The Serie A season is upon us, Sunday 22nd August Roma will entertain Fiorentina at the Stadio Olimpico under the lights with fans in attendance.
It has been an interesting summer being a Roma fan for sure. The prospect of José Mourinho joining Roma after it was announced in May became a reality in July when José arrived at the capital with much fanfare and a tremendous reception from the AS Roma fans at Trigoria.
His last two jobs in England didn’t go too well at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs. Sacked in December 2018 at Manchester United after a disappointing defeat at Anfield against Liverpool. His departure at Old Trafford went down well with some of the players he alienated, in Paul Pogba and Luke Shaw. At Tottenham, he was sacked in April 2021 just days before the League cup final against Manchester City. A disappointing run of results ended his tenure at Tottenham Hotspurs. An embarrassing Europa League defeat to Dinamo Zagreb and a derby defeat to Arsenal happened four days beforehand. A home defeat to Manchester United was followed by a 2-2 draw away at Everton proved to be the straw that broke the camelback.
The news in May that Roma appointed José Mourinho came with some skepticism and that is understandable. For me, he is returning to a league that is suited to his style of tactics. The tempo in Serie A is a lot slower than the 100-mph football played in the Premier League. Serie A is more tactical and this is where José can flourish. Serie A has changed since his last tenure in Italy 11 years ago, it’s not your Grandad defensive Serie A no more. But I can see Josè adapting his ways to the league.
The pre-season was quite compelling, I don’t think I have been more excited as a Roma fan to watch pre-season football in a long while. Watched most of the games via Roma TV and the club channels on YouTube. I was really impressed with what I saw, there were some interesting moments in pre-season. The Porto melee when Porto Portuguese defender Pepe did Pepe things and went in on Henrikh Mkhitaryan with a nasty forearm challenge which sparked a massive bust-up.
The Real Betis game which got the airtime from the British press and media was another pre-season friendly which stirred the emotions. Roma lost the game 5-2 and had three players sent off, José Mourinho was also sent off and some of Jose’s backroom staff was sent off. Lorenzo Pellegrini, Gianluca Mancini and Rick Karsdorp were all given red cards by referee Jorge Figueroa Vasquez. José Mourinho stormed the pitch after Real Betis’s third goal should have been disallowed after a blatant handball by Alex Moreno. The next 20 minutes was absolute carnage, José Mourinho stormed the pitch and got sent off, Lorenzo Pellegrini was sent off for two yellows just moments after. Then Mancini and Karsdorp picked up second yellows and were dismissed. Roma ended the game with 8 men and a 5-2 defeat in Seville.
The first competitive game for Roma was on Thursday in the UEFA Europe Conference League 4th qualifying Round away in Trabzon against Trabzonspor. Roma were impressive in stages; you could see Josè Mourinho’s identity on the squad and the way he wants to play football already. Roma were slow starters but managed to improve as the game went on, scored the opener from captain Lorenzo Pellegrini. Andreas Cornelius equalised with his first touch of the game with a brilliant header. Roma then suffered a little bit as Trabzonspor attacked and created more chances. Roma then seized and took control and got the crucial win. Remember no away goals this season, it has been scrapped.
I have been impressed with what Roma have done with the transfer dealing. I will be doing another article on the business that Roma and general manager Tiago Pinto has done. He has been lauded in my eyes with the work he has done this summer, bought-in experience and young hungry players looking to express themselves. Pinto has done well to get rid of the high earners of the wage bill, there is more work to be done but it is a step in the right direction.
My prediction for Roma in the 2021/22 season in Serie A is to finish in 5th. I don’t see Roma jumping from 7th to a top 4 position straight away. I can see Roma doing well to get a top 5 spot and finish in the UEFA Europa League position for the 2022/23 season.
I think you will see the real Roma in the 2022/23 season and beyond when José Mourinho has a settled XI and the type of players he has at the club. I hope to see Roma do well in the Coppa Italia, a cup competition that Roma has neglected in the last 7-8 years. It was the last trophy that they won in May 2008 against Inter Milan.
It will be interesting to see if Roma get past Trabzonspor in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Conference League and how José Mourinho will see it. Will he see it as a place for Roma to play the youngsters or as a chance for Roma to win a trophy? I hope it’s the latter. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.
My strongest AS Roma XI for 2021/22 (4-2-3-1)
Rui Patricio, Karsdorp, Mancini, Ibanez, Vina, Veretout, Cristante, Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Shomurodov, Abraham.
The key player to watch out for will be the returning Nicolò Zaniolo. He has had a torrid last 18 months with 2 horrible knee injuries which have cut short the start of his career. He was really blossoming into a standout footballer before his first knee injury at the beginning of 2020 against Juventus. His return in the latter half of 2020 was cut short again while playing for Italy in the Nations League against Holland. Fingers crossed that Zaniolo can stay fit and healthy for this current campaign and, as cliché as it sounds, his return to Roma does feel like a new signing.
I am really looking forward to the season in Serie A and in Europe for AS Roma, been really impressed with what was achieved in the pre-season, the transfer market has gone well for the club. The fans are excited to see what this club can achieve this season and beyond.