After an abysmal start to the season with rumors of a possible managerial change, it seems like Jose Mourinho and the Giallorossi have righted the ship—at least for now. After a steady 2-0 win over Frosinone at home last Sunday, the Giallorossi again enjoyed home cooking in a 4-0 win over Servette at the Olimpico. Then, on Sunday, Roma headed to Sardegna for a tricky road test against Cagliari.
With the international break looming, not even the beauty of Sardegna could take the Giallorossi’s focus off the task at hand. It was a ruthless 4-1 victory that saw plenty of positives for the Giallorosssi. However, with Roma being Roma, not everything was sweet. So, let’s look at three things we noticed from Roma’s victory against cellar-dwelling Cagliari.
#1: Roma Doesn’t Have a Goal Scoring Problem
On Sunday in Sardegna, the Giallorossi put on another goalscoring spectacle against bottom-of-the-table Cagliari. Roma bagged a quartet of goals, with three coming from strikers Romelu Lukaku and Andrea Belotti.
And the beauty of it is, none of them were cheapies either. Midfielder Houssem Aouar opened the scoring on a lovely flick-on from Leonardo Spinazzola in the 19th minute. Lukaku followed that up a minute later by chesting home a delicious Rick Karsdorp cross. Then, in the second half, Leandro Parades played provider for Belotti and Lukaku. The first was a lovely ball over the top that Belotti turned into a great individual effort. Then, some slick passing between Karsdorp and Paredes set up Lukaku’s brace.
With those four goals, the Giallorossi have now scored 19 in eight Serie A matches (second best behind Inter’s 21) for an average of 2.375 goals per league match. That’s a far cry from the 1.32 per match the Giallorossi averaged throughout last season when they scored just 50 in 38 matches.
That increase in productivity is undoubtedly the product of the arrival of Lukaku and the rebirth of Belotti, as the two hitmen are making the most of their chances. The two have combined for eight league goals on a combined xG of 4.3. Last season, Belotti and Tammy Abraham combined for an xG of 14.3 but scored only eight combined goals.
Those improvements can be seen across the board for the squad as well. Last season in the league, Roma scored 50 goals despite creating an xG of 57.4. Compare that to this season: Roma has scored 19 goals on an xG of 12.6.
This is not to say that Roma’s attack is perfect, but since the arrival of Lukaku into the starting line-up in match week four, Roma has scored multiple goals in five of seven matches in all comps. Now, if the Giallorossi can get back to defending like last season, the results may turn in their favor more consistently.
#2: The Wingbacks Are Bringing Their Game
One common complaint from Roma supporters over the last season with Jose Mourinho playing a three-man backline is the lack of offensive support from the widemen. Last season, Roma’s wingbacks, Spinazzola, Karsdop, Zeki Çelik, and Nicola Zalewski, combined for just seven assists in all competitions, with five of those seven being credited to Spina. This season, that same group—plus Rasmus Kristensen—has already combined for six assists in just 10 matches in all comps.
Just yesterday, we saw Spinazzola and Karsdrop assist on goals in the first half. Karsdorp also played a vital role in the last goal of the match when he had the hockey assist to Paredes, who ultimately found Lukaku for the goal. That followed a fine performance from Çelik during the midweek match against Servette when he assisted on two of Roma’s four goals.
Entering last season, we felt that wingback would finally be a position of strength for the Giallorossi after Çelik’s arrival. A year later, that may prove true—at least in the attacking phase.
#3: Roma Can’t Catch a Break
It feels like Roma can never have a positive moment this season. Even when things go well, there’s always something to dampen the spirits. And that usually involves the injury bug.
On Thursday, it was Lorenzo Pellegrini entering the match at halftime, scoring, and then being injured within a span of 11 minutes. On Sunday, Dybala was forced off with a knee sprain in the 40th minute.
Mourinho spoke earlier this season about players like Paulo Dybala and Renato Sanches only being at Roma because of their spotted injury histories. Unfortunately, both have been hit with ailments twice this season, and it’s only early October.
Sanches, Pellegrini, and defender Chris Smalling hoped to return after the upcoming international break, finally giving Mourinho a nearly full-strength squad. However, that became a pipe dream with Dybala’s injury, as the Argentine is expected to miss around a month. That will rule him out of the match against Inter and, depending on his recovery time, could jeopardize the Derby.
We’ve seen how lethal Roma can be in attack this season; it’s a shame we can’t get all of Roma’s most talented pieces on the field simultaneously. Someone, please call in a shaman and get this curse lifted off Trigoria.