Saturday December 7 2019
Big impact for Smalling

Chris Smalling has been a revelation for Roma and never more impressive than neutralising Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, writes Emmet Gates.

England boss Gareth Southgate chose the right game to take a weekend break to Milan and watch Serie A’s most in-form defender, Chris Smalling.

Southgate had obviously heard the good reports emanating out of Italy about Smalling’s performances since arriving in the Eternal City, and with Euro 2020 around the corner, decided to see what all the fuss was about.

He wasn’t to be disappointed. The Londoner put on a virtuoso display of defending, was imperious in marshalling Inter’s Romelu Lukaku throughout the entire 90 minutes, and generally not taking his eye off his former Manchester United team-mate. Lukaku, scorer of 10 league goals in 15 games for the Nerazzurri, scarcely touched the ball.

Smalling has been a player reborn since joining Roma. The loan raised eyebrows in the dying embers of the summer transfer window. The Giallorossi had tried in vain to sign numerous defenders throughout July and August, but they’d either been rejected or priced out of deals.

And so they ended up with Smalling, who’d fallen down the pecking order at United. It was a marriage of convenience; Roma needed a defender, and Smalling needed first team football if he was to make Southgate’s squad for Euro 2020.

And yet, three months on, both parties are reaping the rewards. He had to bide his time, and didn’t get his first start until the end of September, but once Smalling played, he proved to be indispensable for Paulo Fonseca.

He scored his first goal for the club in the 4-0 away win against Udinese in late October, and followed that up with another goal – and an assist – in the 3-0 win against Brescia a month later to become the first English player to score two goals in a single Serie A season since David Beckham at Milan in 2008-09.

Smalling seems to be embracing life in the capital, has spoken of the desire to challenge himself and is taking multiple Italian lessons per week in order to assimilate himself into his new environment. Roma have talked about hoping to make a permanent deal for the 30-year-old.

He has struck up a formidable partnership alongside fellow summer signing Gianluca Mancini in the heart of the Roma defence, and the two combined to stifle Serie A’s most devastating forward-line in Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku.

Lu-La, as they have been unimaginatively dubbed by the Italian media, have scored 60% of Inter’s goals this season, 24 goals between them in all competitions. Antonio Conte’s side had scored in every single game between Serie A and the Champions League. Yet Smalling and Mancini put an end to that.

Should he continue to put in outstanding performances like last night, Southgate will have no other choice but to include Smalldini, as he’s been nicknamed by some fans, in his 23-man squad for next summer’s tournament.

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Have your say...
@Ben,, Cheers to that esp the former two were bad egg....
on the 8th December, 2019 at 1:05pm
@ spirit_willy

Me neither! I always thought Perisic was good at tackling back too. Personally I think Conte wanted those who didn't have the right attitude/mindset out of the club - cue departures for Perisic, Icardi and Nainggolan.
on the 8th December, 2019 at 2:25am
The January transferr window. And i think we need extra wing jets to stop conte from extra swapping in the flanks. I haven't got any clue why perisic didnt get his chance at the wing when candreva can!!
on the 7th December, 2019 at 11:16pm
@Anon, Injuries can happen to any team,, that cannot be an issue. But to not try to mediate it is. Sensi could equally replaced by brozo and in his void Ghananian Asamoah can easily muscle up in holding role. And borja is a master at channeling passes in rcm role as well swapping with vecino for covering whole ninety minutes! Seems conte didn't quite fathom we are actually few miles away clinching the title. I will urge the board to make justification to conte's point and give him supplies in th
on the 7th December, 2019 at 11:09pm
@anonymous this is very true. All of the chances created seemed to come from the CBs yes inter are doing better this year but I wonder how conte would have gone with last seasons team. Roma were not full strength either but with Sensi and Barella running the show plus whatever inter buy in January will make the title race even more exciting
on the 7th December, 2019 at 10:29pm
Roma we’re defending against a static Lukaku and Lautaro and in that sense both Smalling and Mancini did well. That was made possible because Roma decided they would keep the ball at all cost with no intentions of attacking. But when either of one them were allowed to run or turn them the only way to stop them was to foul them in which one of those situations nearly resulted in a red card for Mancini. But Man U are clearly stupid to let Smalling go as well as Lukaku.
on the 7th December, 2019 at 9:58pm
I would not get too carried away, what sort of service were Lu La getting from a midfield of Valero and Vecino?
on the 7th December, 2019 at 6:51pm

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