Jose Mourinho explains where Nicolò Zaniolo and Tammy Abraham have improved at Roma, but also where they still have a long way to go both tactically and emotionally.
The 4-0 victory over Zorya Luhansk will boost confidence and guarantees at least second place in the group.
However, as Bodo/Glimt beat CSKA Sofia today, the Norwegians are still heading into the Round of 16 directly, whereas the Giallorossi look set for the play-offs.
“The first positive signal was that we had the responsibility to win this game and continue in the competition,” Mourinho told Sky Sport Italia.
“I think we did very well from the first minute, we could’ve scored six or seven goals. Zorya aren’t of the highest level, but they are aggressive and had some good individual quality. We had some brilliant individual performances today and are happy to progress.”
Zaniolo put in a splendid performance in a trequartista role behind the strikers, scoring a goal and assisting another, so did it help him that Mourinho dropped the starlet for two games in a row?
“He was on the bench against Venezia because he had fitness problems and didn’t train that week. The second time I was thinking he had never played with me in this system, so I thought Eldor Shomurodov was more accustomed to it and then Felix did really well.
“As I said before the game, I don’t expect Zaniolo on his own to do things, I expect him to be part of the team and deliver. I liked the way he played and also his attitude.
“Zaniolo has great potential, but also a great deal to learn in terms of tactics and the stability of his attitude on the field. He has these ups and downs in terms of confidence. I feel the best players keep going even when things aren’t working, must keep that trust in his talent.
“It is very important for me that the emotional scar of his serious injuries can heal. Against Juventus, he was playing fantastically well in my view, but then at the first sign of a problem to his knee, he was struck by this fear that is typical of a player who suffered so much.
“I would like to ask the media in Rome not to invent problems, to invent lies. I realise that lies sell, but I hope the Roma press can allow Zaniolo to grow in peace and we can also help provide a player to Italy who is great shape as well.”
Mourinho seemed irritated after Abraham scored a spectacular overhead kick to complete his brace, as the England international had earlier missed several sitters.
“My team is made up of good people as well as good players. I never get angry with them, as the sense of belonging and unity is always there. We can debate issues about tactical positions and movements, but I am never angry with them.
“Abraham arrived from a different type of football, playing for a team that always dominated and a striker is only there to score goals. In Italy, it’s important the striker has to work for the team as well, to press the opposition centre-backs and at the same time start the defence from there.
“It is a need he was unaccustomed to, but he is absorbing this and the concept of working for the team. I am happy, as he is improving a great deal.
“We could’ve been in a better position in Serie A, we could’ve won this Conference League group, but overall I am very happy to be working with these lads.”
What a goal!🔥
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) November 25, 2021