It might be ludicrous to say, but Roma should avoid purchasing or selling any player during this current transfer window. Why? This current Roman outfit boasts a blend of experience and promising youth – a combination that eventually paid dividends for Eusebio Di Francesco in the last couple of Serie A fixtures of 2018.
The 4-2-3-1 formation seemed to perform quite effectively in the victories against Sassuolo and Parma – highlighting that Justin Kluivert, Nicolò Zaniolo and Cengiz Under playing behind either Edin Dzeko or Patrik Schick might be a fruitful alliance for the rest of the 2018-19 campaign.
In recent years, the Giallorossi have been dubbed a supermarket by the Italian media – growing into one Serie A's biggest feeder clubs. For the Roman supporters, the pain was unbearable when waving goodbye to the likes of Wojciech Szczesny, Antonio Rudiger and Leandro Paredes a couple of seasons ago. However, these exits weren’t as depressing as when the capital club sold star midfielder Miralem Pjanic to rivals Juventus in 2016 and let their talismanic forward Mohamed Salah leave for Anfield the following year.
The transfer sales continued last summer, with La Magica this time selling their valiant goalkeeper Alisson Becker to Liverpool for a world-record fee. And then there was the sale of Radja Nainggolan – their prominent playmaker who left for an adventure up north with Inter. These recent sales of star performers have intensified the outrage among the club’s fans, who have lost faith in both club director Monchi and President James Pallotta.
Even though the three-time Scudetto winners have sold vital members of their squad in recent years, Roma still managed to sign new talent, defy the odds in securing a top-four status in Italy and establish itself as a dangerous side in Europe. However, after Alisson and Nainggolan left the Italian Capital, Roma’s performances at the start of the 2018-19 Serie A season took a turn for the worse.
One win from the opening five rounds was a disastrous start for Di Francesco’s men. It appeared that the absence of Nainggolan’s playmaking skills and Alisson’s rapid reactions between the posts were taking a toll on the struggling Giallorossi outfit. The new midfield signings of the experienced Steven Nzonzi and Javier Pastore didn’t seem to make any immediate impact. It is going to require more than scoring delightful back-heel goals for the latter to drive the midfield line.
According to Roma’s tifosi, Swedish goalkeeper Robin Olsen may not have been the same calibre replacement for Alisson, but his consistent performances at the World Cup in Russia and the €12m price tag seemed like a bargain. The Swede has produced some blunders and costly errors so far this season, but his exceptional form in the latter stages of 2018 seems to be slowly earning the trust of the Roma faithful.
Another bargain that the Giallorossi acquired from the Nainggolan move to Inter was Zaniolo. The 19-year-old revelation has instantly grown into a prominent figure in Roma’s midfield line – with his elegant and technical playing style quickly erasing the Nainggolan memories. The Tuscan starlet looks to be linking well with the other youngsters such as Under, Kluivert, Schick and Bryan Cristante. Romanisti will be hopeful that the Italian wonderkid can keep producing spectacles similar to the outrageous goal he netted against Sassuolo.
The new midfield duo of Nzonzi and Cristante has also proved to be fruitful for Di Francesco’s men in the last couple of rounds – tightening the area in front of the defence. Plus, Roma still possesses Edin Dzeko – one of the deadliest finishers in Europe when fired up. The No.9 needs to emulate his fine Champions League form in Serie A.
After the Lupi ended 2018 with three wins out of four Serie A fixtures, this form indicates that Di Francesco’s side is now starting to meld just in time for the busiest period of the campaign. With the team finally firing on all cylinders, the Coach breathing again after recent positive results and the fans entertained by Zaniolo’s performances, Roma’s transfer objective should be to hold on to its star players, especially keeping sought-after Greek defender Kostas Manolas in Rome. The Lupi should also seek to nurture their youngsters – building the team around these promising talents.