly equals the seven that Roma was able to post during the first 21 matches of the season. The 28 goals allowed in those 21 matches equates to 1.33 allowed per match. Since then the Giallorossi have allowed seven goals in nine, which averages out to 0.78 per match. That’s the main reason for Roma’s extended unbeaten run.
On top of that, Max Kumbulla has begun to live up to the potential that he showed while at Hellas Verona. Of course, Roma's defensive improvement comes down to more than just one defender. The team has been more organized and players like Sérgio Oliveira and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have helped steady the midfield. Credit to Mourinho for getting the best out of his side of late without the true defensive midfielder he craves.
Last season the Giallorossi conceded 58 goals. With 35 conceded in 30 and the overall improvements, Mourinho’s side should cut that number down substantially.
How High Can Tammy Climb?
I don’t know if €45 million can ever be considered a bargain, but in footballing terms, Tammy Abraham is probably one of the most cost-effective big-money signings in Roma history.
The Englishman has already surpassed Vincenzo Montella (20) and Gabriel Batistuta (20) for goals in a maiden Roma season with 23. And Tammy still has eight league matches and possibly five more UECL matches to add to that total. He’s currently joint third in the capocannoniere standings with 15 league goals and leads the UECL Golden Boot race with seven.
He may not surpass Ciro Immobile or Dusan Vlahovic (21 goals each), who have each taken more penalty kicks to pad their totals, but it’s entirely possible that he wins the UECL prize and leads Serie A for goals from open play.
Abraham has taken to life in the Italian capital like a fish to water and had it not been for some early season bad luck with the woodwork, he could be right in the mix with Immobile and Vlahovic for capo. It’ll be interesting to see if he can hit 30 goals in all comps in the final stretch of the season.
Stick with us as we track these storylines and many more as Roma looks to finish 2021-2022 on a high note.