AS Roma and tumult tend to walk hand in hand. By dismissing José Mourinho and tabbing former captain and club legend as his replacement, the Giallorossi have made 10 managerial changes during their American era (2011 to present). And by swapping the Special One for DDR midstream, the club has now made three mid-season managerial changes. Now, that's not quite on par with the 2004-2005 season, where Roma featured four different managers, but this week's events nevertheless came as a shock.
While some skeletons have emerged from the Trigoria closet over the past 72 hours or so, the bottom line remains clear: Mourinho simply didn't get the job done. After back-to-back sixth-place finishes and the club mired in ninth place at the halfway point, the Friedkin family took the initiative and made the surprising decision to appoint the relatively inexperienced De Rossi as the club's next manager.
Stepping into this void is a daunting task for anyone, let alone a manager as inexperienced as De Rossi, but DDR has hit all the right notes so far, and the players seem to be enjoying their first few days under his watchful eye. But what exactly will De Rossi's Roma look like?
Let's Take a Look!
What to Watch For
De Rossi's Football
When asked what his football would look like, De Rossi deflected:
“’My football’ makes me shudder. I sometimes hear coaches say it, coaches that I love and respect. It’s an incorrect expression because it’s not my football.
“If [Pep] Guardiola said ‘my football’, then we’d listen and ask him to explain because he’s got that hint of genius that changed things. The same goes for [Roberto] De Zerbi, [Diego] Simeone or Antonio Conte. They all changed something in the world of football.
“I don’t think I’m on their level. I don’t know if I’ve got a similar trademark. I think you can recognise a good coach from how their teams play.
“There are great coaches who haven’t invented anything, but you could tell which team is theirs with your eyes closed. If at the end of this journey, Roma are recognisable and the players know what they have to do on the pitch in a productive and organised way, then I’ll be happy with that. I’d be remembered as someone who made the team play well and got them to win. That’s more than enough for me.”
While it would have been nice to get a little more specificity from De Rossi here, there's nothing wrong with this response. And he's right: it's silly to expect a manager as inexperienced as De Rossi to have a distinct style already.
But when pressed on what actual formation he'll use, De Rossi, though admitting his preference for four-man defenses, seemed to keep all options open:
“I fell in love with this job with [Luciano] Spalletti and then Luis Enrique. These types of coaches, who put lots of men up front and automatically play a four-man defence, made me fall in love, gave me inspiration and my best seasons.
“However, this team has been playing a three-man defence for years. They were built to play three at the back. We’ll wait until the last minute to decide. We’ve tried both ways.
“I think you can defend with one set-up and build play with another. Those changes might be a bit clunky at the start because they don’t come naturally, but it wouldn’t take long to sink into the minds of such experienced players. We’ll see. I might also switch it up during a match or throughout the season. Some matches we might play with three at the back, and others with four. It’s also down to our game plan and who our opponent is.”
To me, this seems like a tactical response from De Rossi. After all, why would he tip his hand when the mystery surrounding his tactics should give him an advantage in the short term?
We'll tackle the tactical permutations later today, but suffice it to say, De Rossi's Roma will only go so far as Paulo Dybala takes them.
Will We See Dybala?
It's no secret to say that as Paulo Dybala goes, so goes Roma. In 18 appearances in all competitions, the Giallorossi are 8-5-5 (W-D-L) when Dybala plays and 6-1-0 (W-D-L) when he scores or registers an assist. After leaving Roma's Coppa Italia defeat to Lazio at halftime with a thigh injury, Dybala was on the sidelines for the Giallorossi's 3-1 loss to AC Milan at the San Siro last weekend, and the results were predictably ugly.
While De Rossi's utilization of Dybala may differ slightly from Mourinho's, he's no less critical—Dybala remains the straw that stirs the drink. The key to De Rossi's success at Roma will be his ability to devise a plan to maintain the team's performance even when Dybala is not performing at his best.
A subtle change in formation could provide a remedy, especially if late-week rumors of a 4-3-3 prove true, but giving opponents something else to key in on will make life easier for Dybala and the club as a whole.
It's also worth mentioning that De Rossi will be down Bryan Cristante and Gianluca Mancini, who are both suspended for Saturday's match.