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Roundtable Transfer Market Review: Quick Starts, Setting Expectations & Missing Pieces

Now that the dust has settled on the 2021 transfer season, we have to reset our expectations. Can Roma's new guys keep up their hot starts? What else needs to be addressed by Pinto and Roma's management?

US Salernitana v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Now that the 2021 summer transfer market is officially over and Roma's roster is set for the foreseeable future, it's time to dissect all of Tiago Pinto's recent moves: How will the new players fit in? Should our expectations change now that players like Tammy Abraham and Matías Viña have found early success? Is there anything still missing?

To answer those questions and more, we assembled the crew to run through all of the club's transfer dealings. But we'll start with a broader look at some of the more significant moves made by Roma's Serie A rivals before addressing each of Roma's four new signings individually.


Serie A Transfer Results

Stade de Reims v Paris Saint Germain - Ligue 1 Photo by John Berry/Getty Images

The league lost a few high-profile players abroad, but is it time for Serie A fans to panic, or was this just a coincidence?

Bren: The optics are definitely bad, but I think when you consider the context, it’s probably more a coincidence than a sign of Serie A’s decline. Ronaldo may be a global football icon but he’s getting on in years and has off-the-pitch issues any club that signs him must contend with that, and he never seemed to enjoy a completely symbiotic relationship with the Juve brass. Hakimi is a sensational player but he’s not a household name, and I have no idea what happened with Gigio and Milan, but he’s just a keeper, so he was never likely to be the poster boy for the league. I’d be more concerned if players like Zaniolo, Chiesa, or Vlahovic had left this summer; players with enormous potential and time on their side.

ssciavillo: I don’t think there’s any reason to panic as long as it isn’t a trend that continues in the next few mercatos. We’ve seen plenty of big-name players sold abroad in past seasons (ie Alisson, Salah, etc), yet the competitiveness and quality of play of the league may now be the best it’s been in a while. Plus the league has done well with restocking with up-and-coming talents from abroad like Damsgaard, Vlahovic, Koopmeiners, and others. But, I agree with bren that if players like Zaniolo, Chiesa, and the other Italian stars of the future start leaving en masse then I’d be more concerned.

Jimmy Miotto: I agree with Steven - I don’t see much of a reason to worry, because the loss of these superstars gives others the chance to explode. I think this might be Chiesa’s big year at Juve, Lautaro Martinez is no slouch, and other players will certainly find the space to develop at the big clubs now that some of the big names have moved on. Italian’s don’t tend to leave Serie A as frequently as others, so I agree that an exodus of Italian talent would really get me worried too. I doubt that happens, though.

JonAS: Serie A just lost Nainggolan, damn right I’m panicking! No wait, he plays for a club only 19 miles from my house. Rejoice! In all seriousness, like Bren and ssciavillo said, there are enough exciting talents left in the league. I’m looking forward to the impact of Abraham and Koopmeiners among others.

Brandon: I don’t think any Serie A fan needs to panic when you look at the context of the transfers mentioned. Ronaldo had a year left on his contract and was costing Juve a fortune, so they were more than willing to let him go. If he had to do it all over again, I imagine Donnarumma would have taken Milan up on their offer rather than go to PSG in a back-up role (for now) and make only a little bit more money than Milan offered. Conte/Lukaku/Hakimi all leaving in the same summer stings for Serie A, but that was a product of Inter’s specific financial trouble, rather than it being because of the allure of other leagues.

Which one transfer will have the biggest impact this season?

ssciavillo: I think that based on what we’ve seen in the first few matches it could be Tammy Abraham. But, other than him I’m going to go with Manuel Locatelli. I think Locatelli is a big upgrade over what Juve had in the midfield last season. Just based on that I think he may have the biggest impact for his new club. That being said, I still think Juve’s midfield needs some work.

Bren: Agreed, if we’re talking non-Roma, I’d look straight to Locatelli, but I do think Nicolas Gonzalez could be a sneakily good signing for Fiorentina. He was a pretty big purchase by their current standards and if he can build on his Stuttgart form, he could quietly become a 12 to 15 goal scorer and a scary partner for Vlahovic.

Jimmy Miotto: The non-transfer of Vlahović might be the answer here, but if we’re talking an actual transfer in for a non-Roma club, I’ll go with Mike Maignan at Milan. There’s a lot riding on that guy with Donnarumma gone, so I think that his ability to perform for Milan will determine whether they’re back in the hunt for a Champions League spot this season or if they fall behind the Giallorossi, Napoli, and Atalanta.

JonAS: I’m gonna pick a smaller team because their transfers often decide who gets relegated or not. I think Torino made a smart buy with Dennis Praet. He was stellar at Sampdoria but his move to Leicester wasn’t a success. He also had his fair share of bad luck in England. He’s more suited to Serie A and I’m curious how he’ll click up front with Belotti. Anyway, he’ll save Torino from relegation this season as he’s a guarantee for a couple of goals and assists.

Brandon: For Roma, hands down Abraham’s transfer will be the most impactful. It’s clear to see, even after only a handful of matches, that Tammy has the potential to absolutely explode with Roma, and I’m very excited in terms of what that means for where Roma will finish this season.

Which non-Roma transfer are you most jealous of? In other words, which player did one of our rivals nab that could have really moved the needle for Roma?

ssciavillo: I’m going to have to go with Koopmeiners to Atalanta here. Who knows how hard Roma may have pursued him if the rumors were true, but he looks like he could be an absolute steal at the reported fee of just €12m. By all accounts Roma was in the market for a defensive mid, so we have to hope that N’Zonzi’s stubbornness or that Diawara or Villar’s unwillingness to test the market didn’t cost Roma a potential star in the making for under 15 million.

Bren: I’m going with a different Atalanta signing: Juan Musso. I’m impressed with what Rui Patricio has done so far, but Musso would have solved Roma’s goalkeeping problems for years, where Rui is, at best, a three-year solution. Musso is only beginning to scratch the surface of what he can do, and he should help Atalanta remain contenders for quite a while.

Jimmy Miotto: I’m not particularly jealous of any other transfer in this season. I really like Roma’s mercato, but I guess I’d take Koopmeiners if I had to choose someone. Even then, though, I’m buying more and more into the Bryan Cristante Experience every day.

JonAS: Anguissa to Napoli. At least they got their midfield enforcer on the final day. Maybe we can offer a swap deal with Nzonzi in January? Pinto?

Brandon: Strootman to Cagliari, anyone? In all seriousness though, it’s going to be Locatelli to Juve for me. Of course, we all know that he wasn’t ever going to go anywhere but Juve, but after last season with Sassuolo, and his performance at the Euros, Locatelli under Mourinho would’ve been a mouth-watering proposition.

Was there any particular rumor or missed transfer target you think Roma will regret missing?

ssciavillo: I’ll start by saying I sure don’t think it will be Granit Xhaka. I think the Giallorossi may have dodged a bullet there. But, if I had to pick one, I’ll stick with Koopmeiners because odds are he can turn into a very good player under Gasperini. Then we may be pursuing him for double the price in a couple of years.

Bren: Without truly knowing who they were pursuing, it’s hard to pick one specific player, but I will disagree with you and say Xhaka. He’s obviously not without his faults, but I just have this feeling he’d thrive under Mourinho. I’ll say Denis Zakaria as a second choice; he’s an incredibly intriguing talent, so I hope they take a run at him in the winter.

Jimmy Miotto: Can’t say I really wanted Xhaka, so he can’t be my choice. I would’ve loved a Vlahović signing, but Abraham has made me more than content to date. I guess I wish Roma had brought in a young hot prospect this summer? No specific names, but I always enjoy when the club brings in a young prospect on a flyer. Not for William Bianda prices, mind you, but on Roger Ibañez or Gonzalo Villar type deals. Maybe that will come in January if we’re lucky.

JonAS: Icardi. I’m already in love with Tammy but once the Icardi rumors popped up, I desperately wanted to see him in giallorosso. You just know he’ll score 20+ goals a season for any team in Serie A. It was the perfect timing but hey, good luck trying to break into that first team at PSG, Mauro!

Brandon: I was really excited about the prospect of snagging Belotti, finally after however many years of being linked to the Torino star, especially once the writing was on the wall that Dzeko was leaving. Similar to Jimmy, I’m very content with Tammy thus far, so missing out on Belotti isn’t the end of the world by any means.

Tammy Abraham

US Salernitana 1919 v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Now that we’ve seen a few matches with Abraham, have your expectations for this season changed? Both in terms of his final stats and Roma’s spot on the table.

ssciavillo: Short answer yes. I never thought Tammy would be able to jump into the squad and gel with his teammates so quickly. I never really saw him play much in England, but I’ve been very impressed with his all-around game. He’s been very impressive both on and off the ball. He makes smart runs, tracks back, looks for his teammates, and can dribble defenders. Plus, as expected, he’s good in the air and can unfurl a beautiful shot. I’d have to raise my expectation to 15 league goals and 5 assists now based on the promising early signs.

Bren: Yeah, it’s hard not to get excited, but I think we have to consider the level of the opponents he’s faced so far, but at the end of the day, the early confidence he’s gaining is all that matters. If he can, let’s say, score 18 goals and five or six assists in all comps, while getting scoring support from Shomurodov, Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Veretout, and Mkhitaryan, then I think the top four is suddenly in play.

Jimmy Miotto: My expectations coming into the season were that the Giallorossi would be fighting for a Champions League spot this season, with a ceiling of getting second place. The past several matches fit with that prediction, though I agree that Roma haven’t faced the most challenging opponents just yet. As for Abraham’s personal stat line, I was optimistic that Abraham could break double figures in goals; it now doesn’t seem too outlandish to suggest he might even be able to do the double-double. We’ll see how things go once the league really starts in earnest, though; there’s plenty of time for defenses to figure out both him and Mourinho more broadly.

JonAS: Not really, top 4 should be the target. Let’s wait until we face Lazio, Juve, or Inter. Tammy has impressed me for sure, but unfortunately, he’ll experience a rough patch sooner or later. And it looks like he’s not selfish at all so maybe he can reach the double-double, Mikhi style?

Brandon: My expectations for the season haven’t really changed truthfully, I still think we’ll find a way to achieve a top-four finish, and with the early returns from Tammy’s play, I think we’ll comfortably finish in the top four. Anything beyond that? I’ve been a Roma fan for far too long to fall into that trap. As for Tammy himself, I admittedly was skeptical when we were first linked to him, but after just a handful of matches, I can easily see him reaching double figures for goals and assists.

Typically speaking, Chelsea and Premiership fans bemoaned his playmaking, holdup play, and general aggressiveness with the ball at his feet. Do you buy into that line of thinking or is he more well-rounded than he’s given credit for?

ssciavillo: Based on what we’ve seen in just three matches I think he’s got a solid all-around game. I was expecting him to be a pacy forward that could latch onto balls over the top and poach goals. However, we’ve seen Abraham contribute in so many ways already. Just follow him through the whole 18 pass sequence on Jordan Veretout’s goal against Salernitana and you’ll see just how much he brings to the table.

Bren: Well, at first blush, he looked like a remarkably different player from Dzeko. They’re similar in height, but he lacks the same muscle mass as Dzeko, so I was worried about how he’d fare further away from the goal, but so far, he’s shown that he can hold his own. And as we saw against Salernitana, he’s pretty clever with the ball at his feet. I don’t think we’ll see him taking on defenders from 20 or 30 yards out, but he’s definitely more well-rounded than he was given credit for by some Chelsea supporters.

Jimmy Miotto: I’m always skeptical of player reviews from fans of super-clubs. If you’re used to demanding the taste of foie gras and beluga caviar at every meal, even the world’s best risotto will be underwhelming. Likewise, when you can afford to buy a Lukaku-type player on a pretty frequent basis, you’re not going to appreciate Abraham-types as much, even though he’s young enough that he could become a Lukaku one day. I agree that he looks quite different from Džeko to date, more well-rounded definitely, and even when he isn’t scoring, he’s an integral part of the forward play. That’s a real breath of fresh air, and one I’m hoping we maintain long-term.

JonAS: Yeah, good point Jimmy. I always take those opinions with a grain of salt. On top of that: Rome isn’t London. Another league, coach, chemistry, etc. Tammy has plenty of time to work on his negatives if there are any. He looks well-rounded to me and we have Mourinho to work his magic like he did with Kane, Drogba, Milito, and so on. The only downside I see is we don’t have Dzeko as a mentor anymore. Our most experienced attacking player now is Mikhi and he’s not really the same type of player.

Brandon: I think Tammy will end up going down a similar path as Lukaku, in the sense that, both were criticized for their play in the Prem, only to turn it around completely in Serie A. Obviously, both are completely different players and the jury is still out on Tammy’s ability to thrive in Serie A, but I think Mourinho can do for Abraham what Conte did for Lukaku, and ultimately make those criticisms look silly in hindsight.

Mourinho hasn’t shied away from playing with two strikers in the past, how would you see Abraham and Eldor Shomurodov working together?

ssciavillo: I do think they will get their opportunities together at times. However, with Mkhitaryan, Pellegrini, Zaniolo, and now even Perez playing well, I think more often than not it’ll be for short spurts later in a match. I could see them working well together to press opposing defenders into mistakes and using their pace to burn opponents on the counterattack.

Bren: Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 can easily morph into a 4-4-2, so it’s entirely possible they can work in tandem, but it would be interesting to see which one played closer to the penalty area and which one hangs back a bit. If I had to guess, Shomurodov would be better suited to play a quasi-second-striker position because he looks to be a better dribbler and seems to have a lower center of gravity, so he may be more suited running at players than Abraham. It’s hard to answer definitively because we seldom see genuine two-striker systems in Serie A, at least with Roma.

Jimmy Miotto: I think that a two-striker setup might happen more if and when injuries happen, or towards the ends of matches as Steven mentioned. Shomurodov certainly seems down to work with just about anyone to help the club succeed, and I doubt we’ll get a clash of egos between Abraham and Shomurodov too.

JonAS: Bring back the 4-3-1-2 with Tammy and Shomu up front. Find out where Brighi’s at and put him in the hole. Hello Scudetto.

Brandon: I think the pairing would work very well together, Tammy and Eldor both seem like the type of players who are going to give you 110% every match, which is always a great starting point, and I think their skill-sets complement each other well enough that pairing them together is certainly something we could see Mourinho utilize at some point this season.

With a goal and two assists already, Tammy has hit the ground running, but what concerns should Roma have as he continues to adapt to life in Serie A?

ssciavillo: My one concern would be how he deals with some of the more veteran, physical defenders that Roma will encounter against the bigger clubs around the league. I’m thinking of Chiellini, Bonucci, Kjaer, Acerbi, De Vrij, etc. I wonder if players like that will be able to throw him off his game since he is rather lanky or if he’ll be able to use his superior pace to give them fits on the counter-attack.

Bren: Yeah, I have that same worry, but he looks slippery enough (for lack of a better word) to worm his way around and between defenders. Apart from that, he’s still relatively young, so there are some small worries about his ability to contribute consistently, but this kid does have star potential.

Jimmy Miotto: Consistency is the name of the game. The lack of it is part of the reason why Lorenzo Pellegrini has gotten so much stick in recent years; finding it so far this season has turned him into a club hero. If Abraham can consistently find the net (or at least set up the final pass, like he did against Salernitana), I think he should be in great shape.

JonAS: Why does Bren’s first sentence have a sexual connotation? That said, despite his age, I hope Tammy has a good mentality and doesn’t drop his head when things are not going his way. He must avoid getting frustrated or trying too hard. There will be ups and downs, especially vs tougher sides with defenders who are more cunning. He will evolve both as a person and player at Roma so he must just go with the flow.

Brandon: I’m also going to go with consistency here. New league, new country, new teammates, at some point Abraham will go through a rough patch. The key will be how quickly he can bounce back, and with the aforementioned factors in play, that’ll be the big question when he inevitably does hit that rough spell.

Prediction time: All comps, how many goals and assists are we looking at?

ssciavillo: My earlier 15 and 5 was for Serie A. So if we’re talking all comps and Abraham gets starts in the ECL and Coppa Italia then I’ll go with 20 goals and 7 assists.

Bren: Wow! I’d definitely take that, but I’ll dial it back ever so slightly and say 18 goals and six assists.

Jimmy Miotto: 15 goals, 10 assists. I’m feeling painfully optimistic right now.

JonAS: Well now I have to say something outrageous to counter all this, no? 28 goals and 9 assists if Roma goes deep in both Coppa and ECL.

Brandon: I’m all in on the Tammy hype train, so I’m going to go with 25 goals, 10 assists in all comps.

Eldor Shomurodov

US Salernitana v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Jonas made a pretty clever Mirko Vucinic comparison a few weeks back, but who does he remind you of so far?

ssciavillo: I think Vucinic is a great shout by Jonas. He’s a hard worker who can add goals as a second striker/winger or as the main striker. I can’t think of a better one off the top of my head. Maybe the rest of you guys can.

Bren: We’ll have to see a bit more of him first, but that was a great comparison Jonas made, though we’ll have to wait and see if he’s as versatile as Mirko, who, at his peak, was capable of close to 20 goal contributions per season. Given his size and the aggression we’ve seen so far, he actually reminds me a bit of Zaniolo.

Jimmy Miotto: Well, other than the question of whether or not Shomurodov will do Vucinić-style goal celebrations, I agree that that’s the best comparison available so far. The aggressiveness when slaloming past defenders definitely reminds me of Zaniolo, though.

JonAS: Yeah, I’m good. Peace out. *drops mic*

Brandon: I’d have to go Vucinic as well, which now that you mention it, man, I loved watching Mirko play.

With Abraham entrenched at striker and Zaniolo and Mkhitaryan as the wide midfielders in the 4-2-3-1, where does Shomurodov fit in with this current system? Should he start or is he better as the first man off the bench?

ssciavillo: I think with the way the team is playing currently that he fits best as the first man off the bench either pressing or making runs at a tired defense. Maybe at this point, he gets his starts in the ECL or during weeks with two Serie A matches. However, if any of those players miss time due to injury or gets into a poor run of form then I could see him getting starts at all three positions. He’ll also get his starts spelling those players as well.

Bren: Yeah, I agree with you once again. At this point, he doesn’t offer quite as much as Mkhitaryan on the left of the 4-2-3-1, so I think he’s likely going to be the first man off the bench if Roma is chasing a goal, or even as a more physical presence if they’re protecting a lead as you suggest. Ultimately, I think he’ll still find more than 2,500 minutes through a combination of positions, roles and competitions.

Jimmy Miotto: He fits wherever Mourinho wants him to fit. He’ll get his minutes, either out left or as a striker. Out of all of Roma’s players, I’m the least worried that Shomurodov won’t get playtime, partially because of his personality and partially because of his versatility. I think he’ll start sometimes and come off the bench other times, but I would expect to see him get at least some minutes in most matches this season.

JonAS: He can play in multiple positions so he’ll see a lot of minutes for sure. He’ll start in the ECL and Coppa matches, plus injuries, suspensions… I do think Eldor is more suited behind a striker or further away from goal. He’s a very specific type of player, the one who’s always useful for a coach. Zaniolo, Tammy and Mikhi are perhaps overall more talented but they can’t or won’t play all games. And who knows, by November Eldor could bench Mikhi after a poor run from the Armenian?

Brandon: I’m going to agree with Steven and Bren here, and say first man off the bench. Eldor’s pace and willingness to press will do a lot of damage late in games against tired legs. Having said that, I do think he’ll start his fair share of matches, but in the biggest games, I think thus far he’s better suited for a super-sub role.

Small sample size thus far, but what has surprised you most about Shomurodov?

ssciavillo: I think his coolness finishing his chances both in the preseason and against Trabzonspor surprised me the most considering he didn’t have the most robust goalscoring record at his previous stops.

Bren: I mean, that dribble and assist against Fiorentina. I had no idea he was capable of moving like that! That gives me incredible hope that he can really be a dynamic talent, one who is capable of much more than “just” scoring goals.

Jimmy Miotto: Steven’s 100% correct that the finishing has surprised me the most. I hope it continues, because having a player who’s that good as a super-sub for Abraham would be nasty.

JonAS: Nasty. I like nasty. That assist vs Fiorentina was a moment of genius, almost Totti-esque. I predict we’ll see a couple more of those flashes of brilliance from him this season. Somewhere in the world, Borja is crying.

Brandon: Truthfully I hadn’t seen any of Shomurodov when he was at Genoa, so I guess I’ll say all of it? The early returns are promising and I think his signing will end up being a worthwhile investment for the club.

Give us another goals + assist prediction for Shomu.

ssciavillo: I’ll go with 10 and 5 for Lord Eldor.

Bren: I’ll say 11 in all comps with four assists. Vucinic-lite.

Jimmy Miotto: 10 goals, 4 assists in all comps.

JonAS: All competitions? 12 goals and 8 assists. Mou and Mikhi will be proud.

Brandon 12 goals, 6 assists.

Matías Viña

US Salernitana v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

What has impressed you most about Viña thus far?

ssciavillo: I think the fact that he gets up the flank so well was a bit surprising. I thought initially he would be a bit more defensive-minded than Spinazzola, but he’s got his own set of solid offensive skills, highlighted by his crossing.

Bren: Damn, I should have gone first, you’re stealing all my answers! Truth be told, I had no idea he even existed until Roma signed him. In that line, everything has been impressive, but the ease with which he’s gotten past defenders while going forward has been incredibly impressive and gives me hope that he’ll be so much more than just Spinazzola’s temporary replacement. This kid definitely looks capable of contributing to a competitive and aspirational team.

Jimmy Miotto: Yeah, this is getting hard to write as we go on - Steven once again hit the nail on the head. This is what I get for having a busy enough week that I write my responses later than the others.

JonAS: Well to be honest I haven’t seen a lot of Roma live so far and I haven’t really focused on Vina too. But judging from the pagelle (scores) from Italian media, he started slowly and was a lot better vs Salernitana. He’ll need some more time to adjust, after all, it’s his first experience in Europe but the guy has talent, undoubtedly. Pinto released his inner Sabatini with this one.

Brandon: Definitely his production on both ends of the pitch. I’m already very comfortable with what we’re getting out of him while Spinazzol is out, and Vina will be a terrific back-up to have once Spinazzola is back and firing on all cylinders.

What concerns do you have about Viña thus far?

ssciavillo: It’s only been a couple of matches since he arrived from Brazil, so I expected a learning curve. That being said, he has been caught out of position or beaten one-on-one a few too many times early on for my liking. I expected him to be a defensively sound full-back, so I’m hoping those early gaffes will go away as he acclimates to the Italian and European level.

Bren: This one is tough to answer given the small sample size and lack of fine data on his pre-Roma career, but I think we have to keep an eye on what happens once the league starts to adjust to him. Can he make the necessary counter-moves to remain effective, or will he be schemed out of existence?

Jimmy Miotto: Nothing concerns me about Viña so far. Most of his issues (being caught out of position, not necessarily attacking as much as I’d like) seem more like side effects of his newness than anything else. I said this in our most recent podcast, but Viña is so incredibly new to the club, the league, and Europe that I want to give him a much longer runway to get used to his new surroundings than I would otherwise. Just because Tammy Abraham and Eldor Shomurodov have found their form instantaneously after signing for Roma doesn’t mean we can’t give some time for other signings to gel.

JonAS: Enough examples of young players who started bright but then faded away, only to be loaned out again and again, ending their Roman career through the back door. But if Vina eventually comes good and Spinna is back, then Roma has the strongest LB lineup in the league.

Brandon: I suppose the main concern is the same concern I have with Tammy, namely, how quickly he can bounce back after hitting an inevitable rough patch. Similar to Tammy, new league, new country, new teammates, but also I think there isn’t as much pressure on Vina as there is Tammy, so I’m not really worried about his ability to bounce back quickly.

How do you see his role changing once Spinazzola returns?

ssciavillo: I think Vina will still get plenty of minutes once Spina returns. After all, Roma will have to ease the Italian back into his role as the full-time starter. If Spina gets back to full speed with a few months left then I could see Vina getting spot starts at LB and maybe filling in in midfield or at right back in a pinch.

Bren: It all depends on how quickly Spinazzola can get back up to speed. I know he was adamant about returning by November, but that seems incredibly optimistic given the nature of his injury. Roma will have to manage his minutes carefully when he returns, be it in November or early 2022, so I think we’ll see an almost 50/50 job share once he’s back on the pitch. After that, it’ll be interesting to see. If the first few matches are any indication, Viña may be so much more than a backup.

Jimmy Miotto: If Mourinho’s first year is still chugging along strong in February (which is when I anticipate the return of Spinazzola), we’ll have enough matches to play that they can slowly reintegrate Spinny into the side and play Viña and Spinazzola on a rotation. Spinny can play in ECL, Viña in Serie A, and so forth. This becomes a dicier issue if Riccardo Calafiori shows his stuff early on this season, but I think he might still be a season away from making a big impact on the senior squad.

JonAS: Spinazzola can also play RB if I’m not mistaken. And Vina can also play LCB in a three men defence. So both men can play at the same time when needed. Spinazzola remains a walking injury waiting to happen so we need a more than serviceable LB as long as Leonardo is here.

Brandon: Well, if Roma play Spinazzola’s return the right way, Vina should still see plenty of minutes while Spinazzola gets back up to speed. I’d be very worried if Spinazzola is playing the full 90 minutes right off the bat, so I’d expect Vina to make plenty of substitute appearances, in addition to starting the games against the lesser competition.

Rui Patricio

Football Serie A 2021/2022 AS Roma-Fiorentina Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

It’s been all aces for Rui so far, but what aspect of his game has impressed you the most so far?

ssciavillo: I have to say his rebound control and just how strong his hands are. There was one save he made against Fiorentina where he completely smothered a shot one-handed into the ground without allowing a rebound. I feel like many other keepers would’ve just parried it. So far I can’t recall him giving up many juicy rebounds.

Bren: I’m right there with you—he is an incredibly strong keeper and that save on Vlahovic was proof positive of that. It’s difficult to precisely quantify, but he just looks like a commanding presence back there, like he’s been with Roma for years. He definitely is not easily rattled, which will come in handy once the matches really get messy.

Jimmy Miotto: I said when he was signed that if he could be a rich man’s Morgan De Sanctis I’d be thrilled, and so far Patricio has looked like just that. He’s composed between the sticks, able to smother the errant shot that gets past his center-backs, and more broadly just looks the part.

JonAS: Yeah, he looks way more self-assured than Pau or Olsen. You just feel Mancini, Ibanez, Karsdorp and co are more at ease with Rui in goal. At 33 he’s not easily impressed anymore by a new league or opponents. He’s no Alisson or Neuer but he’ll get the job done. We’ve had far worse options in the past. I was a fan from the start and Rui proves I was right. Again. Ahem. Need some lottery numbers?

Brandon: For an older player, his reaction time on his saves is still phenomenal. Also, in agreement with everybody else, his presence at the back has been noticeable from day one. I used to be terrified at the prospect of any defensive errors last season when Lopez or Mirante were in goal, but with Patricio I at least have some confidence that a defensive lapse won’t automatically result in a goal for the opposition.

What must Patricio, Mourinho, and Roma do to ensure he can sustain this level of play all season long?

ssciavillo: I think first and foremost is to ensure that the defense and midfield don’t get overrun like they did last season. Even the best keepers are only as good as the players in front of them. If the rest of the team can limit clear-cut chances on Roma’s goal then Patricio can make the saves he’s supposed to make and Roma won’t concede anywhere near last season’s rate.

Bren: Well, he is 33 and has played a lot of football over the years, so I think providing him mental and physical breaks every now and then will go a long way towards keeping him fresh. I also really want to see Fuzato get some significant minutes in the Coppa or against smaller clubs once the season gets underway, so that’s a bit of a selfish answer. But above all else, Mourinho just has to play to Patricio’s strengths and not ask him to suddenly become a super aggressive, sweeper-style keeper. He can achieve that by—as you mentioned—ensuring the defense is properly spaced and positioned at all times.

Jimmy Miotto: To be blunt, he probably won’t sustain these kinds of performances every single match. No goalkeeper does. But if we want to see performances like this far more often than dud outings, he needs to continue to develop a bond with Roger Ibañez and Gianluca Mancini. If those two can work in sync with him and with the two deep-lying midfielders in front of them, Roma could have a world-class defensive record this season.

JonAS: Agreed. Mancini, Smalling and co must help Rui out as well. He can’t and won’t save everything on his path. We all knew Mourinho would focus on the defensive aspect, especially after the last couple of seasons, it was simply Roma’s Achilles heel. Rui is only one piece of the puzzle. Roma has a lot of young CB’s and fullbacks, Rui needs to guide all of them and they at their turn need to stay focused, calm and determined. What you see is what you get with Rui, at the age of 33 there are no more surprises. He’s more than decent and a potential top 4 keeper in Serie A, with a little help from his friends.

Brandon: Great question, unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s a clear answer here. A lot of it will depend on the form of Mancini and Ibanez (assuming they’re Mourinho preferred CBs for the majority of the season), and the chemistry they can build with Patricio, but ultimately I think Patricio has been around long enough to 1) know what he has to do to sustain this level over the course of a season and 2) how to bounce back quickly in the event of a loss of form.

Thanks for reading, now that you've heard our say, what do you think: Have the new signings quick starts increased your expectations for Roma this season? What holes still need to be filled?