We'll kick off our season preview series just like we always do: in between the sticks. After trying and failing to recreate their Alisson Becker high with Robin Olsen, Antonio Mirante, Pau Lopez, and even the odd appearance from Daniel Fuzato, Roma finally came to grips with a harsh reality. There is only one Alisson Becker. And he's gone and likely never coming back. Rather than rolling the dice on a World Cup hero or attempting to mold a young keeper, Roma opted for the safe and experienced hands of Portuguese veteran Rui Patricio.
Patricio may have lacked Alisson's swagger, but the 33-year-old veteran was a steady presence for Roma last year as they transitioned to life under José Mourinho. Starting all 38 league matches, Patricio ranked in the top 10 in total saves, save percentage, clean sheet percentage, and goals allowed per 90 minutes. There were a couple of hiccups here and there, but by and large, Patricio was as advertised: steady and self-assured.
He may be a year older, but José Mourinho and the Giallorossi should expect more of the same from Patricio this season. But football is seldom as straightforward as we hope, so let's take a quick look at what to expect from Roma's keepers this season.
Before we begin, a quick editorial note: For each positional group this summer, we're going to look at the key players, players facing the most pressure, young names to watch, and the occasional X-Factor. With only three keepers on the roster at any given moment, that format may not be entirely applicable to keepers. Still, we're fans of continuity around here, so we'll roll with it anyway.
Roster: Rui Patricio, Mile Svilar, Pietro Boer
Key Player: Rui Patricio
We might as well state the obvious: Patricio is the only name in goal that matters this season. If he can repeat last year's performance, Roma will have one less thing to worry about as they fight for a place in the Champions League and, quite possibly, a shot at the league title. Patricio could stand to improve his distribution and cross-handling abilities this year, but I don't think many of us will complain if he copies and pastes his 2021-2022 form.
With another year working alongside Chris Smalling, Gianluca Mancini, Roger Ibañez, and Marash Kumbulla, chemistry won't be an issue at the back, so we may even see Patricio improve in 2022-2023.
Player Under Pressure: Mile Svilar
Expectations for the 22-year-old Belgian/Serbian dual citizen are understandably low this season. After all, we're talking about a kid with only nine top-flight appearances, so unless he's a goal-keeping savant, we should expect some growing pains if and when he plays. But that doesn't mean there aren't any expectations.
We can think of Svilar as a first-round QB, drafted to eventually replace an aging veteran. His immediate job may be absorbing as much information as possible, but if the time comes when he's forced to play, he'll need to drop the clipboard, put on the gloves, and look like he belongs. Svilar may be young by keeping standards, but he turns 23 in late August, so he shouldn't get a free pass.
A Year From Now, We'll Say...
Rui Patricio's second season in Roma was just as good as the first. He made some stellar saves and kept the Giallorossi in nearly every match, but now it's Svilar's turn between the sticks.