Following Roma’s appointment of Paulo Fonseca, Wayne Girard looks at what the former Shakhtar Donetsk boss can offer the Giallorossi...
The appointment of Paulo Fonseca will satisfy most Roma fans after a difficult season. Sporting director Monchi and Coach Eusebio Di Francesco were axed in March, while Claudio Ranieri was unable to achieve the uphill battle of getting the Giallorossi back into the top four. When Antonio Conte rejected the Lupi for Inter (and the subsequent €11m salary), supporters were left disappointed as Maurizio Sarri also chose another path. Many of the other names floating around were inexperienced and unaccomplished, but the Portuguese boss from Shakhtar Donetsk presented an intriguing opportunity.
Generously described as a blend between Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, Fonseca won the Ukrainian Premier League for the past three seasons. Using a formation Roma are already accustomed to, the Coach typically deploys a 4-2-3-1. When compared to Luciano Spalletti and Di Francesco’s formation, however, Fonseca’s tactics are predicated on a few different adjustments.
In defence, he looks to incorporate each player into the attack. The centre-backs are required to be able to play the ball forward and the full-backs tend to overlap the midfield. This tactic has worked well for Fonseca domestically, where Shakhtar typically hold possession, whereas in European competition he takes a more defensive approach.
Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi will be adept on the flanks, but the Serb’s future has yet to be decided as he approaches his 34th birthday. Since Federico Fazio nor Kostas Manolas are ball-playing centre-backs, it’s likely that this position will be reinforced, even if both defenders stay put. The Greece international recently brushed off an invitation from Giorgio Chiellini to join Juventus but, after a failed move to Russia last year, a departure from the capital cannot be excluded. This could be an area where Fonseca brings over some of his former pupils, such as Ismaily and Marcos Antonio.
His two deep-lying midfielders have specific roles independent of one another. While one is the destroyer, breaking up play and winning the ball back, the other will be the playmaker, orchestrating moves and dictating the tempo. None of Roma’s current crop possess the skillset for the latter role, making the arrival of such a player an immediate priority for the club’s next sporting director. There are options out there, namely Sandro Tonali, even if Brescia will be keen to lock down the starlet following their promotion to Serie A.
Fonseca organises his attack with the unique tactic of overloading the opposition backline with wingers and the attacking midfielder, as well as the lone striker. While the wingers surge forward - sometimes simultaneously - the attacking midfielder can act as a false nine, providing another option against the opponents’ last line of defence. That position seems to be tailormade for Nicolo Zaniolo.
Meanwhile, Diego Perotti’s fitness will influence his role in the team as his characteristics could be key to maximising the flow in Roma’s attack. Justin Kluivert’s first year in red and yellow was something of a struggle but, with more responsibility and freedom in an all-out attack, he could thrive. Indeed, the Dutchman has what it takes to be an early standout player.
With a new Coach the starting point of Roma’s summer revolution, the next sporting director will have a tall order on his hands. With a strong-willed maestro leading the squad, the two should be able to plug the gaps in the Giallorossi’s squad and build a team with a clear vision.