Lindsey Thomas is officially an AC Milan player, after having said her public goodbye to Roma days ago and being unveiled with the Rossonere this morning. The reaction on social media to Thomas’ departure saw fans overwhelmingly praise Thomas for her impact on the club and left some Roma fans continuing their criticism towards A.S. Roma management itself for “dismantling” this Coppa Italia-winning side. In Thomas’ case, however, it looks like Roma was left with little choice.
The Frenchwoman’s rumored move to AC Milan was on the rumor mill even before the season was over, and first popped on our radar just days before Thomas played a key role in helping Roma to beat AC Milan in the Coppa Italia final itself. So while the loss of Thomas to the Champions League contenders up North is a blow, we can’t say we haven’t had time to anticipate this move. The real question is what have Roma planned next? How do they react to this?
It is one thing to say goodbye to Agnese Bonfantini (which looked like it was mostly the club’s choice) and replace her with fellow 1999-born Italy forward Benedetta Glionna. But Lindsey Thomas’s versatility and effectiveness in whichever style of play Roma chose to execute, on any given matchday, isn’t a skill set you just find growing on calciomercato trees. In Thomas’ first season with Roma, her ease with Italian football was so evident that she finished the 2019-2020 season with the most appearances, most goals, and most assists for Roma. Italian football immediately became Thomas’ oyster.
Two years ago, Roma chose to gamble their attack on pace and fast breaks, which was no problem for Thomas to form a lethal trident with fellow speed-merchants Bonfantini and Serturini, to devastating effect; so much so that we chose Lindsey Thomas as our Player of the Year that season. However, the counter-attacking football was only getting Roma as high as 4th place in the league for two years running, so the team chose to bring in Paloma Lazaro at center-forward last summer and play a more patient, dominant style of football. But wouldn’t you know it? Thomas didn’t look out of place in last season’s system either.
Thomas’ sophomore season, just gone by, did not live up to the same hype statistically, but she never lost her first-team position thanks to her ability to hold the ball up, find teammates, and use space in a way that helped Roma both get-up and stay up the pitch in the opponent’s half. Before Lazaro arrived at the club, in fact, Thomas was arguably the only forward who understood how to use space in order to assist teammates and let them shine. Her understanding with Roma’s right-back Angelica Soffia led to the duo openly referring to each other as “my wingmate” over social media, as they struck up the kind of understanding that continues to elude Annamaria Serturini and Elisa Bartoli down the left flank. And then came Thomas’ crucial goals against Juventus in both legs of the Coppa Italia semi-final.
That put Roma on the path to their final major trophy as a club, aided by Thomas’ workwoman-like performance in the Coppa final itself. Unfortunately, the cup success wasn’t enough to convince Thomas to pursue new challenges elsewhere. Namely: Playing Champions League football up North this coming season. It is what it is.
How Does Roma React?
We mentioned it earlier but, among Roma’s forwards, Paloma Lazaro is really the only forward besides Thomas (unless you count Andressa as a forward) who’s shown she knows what it takes to help Roma control possession. That makes Lazaro an easy target for people’s frustration at times, and Totti knows we’ve seen enough strikers at Roma be converted away from goalscoring to playing further and further from goal to last a lifetime, but this summer’s Euro 2020 final reminded us: If you don’t know how to get on the ball and help your team beat the opponent’s pressure then you’re only going so far in the competition.
So it isn’t a complete surprise to see the rumor mill speculating that Roma’s plan is to shift Lazaro out to a wide forward position this coming season, to effectively replace Thomas’ tactical role in the team. That would go against Lazaro’s original reason for signing with Roma last summer (where she specifically highlighted the club’s promise to play her as a center-forward—a role which she’d lost at her previous club Fiorentina) but what can we say? Needs must.
We’ll keep an eye, as always, on the incoming signings Roma has planned for this team in the coming weeks. An international-level, star-striker signing would be most welcome for Alessandro Spugna’s side right now.