Jose Mourinho confessed he ‘had doubts about Tammy Abraham’ for a while and again complained that Roma have no strength in depth after the 2-0 win over Empoli. ‘I could’ve left in December,’



It had been a difficult week for the Giallorossi, who lost to Napoli in Serie A, crashed out of the Coppa Italia with a home defeat to Cremonese in the quarter-final and froze Nicolò Zaniolo out after he demanded a transfer in the January window only to reject Bournemouth.

They had this game locked down within six minutes, as Roger Ibanez and Tammy Abraham both jumped above the crowd to nod in Paulo Dybala corner kicks.

It ended a home goal drought for Abraham that had lasted over 200 days and helped boost the England striker’s confidence.

“There was a short period this season when I had a few doubts about Abraham. Not about his qualities as a player, but about him, he had a difficult period. Now, however, if he doesn’t score a goal, then he still gives an important contribution,” Mourinho told DAZN.

“He did everything perfectly in the second half, holding the ball up, helping in defence, interacting very well with Paulo. It’s a positive moment for him.”

It was noted that the line-up wasn’t the big difference from the Coppa Italia defeat to Cremonese so much as the attitude from the very start of the match.

“We saw the first 30 minutes with a perfect gameplan. The intensity dropped later, not that I wanted to, but because that is our nature. Paulo had a few fitness issues, Lorenzo Pellegrini made an extraordinary effort to take part.

“I am happy, because we play within our limitations, but we do what we need to do. We picked up three points against a difficult team, I told Paolo Zanetti that too. At this moment, Empoli are in excellent shape, perhaps the best, and I consider it an important win because it was against a very difficult team.”

There was a concern towards half-time when Dybala clutched the left side of his lower back, so Mourinho was asked if he feared a new injury.

Instead, the coach turned it into another complaint pointing out Roma have absolutely no strength in depth and therefore their Coppa Italia quarter-final exit was inevitable.

“I think there are people in the stadium who do not understand. We have people in the media who ought to understand. This is our reality. If this team played against Cremonese, we were in the Coppa Italia semi-final. We do the best we can and work very hard.

“Before the game, I told the team they had to walk on holding a backpack full of sadness and frustration. But we cannot wait for someone else to help us, because it’s only us. It’s just us. That was our feeling during the warm-up, it’s just us.”

Andrea Belotti only came on in stoppages against Empoli and Mourinho insisted Il Gallo is not to be underestimated.

“The truth is that we always give everything we’ve got and we cannot do more than that. Only 11 can play in football, that is the reality we know. Other teams can have incredible players on the bench, but they don’t get questioned. Us, poor things, Belotti doesn’t play one game and you immediately question me.

“Well 30 seconds is better than zero. I understand players don’t want to play 30 seconds, but I want to win games and those can help win games. If this team uses both Belotti and Abraham, it immediately runs into problems.”

While Zaniolo ruled himself out by demanding a transfer and then rejecting Bournemouth, Chris Smalling has a clause allowing him to either activate an automatic renewal in his Roma contract or walk away.

“Zaniolo is a problem for the club, so I don’t have to do anything at all, he needs to resolve it with the club and not with me. As for Smalling, I cannot do anything to convince him.”

The last comment raised some eyebrows after reports of an offer from the Premier League, Portugal and Brazil’s national teams.

“I could’ve left in December and didn’t, this is my life, every day there is a game. Sometimes it might seem as if we are struggling, but we are up there with all the others who are very strong.”

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