With players as talented as Daniele De Rossi, Miralem Pjanic, Radja Nainggolan, and even Seydou Keita patrolling the middle of the park, Roma has had some pretty talented midfielders over the past decade. Roma's current crop of midfielders certainly isn't lacking in talent. Still, much like the days of Rudi Garcia, the club has been missing that final piece, the glue guy—the one who doesn't mind chasing down loose balls all afternoon, freeing his teammates to focus on the more glamorous aspects of midfield play.
For Garcia's Roma, that missing link was Kevin Strootman. Affectionately known as Er Lavatrice (the washing machine) for his ability to erase Roma's mistakes like so many stains in the wash, Strootman brought a sense of balance to a unit that was sorely lacking cohesion, doing all the dirty work that enabled players like Pjanic to flourish in their attacking roles.
For José Mourinho's Roma, that man was supposed to be Georginio Wijnaldum. And much like his Dutch predecessor, Wijnaldum was meant to bind Roma's midfield together, doing all the heavy lifting to ensure that players like Lorenzo Pellegrini, Paulo Dybala, and I suppose Nicolo Zaniolo (sigh) could focus on moving the ball up the pitch.
Unfortunately, Mourinho's best-laid plans were capped at the knees last August or, more aptly, at the tibia. After Wijnaldum suffered a fractured tibia during training following Roma's week one victory over Salernitana, the 32-year-old midfielder spent the first half of the season on the shelf. While there was some initial optimism for a fall return, Roma fans had to wait until mid-February to get their first real look at Wijnaldum.
After slowly reintroducing Wijnaldum into the first team, the Corriere dello Sport reports that Mourinho will throw him into the deep end. According to the CdS, Wijnaldum is in line for his first Roma start, likely slotting next to Bryan Cristante in midfield against Cremonese on Tuesday, giving Nemanja Matic some much-needed rest after a brilliant performance against Red Bull Salzburg on Thursday.
With only 52 minutes under his belt, we can't make any sweeping claims or guarantees about how he'll transform the midfield, but the brief glimpses we've seen from Wijnaldum have been incredibly promising.
A healthy Widnaldum and a reinvigorated Leonardo Spinazzola and Andrea Belotti could be the boost Roma needs to remain in Serie A's top four.