With Jose Mourinho on his way back to the Giuseppe Meazza for a third time as Roma manager, it’s the perfect time to check in with our friends at Chiesa Di Totti, our SB Nation sister site for all things Giallorossi. The very excellent site manager Bren was kind enough to answer my queries on the side from the Eternal City and prepare us for Saturday’s must-not-lose against Mourinho and Co.
Q: What are the expectations in Year Two of the Jose Mourinho project after last season’s success in the UEFA Conference League?
A: Well, winning the club’s first European trophy in 30 years, even if it was a brand new tournament, combined with the high-profile moves they made over the summer definitely ratcheted up the pressure on José Mourinho and the club. In our season preview series, we had a vigorous debate on whether or not Roma were legitimate Scudetto contenders. While there was some disagreement, a top-four finish feels like the minimally acceptable objective for the club this year.
With players like Dybala, Abraham, Pellegrini, Wijnaldum, and Belotti, among others, I felt Roma had an outside shot at winning the title, but they would need a little bit of luck and a lot of good health, which hasn’t happened yet, but I think this is a top-four club.
Q: How would you grade Roma’s summer transfer window? Do the new signings look worth the goods or has anyone underperformed?
A: I hinted at it in the first question, but Roma GM Tiago Pinto knocked it out of the park. Dybala has been fantastic; he’s been everything we dreamed of. Outside of him, it’s been mixed. Wijnaldum got hurt almost immediately, Zeki Celik has had a few nice moments, Nemanja Matic has been fine, and Belotti is getting back in game shape.
This was definitely the most exciting transfer window I can recall over the past decade. As long as Dybala remains a success, we’ll look back at this particular class fondly, but the overall grade remains incomplete, thanks mainly to Wijnaldum’s fractured tibia.
Q: Let’s look at one arrival in particular: Paulo Dybala. What does the capture of La Joya mean for Roma and how big a figure in Rome is he expected to be in the long term?
A: Man, I should have read these in advance! At the risk of sounding redundant, he’s been as advertised: just an absolute killer with the ball at his feet and a maestro calling the shots in the final third. I’m not sure Roma could have landed him without Mourinho or the benefit of free agency, but this was the most high-profile signing the club has had since Gabriel Batistuta.
Landing Dybala was a signal of intent from the club: they mean business. With the club delisting from the stock exchange and hopefully finally making headway on a new stadium, I think we’ll look back on this as the first domino to fall in Roma’s path towards becoming a legitimate title contender and destination for top players.
The extent to which they can achieve that over the next 18 to 24 months will likely determine how long he sticks around, but by all accounts, he seems enamored with the club, the city, and the fans.
Q: What are the Giallorossi’s strengths and weaknesses? Who should Simone Inzaghi keep a special eye on and who could Inter target?
A: Roma leads the league in expected goals (and expected goal differential) and are reasonably accurate in shooting the ball, but they can’t convert to save their lives. Honestly, everything Mourinho is trying to create is working (and most of the stats bear that out); they just can’t score a $%&*ing goal!
In that light, Inter can take their chances and hope Roma’s poor finishing lasts another week. But really, if you just sit back, compact your defense, overwhelm Cristante and Matic, and force Roma into hasty shots, the rest kind of sorts itself out.
Q: And lastly, what’s your prediction for Saturday’s showdown?
A: This one definitely feels like a draw, so I’ll say a wild 3-3 tie.
Thanks for stopping by, Bren!