When you look at Roma’s current squad, there seems to be renewed depth in multiple positions – especially in midfield. It's fair to say some of this depth has come from decent activity in recent transfer windows. But with the latest wave of injuries hitting the Giallorossi team, a considerable portion of the midfield - such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Bryan Cristante, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Amadou Diawara – have all been affected by this unfortunate injury curse.
With such a long and, it seems, growing-by-the-week treatment table, Roma arguably go into the weekend’s game with Napoli fighting an uphill battle. Any team would struggle with so many absentees, and the issue isn’t just limited to the midfield. Ahead of what is one of the sternest tests in Serie A, the bulk of the football betting online rates Roma as underdogs.
The injury crisis over at the Trigoria only got worse when Davide Zappacosta tore his ACL at the beginning of October. Even the capital side’s attacking warrior Edin Dzeko picked up a facial injury. However, the Bosnian’s aerial threat is still intact with the face mask. Croatian forward Nikola Kalinic was one of the last players to be added to the long injury list, the former Milan striker picking up a knock in the stalemate against Sampdoria.
These awful injuries on the pitch and training ground have posed numerous questions about Roma’s trainers and training regimes. Have they pushed the Giallorossi players too far in the pre-game warmups? Is there something wrong in the recovery programme?
This recent plague of injuries tainted the Lupi’s performances against Wolfsberger in the Europa League and the Serie A games against Atalanta, Cagliari and bottom side Sampdoria. Drawing 1-1 to a European minnow in Austria and only picking up five points out of a possible 12 in Serie A, it looked as though Roma were heading down a dark path of inconsistency. But ever since the 1-1 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Europa League, Paulo Fonseca’s men have looked more composed in defence, more creative in the final third and shown crisp passing in the build-up play.
It's as if the Giallorossi are fuelled by that late dubious penalty given against Chris Smalling in the dying embers of the Europa League clash with Mönchengladbach. The 2-1 win against Milan and the dominant 4-0 display at Udineseindicates that several players have risen to the occasion in this severe injury crisis.
Nicolò Zaniolo is a player who has been a vital playmaker for the Romans in the last three fixtures. The 20-year-old, who has bagged two goals in the previous two Serie A rounds, is starting to spark to life with Fonseca’s football. Playing high on the right wing in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1 formation has given the Italian starlet plenty of freedom to utilise his creativity and dribbling skills in the final third. Not only has he got on the scoresheet, but the young entertainer has also been heavily involved in the build-up play for several goals.
Javier Pastore is another key player who has stepped up in recent weeks during this injury difficulty in the midfield area. The Argentine has been praised by Fonseca, especially after his lively showing against Milan. The 30-year-old has worked well alongside Jordan Veretout and Zaniolo – showing some of his creative and passing qualities that the Roma supporters hardly witnessed last season. The Giallorossi were fortunate to have Pastore act as a quick replacement for the likes of Lorenzo Pellegrini and Mkhitaryan. Without his presence, there would have been a lack of creativity and composure in the middle of the pitch.
Another player starting to look more confident is Chris Smalling. The Manchester United loanee has put in decent defensive displays alongside Gianluca Mancini and Federico Fazio in the centre-back position. With Cristante injured, this has moved Mancini into a central defensive midfield role – allowing Smalling to dictate the defensive line and regain his confidence.
It didn’t seem like it at the time, but this injury crisis has turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise, rekindling a number of the players left standing. Zaniolo has stepped up for his club, and Pastore has worked tirelessly after taking on a key role in the injury-stricken midfield area. The wins against Milan and Udinese have shown Fonseca’s attacking brand of football is finally coming to fruition. The Giallorossi are sitting nicely in fourth spot with 19 points, just two behind Atalanta. Not bad for a team currently battling an injury crisis.