Roma made a huge statement in this summer’s mercato in signing the hotly-contested Patrik Schick from Sampdoria. But after warning signs shown in the first two match days and their failure to replace two outgoing stars, it is evident that the striker isn’t exactly what they needed.
The Giallorossi won a tricky opening-day battle in Bergamo 1-0, thanks to a cheeky free-kick from new signing Aleksandar Kolarov. It was Roma’s ability to win ‘ugly’ that impressed supporters, a trait they have lacked in previous years - even ultimately costing them the Scudetto. They were lucky not to concede in that game and a near-perfect performance by Juan Jesus overshadowed their otherwise shaky defensive performance.
However, Jesus was deployed at right-back in the following week’s loss to Inter, after Bruno Peres’ adductor strain in the previous match. Roma conceded three goals in the final 23 minutes against the Nerazzurri after leading 1-0 thanks to an early goal from Edin Dzeko. Federico Fazio instead partnered Kostas Manolas in defence. The loss raised more alarm bells for Eusebio Di Francesco, as it was his second defensive pairing in as many games - a problem which has seen Roma concede a large portion of goals through disorganisation at the back in previous years.
Following his €31m move to reigning Premier League champions Chelsea, Toni Rudiger wasn’t adequately replaced. The German international appeared 32 times last season, often alongside Manolas in defence, and proving to be a pivotal part of Roma’s team. Hector Moreno was brought in from PSV, but the 29-year-old is yet to appear. They currently have Moreno, Juan Jesus and Fazio as their other rotating centre-back, but lack a strong, consistent partner to Manolas.
In Zemanlandia folklore, a 4-3-3 formation is all about attack and outscoring the opposition, a philosophy that Di Francesco has followed since his days at Sassuolo. However, should the Trigoria outfit be successful this season, a tight defence is vital.
It isn’t just at the back where Roma needed strengthening: Mohamed Salah also wasn’t replaced properly after his departure to Liverpool. The Egyptian was one of their best players last season, a showing of 15 goals and 10 assists in his 31 league games solidified himself as one of the world’s best right-wingers. New sports director Monchi brought in Turkish wonderkid Cengiz Under, but the youngster is still raw and can’t be relied on just yet.
Gregoire Defrel was reunited with his former Sassuolo manager, but seems to be uncomfortable on the right. He is a natural striker, therefore was underwhelming for his new side in the first two encounters. A new right-winger was searched for throughout this mercato and Monchi’s stubborn refusal to meet Leicester City’s €44m valuation of Riyad Mahrez left many Roma fans concerned that a Salah replacement wouldn’t be purchased.
The signing of long-term Juventus target Schick left fans excited, and hundreds of Romanisti flocked to Fiumicino Airport to greet the ex-Sampdoria striker. However, it is again hard to see where the youngster fits into EDF’s system. Edin Dzeko is coming off a career-best year; the Bosnian international captain finished the season as Capocannoniere with 29 league goals.
Unless a change of formation is deployed by Di Francesco, it is hard to see how he fits both Schick and Dzeko in his best XI. A replacement is eventually needed for the ageing Dzeko, but the Giallorossi may have found more success if they had invested in a star centre-back or right-winger, instead.