A turbulent summer saw Roma losing some of their most valuable players, as Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger and Leandro Paredes all left the Capital club and moved abroad. Add to that the retirement of the iconic Francesco Totti and you can easily see why even the most optimistic tifosi were not fancying Roma’s chances at the start of the season.
Despite all these key losses, the appointments of transfer guru Monchi and former Sassuolo boss Eusebio Di Francesco proved to be masterstrokes, as the duo justified the management’s faith and helped the club’s growth immensely in several areas.
Monchi not only registered a hefty profit of almost €26m after the summer transfer window, but also managed to bring in a plethora of young talent. Lorenzo Pellegrini, Cengiz Under and the most expensive acquisition in the club’s history Patrik Schick all look like stars in the making, while seasoned veteran Aleksandar Kolarov proved to be a real bargain after arriving from Manchester City for just €5m.
Roma’s progress was reflected on the field as well, as the Giallorossi exceeded initial expectations by showing consistency and even had the best defensive record in the league for several months. Di Francesco’s influence was clear for all to see, as his ability to enhance the side’s mentality and tactical awareness meant that Roma were getting results in games that they used to lose in the past.
However, all positives that the club managed to achieve since the start of the season are now in jeopardy due to the horrific run in December, which saw Roma winning just one of their last six games. A simple look at the stats shows they’re struggling for goals, as with just 30 strikes, Di Francesco’s men have been outscored by Udinese, Sampdoria and Atalanta (with an extra game) and currently possess the worst attack in the top eight.
With 29 league strikes last term, Edin Dzeko earned the Capocannoniere award, but his form has suffered badly this term, as the 31-year-old has scored just nine league goals. The most obvious reason for his struggles seems to be Salah’s departure, as without the current Liverpool hero, the Giallorossi often look short of ideas and lack the speed to hurt their opponents on the break.
Gregoire Defrel’s injury woes partially justify his inability to fill in the big shoes left by the Egyptian, but the truth is that neither Schick nor the ex-Sassuolo forward have the quality, or at least not yet. Roma’s attack looked best when Stephan El Shaarawy was filling the void left by Salah, so purchasing another winger in January would not only allow Schick to rotate with Dzeko at his preferred position as a striker, but would also increase the depth at Di Francesco’s disposal.
Another problem is at right-back, as Bruno Peres is often guilty of making silly mistakes and was even publicly criticised by his Coach. On the other hand, despite his undoubted quality and being a fan favourite, Alessandro Florenzi’s fitness is far from perfect, which is completely understandable due to his injury problems and Roma’s tight schedule.
The Italian looked exhausted in the last few games, which reflected on his and his side’s performance. Rick Karsdorp’s unfortunate injury at the start of the season means that the Dutchman might not see any action this term, so looking for another right-back is something that Monchi should at least consider.
In midfield, club captain Daniele De Rossi seems to be declining faster than the Giallorossi faithful would like to admit. The almost-35-year-old is struggling to keep up with his high standards week in and week out, as he often looked slow and predictable when in possession.
De Rossi’s deputy Maxime Gonalons is having a hard time adapting to Italian football and so far has failed to provide any significant impact when Di Francesco opted to rest his captain. There are already rumours that the former Lyon midfielder couldbe leaving the Giallorossi this month, so looking for another regista is an option as well.
Overall Roma’s season can be considered as positive so far, as they won their Champions League group and are still in contention for the top places in Serie A. However, as the Giallorossi are currently 12 points behind league leaders Napoli (with a game in hand), the Scudetto seems out of reach. If Di Francesco’s men don’t increase their attacking potency, they risk losing a place in the top four, which would be catastrophic for the club’s project and ambitions.
At this point, that there is no need to panic, as Roma have enough quality to recover from their recent slump in form and improve in attack. The Giallorossi don’t really need any major changes right now, but would be smart to improve their squad depth in January.