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Roma Season Preview: The Giallorosse Are Going for Gold

This is the deepest and most talented team Roma has ever assembled but is there enough in the cupboard for a shot at the title? (Spoiler: Yes. Yes, there is)

AS Roma v UC Sampdoria - Women Serie A Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

With the recently completed European Championships smashing attendance records across England, it was another banner summer for women's football in Europe. And while Serie A Femminile can't yet compete with some of the other leagues across the continent, with full professionalization finally conferred upon the players and a new streamlined 10-team league complete with separate championship and relegation tracts, brighter days are ahead for the Italian league.

And for the first time in the club's brief history, Roma will test their mettle against some of the best clubs in Europe in the Champions League. To prepare for their first taste of continental football and, more importantly, to vanquish Juventus at the top of the league table, Head of Women's Football Betty Bavagnoli and manager Alessandro Spugna assembled a deep, talented and diverse roster capable of competing in three competitions.

With the season nearly upon us, it's high time we run through the Giallorosse's roster, picking out the key names and faces, the players under pressure, and the X-Factors in each positional grouping. Unseating Juventus won't be easy, but with the margins between the two clubs shrinking every year and Roma adding some serious muscle to the roster, the Giallorosse enter the 2022-2023 season as legitimate title contenders.

So, without further delay, let's get down to it!

The Goalkeepers

  • Camelia Ceasar
  • Emma Lind
  • Stephanie Ohstöm

Key Player: Camelia Ceasar

AS Roma Women Training Session Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Ceasar may lack stature, but her agility, sense of anticipation, and fast-twitch muscles make her an ideal keeper for an up-tempo club like Roma. And what's more, she gets results. Since signing with the Giallorosse from Milan in the summer of 2019, not only has Ceasar played to a 30-8-7 (W-D-L) record, but she's also ranked in the top five in clean sheets every season. And her penchant for rising to the moment was on full display in the 2021 Coppa Italia final, where the Romanian keeper stopped not one but two P.K. attempts en route to a 3-1 penalty round victory.

Heading into her fourth season with the club, and given her exemplary record, Ceasar should be living on Easy Street, but she's also the...

Player Under Pressure: Camelia Ceasar

Despite her steady play and Coppa heroics, Ceasar has never enjoyed the complete trust of either Bavagnoli or Spugna. After supplanting veteran Rosalia Pipitone during the '19-'20 season, Ceasar's job seemed secure, but that didn't stop the club from bringing in competition every summer. From Rachele Baldi in 2020 to Emma Lind last season to Stephanie Ohstöm this year, Roma has kept the heat on their number one keeper with a steady supply of would-be usurpers.

Since grabbing the job in 2019, Ceasar has been among the best keepers in the league. And while one could argue the club was doing their due diligence, has she really deserved this much doubt?

And now, with not one but two statuesque Swedish keepers nipping at her heels, Ceasar once again has to prove her worth to the Roma brass. Will she rise to the occasion again, or is a Scandinavian takeover afoot?

The Full-Backs

  • Elisa Bartoli
  • Lucia Di Guglielmo
  • Elin Landström

Key Player: Elisa Bartoli

Standard de Liege Women vs AS Roma Women - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Di Guglielmo is a player on the rise, there's no doubt about that, but club captain Elisa Bartoli remains the club's most important full-back. At 31-years-old, her days as a top player are likely numbered, but there's still some life left in those Roman legs. Capable of playing on either flank, you'll see Bartoli rushing forward to overlap with Annamaria Serturini one minute—pumping in crosses to Paloma Lázaro or Valentina Giacinti—and racing back to disrupt an opposing attack in the very next breath.

Thanks to that dynamism, not to mention her leadership and passion, Bartoli is indispensable for Roma.

Player Under Pressure: All of Them

I know, I know. This feels like a cop-out but look at the roster. With only three nominal full-backs on the squad, Bartoli, Di Guglielmo, and summer arrival, Elin Landström will have to be on top of their game all season long because there won't be much relief coming. Depending on the formation Spugna chooses from one match to the next, we may see forwards Serturini and Emilie Haavi deployed as makeshift wing-backs, but Roma's three full-backs will see a lot of action this year.

The Center-Backs

  • Elena Linari
  • Carina Wenninger
  • Moeka Minami
  • Beata Kollmats

Key Player: Elena Linari

France v Italy: Group D - UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Although she's only entering her second full season with the club, Linari has emerged as the heart and soul of the Giallorosse. However, she's so much more than a spiritual leader for Roma. With touch, tenacity, and talent for days, Linari is arguably the best defender Italy has to offer at the moment, if not the Azzurre's best player full stop.

And since arriving in the capital, all she's done is win. Since signing with Roma in January of 2021, the Giallorosse have won 70% of their matches while taking 82% of all possible points, winning the 2021 Coppa Italia and qualifying for their first-ever Champions League berth along the way. She's not the only reason for that success, but the correlation is hard to ignore.

She'll have a bit of an adjustment period as she acclimates to her new central partner, Austrian international Carina Wenniger, but as Linari goes, so goes Roma.

Player Under Pressure: Moeka Minami

Signed in late July from the Urawa Reds in her native Japan, Minami is a tall, ball-playing left-footed center-back. In a word, she's a manager's dream. But she's currently third on the depth chart behind Linari and Wenninger, which was already hard enough. Still, she has to compete with them while also learning a new language and league, not to mention jumping straight into the Champions League against some of the best players in the world.

AS Roma Women v ACF Fiorentina Women - Pre-season Friendly Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

If she hits the ground running, she could be the missing piece, but she's not the only enigma on the backline.

The X-Factor: Beata Kollmats

Signed from Göteberg in January, Kollmats, who was barely a year removed from knee surgery, was a bit player for Roma last year, tallying only 373 minutes on the pitch, though she did manage one goal and one assist. Tall, technical, talented, and with Champions League experience on her résumé, Kollmats could quickly supplant either Wenninger or Minami in the pecking order, emerging as a legitimate complement to Linari in defense.

The Midfield

  • Manuela Giugliano
  • Norma Cinotti
  • Claudia Ciccotti
  • Giada Greggi
  • Andressa Alves Da Silva
  • Anastasia Ferrara

Key Player: Manuela Giugliano

France v Italy: Group D - UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Photo by Thor Wegner/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

No surprise here. As we often say, she's the only number 10 in town for a reason. Giugliano's Roma career started slowly, but with nine goals and seven assists in 40 appearances over the past two seasons, she's been as advertised: cool, calm, collected, and creative. Whether she's sitting deep and spreading play from beyond the midfield stripe or linking play in the final third, Giugliano's vision, touch, and sense of timing are critical components of Spugna's tactical approach.

And with Lázaro, Giacinti, Serturini, and Glionna on the receiving end of her work, she could pile up the assists this season. She could be a legitimate MVP candidate if everything goes according to plan for Roma.

Player Under Pressure: Norma Cinotti

Another one of Spugna's Empoli imports, Cinotti won't have much time to settle into her new surroundings. Ostensibly brought in to fill Vanessa Bernauer's shoes, Cinotti will have to fend off a pair of Romans itching for that starting gig next to Giugliano: Giada Greggi and Claudia Ciccotti. It certainly helps that she's familiar with Spugna's tactics, and indeed she scored six goals and provided three assists during their last season together, but Empoli isn't Roma. The expectations for the Giallorosse are enormous this season. If she slips up, Greggi will be waiting in the wings.

Speaking of which...

The X-Factor: Giada Greggi

Standard de Liege Women vs AS Roma Women - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Since the club's inception in 2018, Greggi has loomed large in our coverage of the Giallorosse, so it's easy to forget that she's only 22-years-old. Passing, running, pressing, creating, destroying, Greggi is a relentless player cut from the same cloth as Paul Scholes, Simone Perrotta, Jess Fishlock, and Amandine Henry.

And with her ACL injury a thing of the past, she seems poised to reclaim her place as the future of Roma. It's only a matter of time.

The Forwards

  • Valentina Giacinti
  • Paloma Lázaro
  • Sophie Roman Haug
  • Bendetta Glionna
  • Emilie Haavi
  • Annamaria Serturini
  • Nina Kajzba

Key Player: Valentina Giacinti

AS Roma Women v ACF Fiorentina Women - Pre-season Friendly Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Another easy decision. Valentina Giacinti is the player Roma has needed for the past several years: a clinical, take no prisoners type of finisher in front of goal. A three-time capocannoniere who's equal parts poacher, shot-taker, and shot-creator, Giacinti will be the perfect complement to Giugliano and Andressa's playmaking talents. With those two feeding her passes, Giacinti could easily add a fourth scoring title to her C.V. this year.

Player Under Pressure: Paloma Lázaro

Fresh off a career year in which she scored 10 goals for the first time, Lázaro's place on the squad is safe, but her best-ever performance is a bad day at the office for Giacinti, so she may see a significant dip in playing time this year. However, between the league, the Coppa Italia, and hopefully a semi-deep run in the Champions League, Lázaro will have plenty of chances to earn her paycheck.

The X-Factor: Emilie Haavi

A mid-season signing last year, Haavi had a dream start to her Roma career, scoring three goals and providing three assists in only six appearances. Ostensibly listed as a forward, Haavi can conceivably play winger, attacking midfielder, defensive midfielder, wing-back, and even center-forward in a pinch. Call her a utility player, a jackknife, or a Jill-of-all-trades if you must, but Haavi could be Roma's secret weapon this season.

While her form last spring is likely unsustainable—that'd make her the best player in the world after all—her incredibly diverse skill set, a knack for making big plays, and sheer hustle should see her influence matches in ways we probably cannot even conceive.

Setting Expectations: Can Roma Win it All?

AS Roma Women v ACF Fiorentina Women - Pre-season Friendly Photo by Luciano Rossi/AS Roma via Getty Images

Making a title prediction nine months in advance is a dicey proposition, but thanks to an incredibly tough schedule, we'll have a pretty good indication of where Roma stands by the end of September. After opening the season against Pomigliano on August 28th, Roma faces Milan, Juventus, and Fiorentina over the next three weeks. If they can claim, say, seven of those nine points, Roma should emerge as the early season Scudetto favorites.

Even if they slip up early in the season, this is the deepest, most talented, and most exciting squad Betty Bavagnoli has assembled yet. From back to front, there is very little Roma is missing. While their rivals made some impressive summer moves, the acquisition of a proven scorer like Giacinti, a battle-tested defender like Wenninger, and all the X-Factors we detailed above should put Roma and Juventus on level pegging this year.

It will take a little bit of luck along the way, but if Roma can continue to dominate the bottom dwellers and finally steal some points from Juventus along the way, the Giallorosse could be sitting pretty come May.

We'll cover the club's title quest all season long, and it all starts this week as Roma begins their Champions League campaign against Glasgow City on the 18th.