Back on January 10th, Inter’s visit to the capital and Roma was a critical affair. The Giallorossi were within touching distance of Inter, which had suffered a shock loss to Sampdoria midweek. In the end, the Stadio Olimpico saw witness to an entertaining 2-2 draw. And while this fixture may not be as crucial this time around, we jumped on the excuse to get back in touch with our blog sister site, Chiesa Di Totti. Bren. who does an incredible job running the shop at Chiesa Di Totti, was kind enough to answer our Roma queries.
Q: Jose Mourinho’s shock appointment as Roma manager has dominated the football news cycle. What was your reaction? What does this mean for Roma in the bigger picture?
A: Well, it’s not exactly a unique response at this point, but shock is really the only fitting word. For weeks, we’d been priming ourselves for Maurizio Sarri and a sizeable portion of our readership was getting pretty excited, myself included. Sarri would have been an easy transition given Roma’s current roster, but apparently, all that talk was just smoke and mirrors.
What this means for Roma in the big picture is anyone’s guess. Certainly, you can’t hire José Mourinho and give him a bunch of ragtag misfits to work with but nothing about Roma screams fiscal health at the moment—the club is knee-deep in nine-figure debts, so I’m skeptical that they’ll be able to give him even a fraction of what he’s used to.
And we have to face facts, too: this isn’t vintage Mourinho Roma are signing; his star has dimmed significantly over the past few years. But that is precisely what makes me think this move will work in the end: both sides have something to prove, so this could prove to be an incredibly symbiotic partnership.
Q: The Special One is replacing Paulo Fonseca in Trigoria after two years in charge. How would you grade Fonseca’s tenure?
A: Whatever grade we give to Fonseca’s two-year stint in Roma has to be given a giant asterisk, or at the very least he should be judged on a healthy curve. From the change in ownership to the pandemic to the club’s financial woes to the litany of injuries he’s dealt with, including losing Zaniolo for almost the entirety of his tenure with the club, Fonseca never really got a fair shake. He entered Roma under the worst possible circumstances and nothing ever really got better, if we’re being honest, so I’d give him a C+...decidedly average but, as I just said, he got a raw deal.
Q: While the first year of Dan and Ryan Friedkin’s ownership sees Roma stuck in 7th and the Europa Conference League, what are your hopes for the future under the Americans? Where does Roma need to finish next season to be successful?
A: First off, I hope we don’t have to deal with the Conference League, which looks like a completely contrived garbage tournament, so I’d rather Roma miss out on that completely...haha.
My hopes are still to be determined. Much like Fonseca’s time with the club, the Friedkins didn’t acquire Roma under optimal circumstances. We thought (or least hoped) that the club’s debts would be absolved or taken care of during the sale, but that wasn’t the case, so nothing has really changed—this is still a club that has to walk the FFP tightrope every year, where the lack of European funds could precipitate crushing sales.
So, until the Friedkins prove they can put an end to that lifestyle, my hopes remain guarded. But, having said all that, I do like the way they move in silence; it makes for great surprises and minimizes a lot of the static we typically hear coming from Trigoria. Time will tell how high they can lift Roma but if they truly back Mourinho, this could be the beginning of a true Roma rebuild.
As for next season, they need to be in the fight for the top four until the bitter end. Roma cannot survive another year without Champions League revenue.
Q: Who should Inter be most worried about on the giallorossi? On the flip side, where could Inter take advantage of Roma?
A: Hmm, I guess that all depends on who plays! You all have the title wrapped up and Roma has nothing but pride left to play for, so Fonseca may very well continue to play a lot of our Primavera kids, which makes it hard to single out one dangerman. However, broadly speaking, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been Roma’s best players this season and they each played great against Crotone over the weekend. Again, in the broadest context possible, Roma’s defense has been horrific this season, particularly when you put them under pressure as they build from the back, so if Conte wants to press the issue, Inter can easily cause some chaos by pressuring Roger Ibañez and/or Marash Kumbulla as they attempt to set things up from the back.
Q: How do you see the chips falling Wednesday? What’s your prediction?
A: Gosh, I have no idea. Are Inter even going to try or are they on complete cruise control already? To play it safe, I’ll say a 2-2 draw.