Yesterday's loss to Sevilla in the Europa League finale stung; there's no doubt about that. However, in true Roma Happened fashion, our misery was compounded by not only the sheer length of the game (which was at least 130 minutes) but also by the missed chances, Gianluca Mancini's own goal, and, of course, the controversial handball that was essentially disregarded by the officiating crew.
Chalk all that up, and you have the Roma Happened experience writ large. And sadly, the wound is just as raw as it was 24 hours ago. It's awfully hard to take the sting out of this defeat, but we assembled most of the CdT crew to assess the damage and figure out what's next for José Mourinho, Paulo Dybala, and the rest of the Giallorossi.
Enjoy, and as always, please give us your thoughts on these prompts and more in the comment section.
Give us your instant reaction to Wednesday’s results, and feel free to let the hyperbole flow!
Bren: I got most of my half-baked hot takes out on the CdT Twitter account, but this loss reminds me of the loss to Lazio in the 2013 Coppa Italia finale. Not because they were similar matches but because they left me with similarly angry and empty feelings. Ten years ago, Roma was able to bounce back by getting Rudi Garcia, Gervinho, and Kevin Strootman, among others, and ripping off 10 wins in a row to start the season.
This was one of the worst defeats I’ve witnessed in all my years of fandom…in any sport. Missed goals, missed calls, own goals, split lips. This was an insane match, and the fact that Roma would have won this and would be back in the Champions League were it not for an own goal or a blatant handball being dismissed makes it harder to stomach. I’d rather have another 7-1 than this…maybe.
ssciavillo: Woah, woah, woah. No more 7-1 losses in Europe, please. This was a tough one to stomach, for sure. Roma felt like the better team in spite of the possession imbalance, and the xG backs that up.
Jimmy: Yeah... I’m not ever going to wish a 7-1 loss on myself again. Roma played like the better team, which makes this one even more frustrating. Add in the fact that the ref seemed to have it out for the side from the first minute (That yellow card imbalance? Really?), and it was a hard watch from start to finish.
BSanti: I’ve seen my fair share of sporting heartbreak over the years thanks to the teams I’m cursed with rooting for, and with Roma themselves playing a part in several of those defeats, I thought myself sufficiently hardened to handle future heartbreaking moments. But man, I’m crushed. With all the potential and opportunity for the future that would’ve come with winning on Wednesday, this loss feels like Roma had the Pulp Fiction briefcase in hand, only for it to be snatched away as the credits rolled.
In your estimation, why did Roma lose this match? Was it the choice to sit back immediately in the second half? The shoddy refereeing? Or was Sevilla simply better?
Bren: I’ll pin it on the second-half tactics. Roma wasn’t exactly playing like Napoli or City in the first half, but they at least put some focus on getting the ball forward, seizing control, and establishing momentum. I understand why Mourinho chose to flip the script, but it had a demonstrable effect on the match.
The minute they stopped trying to play against Sevilla was the minute they lost the match, in my eyes. It’s like a prevent defense in the NFL. The minute you stop being aggressive, you give the other team hope, and little by little, that hope overwhelms your defense, no matter how compact.
That was my biggest fear going into the match, yet it was still difficult to witness.
sscivaillo: I think it was a combination of factors. I agree with Bren that the tactics had something to do with it in the second half. Roma playing more conservatively, plus the entrances of Susa and Lamela, gave the game a completely different feel. By the 50’, I had a bad feeling that Sevilla would get one, and they did just moments later. As crazy as this may sound, it almost feels like Roma scored too early in the match, which allowed them to fall into the defensive mindset.
That being said, I don’t think the refereeing helped. I’m not going to specifically point to the no PK on the handball because I can’t believe they rescinded the one called against Ibañez. But Anthony Taylor gave out yellow cards like candy to Roma players. That conditioned the way guys like Matic, Mancini, and Cristante had to play for a long time in this match. Roma finished with 5 yellow cards in the first 90, while Sevilla had just 1.
Throw in a little bad luck on some of their best chances, and that was all she wrote for the Giallorossi.
Jimmy: I’m closer to Steve here than Bren. I agree that defending football isn’t always the best tactic to use, but the no-call on the handball, which would’ve gifted Roma a PK... even more than the yellow card imbalance, that’s when I figured out that this one wasn’t going to end well.
BSanti: As unfair as the refereeing display was on Wednesday, I’m not willing to put this loss on Anthony Taylor’s decisions. In our final preview, I said that if Roma drew first blood (which they did) that Roma should go on to win, given their experience in grinding out 1-0 results in these competitions.
And but for Mancini’s unfortunate own goal, the plan would’ve worked. Sure, Sevilla may have scored eventually, if not then, but it’s a nasty bit of poor luck that set the stage for this defeat. Mourinho’s decision to put on Gini Wijnaldum before Edoardo Bove was a mistake, as was the decision to leave Stephan El Shaarawy on the bench for as long as he did.
I totally understand the choice not to compromise Roma’s defensive integrity with his substitutions on the night, but with those two players on the bench for as long as they were, Roma gave up any chance to regain a foothold in the match once Sevilla equalized and Dybala came off.
Despite the loss, we saw some stellar performances from the men in maroon. Which Roma player impressed you most?
Bren: Smalling, Smalling, and Smalling. He was unstoppable at the back, controlling the air space in the 18 and making a few key stops on the ground. As great as Paulo Dybala is, Roma will have an equally difficult task replacing him when the time comes.
ssciavillo: It’s hard to pick out just one guy since Roma overall played very well as a team, especially in the defensive phase of the match. I think all three center-backs played well, and had it not been for an unlucky bounce off Mancini’s knee, we’d be looking at a 1-0 win. That being said, if I had to pick one, I’d probably go with Smalling. He was imperious in the back.
Jimmy: Smalling and Dybala were both excellent, which is part of the pain here. Smalling doesn’t have too many seasons at this level left, and you have to assume that Dybala wants Champions League football. It’s way too early to be thinking about replacing either of them, but when they go, there’ll be two huge holes in the side.
BSanti: Chris Smalling was an absolute rock at the back, and his performance deserved the intervention of the football gods to sprinkle a bit of good fortune his way and help guide his last-minute header into the top corner, winning the EL for Roma.
If you could change one decision Mourinho made in this match, what would it be and why?
Bren: Other than my tactical take, I have no idea what that PK lineup was all about. Cristante, Ibañez and Mancini to start it off? I don’t understand the logic there.
ssciavillo: I agree with Bren here. We’re not in training every day to see what PK practice looks like, but I was shocked to see both CBs shoot ahead of El Shaarawy, Belotti, and Wijnaldum.
Jimmy: Yeah, the moment I saw that PK arrangement, I was very confused. Honestly one of the first times I’ve been confused with Mourinho’s tactical decisions - I usually get why he’s doing what he’s doing, even if I don’t always agree with it.
BSanti: I’m actually fine with the PK line-up. Sure, you want your best attacking players stepping up to the spot, but PKs are just as much a mental exercise as a technical one. Cristante, Mancini, and Ibañez are Mourinho’s go-to men, so maybe the plan was for them to bury their kicks to help give confidence to potential PK-takers in Zalewski and Bove before they stepped up to take theirs.
My issue is more with the decision to play for PKs. Sure, Dybala is off the pitch, and your team has struggled to score for the entirety of the season, so playing for penalties is the safest route to take. But to me, Roma’s fate was sealed the moment the game went to a shootout.
Yassine Bounou burst onto the world stage during the World Cup with his heroics during the penalty shootout in the Spain match, saving two to send Morocco to the round of 16. Compare that to Rui Patricio, who, despite his wealth of experience, had his fair share of mistakes this season - not exactly a goalkeeping matchup that would have me eager to get to penalties if I’m Mourinho.
Speaking of The Special One, is this it for him with Roma?
Bren: He’s saying all the right things so far, and I definitely think he was right to say that he and the team deserve more. Roma just can’t compete with the level of talent they currently possess. So I guess it really all depends on how his post-season debrief with the brass goes. If they’re willing to spend more, then perhaps he stays; he really does seem to love the club and the city, so it’s not that far-fetched. But man, he sure sounds frustrated, so I actually wouldn’t be surprised if he just took a sabbatical for a year.
ssciavillo: He seems like a guy who wants to stay and truly does love his players, club, and fanbase. And his post-match comments can be interpreted as a man who could be leaving if things continue down this path. I hope he stays and the club builds a roster for him that will allow him to compete in Serie A and Europe. I think a lot has to do with what kind of guarantees are made for him.
Jimmy: I hope he stays, and I think he will if the Friedkins decide to spend more money. If they don’t... well, I wouldn’t blame him for leaving, either.
BSanti: God, I hope not. I can’t go back to the dark days where Roma are led by a project manager AND have no UCL; I refuse.
Having said that, like you guys said, it really just depends how much the Friedkins are willing to spend. I do think Mourinho was a lock to stay had Roma won against Sevilla, but I think we now know what Roma’s ceiling is without further investment in the squad, and I don’t know how keen Mourinho will be going through another season with so much uncertainty surrounding this team’s ability to make top-four.
And now, the big question: How will Roma recover from this? Will this send them reeling or serve as a springboard for a more focused and resilient project?
Bren: Hmm, that’s a tough one. The reactionary in me thinks they should use this as an opportunity to truly tear down and start over, but that’s always dicey when you factor relegation into the mix, not that they’d have to gut the roster to the extent that was a possibility.
What I hope is for a season with no European football. Just give me a reasonably healthy squad with a new striker and 38 league matches only, and then we can reassess the direction of the club. Between Bove, Zalewski, Pellegrini, Cristante, and a few others, there are some solid building blocks here, but also a lot of spare parts that need to go.
ssciavillo: It’s easy to say that Roma will have a difficult time recovering from this next season without the Champions League money that would’ve come with winning this match. However, I think this could push some of these players to be even more hungry. Winning begets winning. But losing a final like this can push a team to be even more resolute and focused the following year.
I think a lot depends on if Mourinho is back or if he’s not the direction they go with the manager. And whoever is in charge will need some more pieces to build greater squad depth around the core of this squad. It’ll be interesting to see if players like Ndicka and Aouar still come to a club like Roma without the promise of CL football. Plus, Roma will have some decisions to make with some regulars like Abraham, Smalling, and Ibañez that could potentially need to be replaced.
Jimmy: It starts with the players, the coaches, and everyone else waking up the next morning, realizing the world hasn’t completely ended, and facing the next day. I agree with Steve; losing the Europa League in such a controversial fashion is going to drive the players forward, and who knows, maybe it’ll incentivize players to stick around for one last rodeo with Mourinho to finish what they started. Add in the right transfers this summer, replace players who have consistently underperformed, and I’ll get back into hoping sooner rather than later. You can’t keep an optimist like me down for too long.
BSanti: I think it depends on the futures of Mourinho and Dybala. Should both stay, you’d assume further investment in the squad will come as well, and in that scenario, I think this loss can be used as a springboard for future success.
If the pair leave as many suspect, and unless the Friedkin’s replace them with a manager and star player of equal quality (not likely), next season may see Roma regress further as they try to pick up the pieces from this defeat and have the specter of what could have been hanging over them. If that ends up being the case, Roma will likely find themselves back in the same rut they were in prior to Mourinho taking over, cycling through players and managers with no end in sight.
Okay, you've heard our say; now it's your turn. Who or what was the biggest culprit in Roma’s loss yesterday? Can they recover? Will Mourinho actually return?