With yesterday’s 2-1 loss to Milan, things have gone from bad to worse for Roma. A calendar that looked so favorable for the Giallorossi when it was released has produced just one point from nine for Roma to open the season. And similar to last season, a lack of offensive production and injuries have already reared their ugly heads.
So, while I try to remain optimistic, especially so early on, Roma’s stated goal of a top-four finish feels like it’s already started to slip out of reach. But before we hit the full-on panic button, let’s first focus on the three things we noticed after yesterday’s most recent negative result.
#1: More Right Backs, More Problems
For years and years, right back has been a problem position for the Giallorossi. Ever since Maicon broke down after one standout season, Roma managers and sporting directors have struggled to find a viable solution for the position.
Two seasons ago, it looked like the oft-injured and disappointing Rick Karsdorp had finally figured things out. Then the arrival of Zeki Çelik last summer had supporters thinking Roma at last had two viable solutions at the position with two different profiles. Instead, Çelik disappointed and Karsdorp was nearly run out of town.
The solution? Bring in Rasmus Kristensen on loan from Leeds United while selling neither of the incumbent options. That has left Roma with three players for the right wing-back position. The problem is, none of the three has shown anything to suggest that any of them can be relied on this season. After starting the first two matches, Kristensen was dropped in favor of Çelik against Milan. And while Çelik made a few key clearances early in the match, he was absolutely manhandled by Rafael Leão on Milan’s second—his positioning was horrible.
At this point, Mourinho is going to have to hope that one of this trio steps up and takes the position by the horns. Otherwise, his best option may be to play Leo Spinazzola on the left and Nicola Zalewski on the right—at least against Roma’s toughest opponents.
#2: A Historically Bad Start
It’s not unusual to see the Giallorossi get off to a slow start with an unexpected loss or draw in the first week or two of the season. However, if you thought this start to the season felt particularly bad, your assumption would be correct. In fact, this is Roma’s worst start to the season since the 1995-1996 campaign.
Roma currently has just one point through its first three matches after drawing Salernitana and losing to Hellas Verona and Milan. The Giallorossi did the same that season when they drew Sampdoria before losing to Atalanta and Milan—ironically also 2-1 at the Olimpico. In 95/96, Roma recovered enough to finish fifth on 58 points during a 34-match calendar. With the stated goal of top four this season, the Giallorossi will have to do better than that the rest of the way.
#3: The International Break Couldn’t Have Come Soon Enough
Usually, when the international break strikes so early in the season, fans and clubs alike aren’t happy. After all, with the season having just kicked off, it feels like an unnecessary disruption with so few matches having been played already. For Roma and Romanisti, this international break comes at just the right time.
With Roma starting the season ice cold, this break gives José Mourinho two weeks to work with most of his squad to figure things out. Of course, some of the team’s more prominent names will be called into their national teams, but enough of the squad will remain at Trigoria. It also gives injured players Paulo Dybala, Renato Sanches, and Houssem Aouar to recover from physical issues that they’ve suffered in the last few weeks.
Mourinho may have to consider some different combinations or maybe even formations to try and get drastic improvements from his side. Roma looked toothless in attack yesterday until Milan went down a man in the second half and had trouble finishing chances in previous weeks. Let’s see what Mourinho cooks up with this extra time because Roma can’t afford less than three points against Empoli in two weeks' time.