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Reviewing Roma's Forwards: All Tammy, All the Time

Tammy Two Goals took the capital by storm, making Roma fans forget about Edin Dzeko. But what comes next?

AS Roma UEFA Conference League Victory Parade Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Romama via Getty Images

Edin Dzeko may not have been the most beloved figure in club history, but despite the hangdog expression he carried around from time to time, the Bosnian Batistuta did leave the capital as Roma's third all-time leading scorer. However, despite those impressive notes on his résumé, Dzeko isn't quite as revered as legends like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi, or even short-term success stories like Alisson Becker or Radja Nainggolan. The reasons behind that are varied, but his goal-scoring droughts and the litany of transfer stories linking him with Chelsea, Inter, and Juventus every summer may have tarnished his otherwise exemplary record.

The vagaries of fan worship notwithstanding, Dzeko's actual legacy with the club stands almost as tall as the man himself. After all, we're talking about a guy who slotted home 119 goals in 260 appearances, including capturing the 2106-2017 capocannoniere title. Even if he wasn’t the most cherished player in club history, his legacy on the pitch was practically beyond reproach, leaving Roma GM Tiago Pinto a massive challenge as he approached his first full season on the job.

After some brief dalliances with players as varied as Mauro Icardi and Wout Weghorst, Pinto eventually found his Dzeko replacement in young Tammy Abraham. While his talent was undeniable, Abraham's CV was all over the map, with Championship goal-scoring binges sprinkled in between fallow Premiership periods. Apart from an impressive 15-goal campaign for Chelsea during the ‘19-’20 season, Abraham had largely feasted on Championship-tier defenses in his young career.

Add all that up and you had, in the words of our colleagues at We Ain't Got No History, a complete striker who wasn't yet complete. With the pressure of being the goal-scoring face of Roma's new project, one that cost a club record €45 million we might add, Abraham had to prove he could hack it in the top flight—and prove it he did.

Roma's attack may have lacked a bit of punch this season, but without Abraham, they would have been completely powerless. But he wasn't alone up top, so let's take a look at how Roma's forwards fared this season and we'll start by looking back on our best and worst-case predictions.

Best and Worst-Case Scenarios Revisited

AS Roma v CSKA Sofia - UEFA Conference League Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With a new manager in tow and some fresh faces on the frontline, making our best and worst-case predictions last August was difficult, especially since Edin Dzeko remained a Roma player as we started the series. But we didn’t let that dampen our spirits, even if our predictions were haunted by Dzeko's role and legacy with the club.

The Best-Case Scenario in August

To wit:

Originally, this section chronicled how Mourinho would reach into his Spurs past, using Dzeko as a stand-in for Harry Kane. Dzeko, much like Kane, would use his size, strength, and passing ability to anchor the offense... While that may still be the plan with Abraham, he hasn’t yet shown the same level of passing and playmaking as someone like Dzeko or Kane—but then again, few forwards have.

Rather than playing with his back to goal and serving as a fulcrum for Roma’s attack, Abraham may just be one of the crowd; a flock of athletic forwards darting into spaces in the final third, springing off the final defender as Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Lorenzo Pellegrini plays them into the box. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and in fact, it may be Roma’s best route forward

While we can't quantify exactly how much time Abraham spent with his back to the goal, his performance this year made our best-case scenario look remarkably prescient—at least in terms of the hard numbers. Not only did Abraham outscore Dzeko this year, but he was nipping at Dzeko's playmaking heels, trailing the Bosnian by only one assist and one key pass, while chipping in 80 shot-creating actions to Dzeko's 89. The attack may not have functioned exactly the same, but Roma was no worse for the wear without Dzkeko—and Abraham is just getting started.

We don't mean to short-shrift any of Roma's other strikers, but Abraham accounted for the vast majority of goals scored by the Giallorossi's ostensible forwards, so any assessment of the positional group necessarily begins and ends with Abraham.

This leads us to...

The Worst-Case Scenario in August

Given how critical his role in the offense will be, the worst-case scenario for Roma’s forwards really all depends on Tammy Abraham: his adjustments to Serie A, his finishing, his passing, and his efficiency. If any of those factors fail to meet the mark, Roma’s attack will struggle in kind.

And if Borja Mayoral’s opportune scoring disappears, El Shaaraway’s 2021 struggles carry into the new season, or if Shumorodov’s late-season scoring spike with Genoa proves to be an aberration, Roma’s fictional misery will be compounded.

In this scenario, the scoring onus would then fall onto the midfield, effectively requiring Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Nicolo Zaniolo, and Lorenzo Pellegrini to pull double duty, running the offense, advancing the ball up the pitch, creating and finishing the chances

With 27 goals and five assists in all competitions, it's safe to say that Abraham's adjustment to Serie A went swimmingly. Lorenzo Pellegrini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Jordan Veretout did combine for 18 league goals, but that's more a reflection on the lack of other options than an indictment on Abraham, who put up MVP-caliber numbers in his first season with Roma.

On the whole, Roma's attack showed marginal improvements over the previous season (and actually regressed in some areas), but how did the individual players perform?

Player Reviews & Ratings

For each of Roma’s five forwards, we’ll offer a quick look at their individual highs and lows and then assign each player a numerical grade out of 10. For the purposes of this exercise, we won't include Nicola Zalewski, who, while listed as a forward on the official club roster, spent the bulk of his season in defense.

(Please note: while we have included gross totals from all competitions, advanced statistics weren't available for every competition, so the rate/percentage stats may be slightly off.)

First up, Tammy Two Goals.

Tammy Abraham

AS Roma UEFA Conference League Victory Parade Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 52 games played
  • 27 goals
  • 5 assists
  • 41% S.O.T.
  • 18% Conversion rate

Season Summary

During his first season in Serie A, Abraham finished third in the league scoring race while managing the following rankings among forwards with at least 20 appearances: fourth in shots on target, sixth in assists (tied), tenth in key passes (tied), twelfth in conversion rate, third in expected goals, and, as much as we try to forget, second in shots hitting the woodwork.

There’s no need to get bogged down in details here: Abraham was sensational.

Outlook for Next Season

Presuming Roma are able to resist any transfer overtures for their 24-year-old star in the making, with a bit more help up top, Tammy could eclipse 20 league goals next season, placing him in some truly elite company. Even if he can't take that next step, Abraham seems like a lock for another 12 to 15 goals, and if that's your striker's floor, your club is likely in good shape.

Final Grade: 9 out of 10

Other than his propensity to hit the woodwork, Abraham's first season in Serie A was a smashing success!

Unfortunately, when it came to Roma's forwards in 2021-2022, it was all Tammy, all the time.

Eldor Shomurodov

Eldor Shomurodov of As Roma during warm up before the Serie... Photo by Marco Canoniero/LightRocket via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 38 games played
  • 4 goals
  • 4 assists
  • 36% S.O.T.
  • 17 key passes

Season Summary

A relative unknown prior to arriving in Serie A in the fall of 2020, Shomurodov parlayed an eight-goal campaign with Genoa in '20-’21 into a €17.5 million move to Roma this past summer, with the Giallorossi inking the 26-year-old to a five-year deal. And to say the results were disappointing would be a tremendous understatement. That's not to say there weren't moments when the signing made sense—he's a tremendous athlete with ideal size for the position—but they were fleeting at best. Despite making 38 appearances, Shomurodov managed little more than 1,100 minutes of actual match time.

Outlook for Next Season

Oof, this is a tough call. While his performance fell flat this season, he does have an incredibly intriguing blend of size, speed, balance, and aggression, so it's not hard to see why Tiago Pinto was so keen on signing him. However, considering how poorly he played this season, Shomurodov's 2022-2023 season can go one of two ways: 1) He excels, proving this season was merely a transition phase while silencing his harshest critics (read: me), or 2) Roma cut their losses and loan him to a midtable team and sort out his long-term future later on.

Final Grade: 4 out of 10

If Shomurdov were 21 rather than 26, I'd say he should get the benefit of the doubt, but players typically don't magically figure it out at his age. With four more years on his deal, Roma has to find a way to make the best of this situation, so, if nothing else, let's hope for a more defined role next season.

Stephan El Shaarawy

Winners’ Shoot - UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2021/22 Photo by Tullio Puglia - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 35 games played
  • 6 goals
  • 1 assist
  • 33% S.O.T.
  • 31 key passes

Season Summary

El Shaarawy's dream return to Roma has been anything but, as the former next big thing in Italian football has managed only eight goals since returning to the Eternal City in January 2021. While many (myself included) thought SES would become Roma's defacto sixth man under Mourinho—an instant injection of offense as the first player off the bench—that well-laid plan never came to fruition. Much like Shomurodov, El Shaarawy's total appearances belie the reality: despite 35 appearances, SES logged only 1,520 minutes this season.

Outlook for Next Season

Without the benefit of transfer market clairvoyance, predicting El Shaarawy's role next season is a bit foolhardy. On the surface, he should be Mourinho's first attacking option off the bench—his speed, agility, and ability to create his own shot are tailor-made for the role—but he never seemed to truly enjoy Mourinho's confidence. He remains under contract through 2023, but at 28-years-old he may prefer a return to a full-time role with a smaller club.

Final Grade: 5 out of 10

It's hard to believe that El Shaarawy is only 28-years-old, but Roma needs more from their former leading scorer to justify his place on the squad. Otherwise, both sides are just wasting time.

Carles Pérez

AS Roma v US Salernitana - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 26 games played
  • 3 goals
  • 1 assist
  • 29% S.O.T.
  • 12 key passes

Season Summary

Pérez's third season with the club was practically a carbon copy of the first two, with the young Spanish winger looking like Arjen Robben one minute and completely lost the next. While he should have been a prime option off the bench, much like SES and Shomurodov, he just never seemed to worm his way into Mourinho's good graces, logging only three full 90s in all competitions this year.

Outlook for Next Season

With two years remaining on his deal, Roma has ample motivation to make something out of this kid and his lightning-quick first step, but one can't help but think his future lies elsewhere. If, however, Pérez remains with the club, let's hope he at least becomes a fixture of Mourinho's B-Team, dominating the smaller clubs in the league and getting some run in the Europa League once Roma (hopefully) locks up the group after the first round of fixtures.

Final Grade: 4 out of 10

With his work ethic, quick first step, and even quicker shot, Pérez has the makings of an effective footballer. The potential has always been there and he's an easy kid to root for, so let's hope someone, somewhere can figure out a way to maximize his talents—but time is running short to put that potential to use.

Felix Afena-Gyan

AS Roma v Feyenoord - UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2021/22 Photo by Fabio Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 22 games played
  • 2 goals (in the same game, no less)
  • 5 key passes
  • 26 fouls drawn

Season Summary

Coming into this season, Felix Afena-Gyan was more famous for his incredible path to Rome than he was for his exploits on the pitch, but the talent and the promise were undeniable and it didn't take long for Young Felix to put that potential to good use. Starting the season with Alberto De Rossi's Primavera outfit, Felix was an immediate success, scoring six goals in only 408 minutes. Thanks to that prolific record, the then 18-year-old Ghanian earned his senior team call up in October against Cagliari, firing two shots on goal in only 34 minutes... hey, speaking of two!

The legend of Young Felix reached dizzying heights two weeks later against Genoa. With Roma struggling to break down a surprisingly stingy Genoa defense, Felix joined the fray in the 73rd minute. While he should have been nothing more than a fresh pair of legs, Felix stole the show, scoring not one but two goals in his 17-minute cameo, rescuing Roma and writing the first page in what we hope will become a legendary career.

Outlook for Next Season

The very fact that Roma opted to keep Felix with the first team rather than loaning him out for seasoning speaks volumes about his place in Roma's long-term plans. That's not to say a loan spell won't benefit him, but Felix figures to be a big part of the Giallorossi's future plans.

Final Grade: 3 out of 10

Let's give him credit for making his first-team debut, but apart from that magical night in Genoa, Felix looked overmatched for most of the season. He'll be fine but next season will be critical for his development.

Final Thoughts on The Forwards

We titled this article All Tammy, All the Time for good reason: nothing else mattered this season. Playing abroad for the first time in one of the most hostile environments imaginable, and with 45 million reasons to succumb to that pressure, Abraham had every excuse under the sun to fall on his face in Rome, but not only did he survive, he thrived.

With two goals and two assists in his first five appearances, it didn't take long for Tammy to make an impression on the scoreboard. But as the season progressed, the complete striker who wasn't yet complete started to shake free from that stipulation, looking increasingly comfortable in every facet of the game. Whether he was dropping back into midfield to provide an outlet for Roma's buildup phases, posting up 20-yards out to spring the wide players, busting his ass to chase down loose balls, or scoring nearly 30 goals, Abraham flashed the sort of world-beating potential we seldom see in the City of Seven Hills.

But that was sort of that. If the preceding 2,400 words weren't any indication, let me be perfectly blunt: Tammy's fellow forwards hung him out to dry this season. As talented as he is, Abraham can't keep Roma's attack afloat on his own—he needs help. It's imperative for Tiago Pinto and José Mourinho to find forwards/wide players that can support and complement Abraham in equal measure. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of their duties as the architects of Roma's most important project yet.

Let's end this on a bright note, though. Tammy Abraham has a chance to be something special... something incredibly special. As long as he's around, Roma will always have a chance.