Thursday August 20 2020
How Roma revitalised Smalling

There’s no doubt Chris Smalling has been transformed by his Roma experience, so Lee Bushe analyses why he’s so much stronger than at Manchester United.

Prior to his revitalisation at Roma, Chris Smalling was regarded as deadwood by Manchester United. A defender who - despite occasional flashes of brilliance - was never consistent enough to be considered a worthy successor to Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic. He was symbolic of how stale United had gotten, having spent nine years with the club without really achieving anything of note.

So you could forgive Roma fans if they reacted to the news of his arrival last summer with either indifference or mild disappointment. He seemed an inadequate replacement for Kostas Manolas, the ever-reliable centre-back who departed for Napoli earlier that window, not to mention that English players had a reputation of struggling to adapt to the Italian game.

In spite of this fact, Smalling became an indispensable player for Roma almost immediately, transforming himself from an inconsistent defender at Manchester United to one of Serie A’s more dependable ones almost overnight. Just how did such a transformation happen?

Perhaps the most obvious factor is that Smalling suits coach Paulo Fonseca’s style of play perfectly. Fonseca likes to employ a high defensive line, meaning Roma are vulnerable to runs in from behind. Since Smalling is a pacey and physical defender, he is capable of catching up with the sprinting opponent and muscling him off the ball.

Another factor - and maybe the most surprising one considering the reputation English players have - is that Smalling was almost made for Serie A. He reads the game brilliantly, which is an attribute far more important in the tactical Serie A than it is in the comparatively unpredictable Premier League. This - combined with his tenacity - has made him into one of the most effective defenders on the Peninsula.

The other contributing factor could be psychological. Smalling is regarded by some as being a confidence player. Playing in the Premier League - and particularly Manchester United - comes with a high level of expectation. A couple of bad games or even a mere mistake can make you the subject of derision on social media. Playing for Roma meant the limelight wasn’t on him as much, meaning that he could make mistakes without being slaughtered on Twitter, allowing him to retain the high level of confidence he has clearly demonstrated with his performances this season.

There seem to be a lot of problems at his parent club too, to the extent where he was almost unlucky to have spent so many years there. It can’t be a coincidence that maligned players such as Romelu Lukaku, Angel Di Maria, Ashley Young and Memphis Depay have all thrived since leaving Old Trafford. No wonder that Smalling sees his future away from United, with recent reports suggesting that he would take a pay-cut to make his time at Roma permanent.

Hopefully, a deal between Roma and Manchester United can be reached soon to ensure that happens. His defensive skills - as well as his experience - have proved vital for Fonseca’s Roma so far, and he would be a difficult man to replace should he not make the return to Trigoria. 

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Have your say...
I know Smalling is AMAZING for Roma
--I teased Coppa with semi-sarcasm.

For 5 years, Radja gave EVERYTHING for this club. Including his teeth...
Yet, when his form downgraded a bit, he was instantly snubbed by some fans.

Same fans turned on Totti, De Rossi, now Florenzi...
More than anyone, I understand passion. But balance it with some GRATITUDE!
After all, these were your "war buddies" / "family members" :)

I'm extremelly happy Jan signed for Benfica! I don't like his arrogant EPL face.
on the 23rd August, 2020 at 3:53pm
Dzeko is super inconsistent so not a good example. Neither is Radja in the same sentence as Totti!

Roma is a tough place. Either way, Smalling is and was terrific. Marginally better than Fazio and Juan Jesus means that poster is a Lazio fan.

If they didn't bring back Smalling but signed Vertonghen they would have been very well off. But since he went to freaking Portugal (no offense), spending the money on Smalling is a good idea. Smalling > Maguire.
on the 22nd August, 2020 at 2:09pm
That's why you need to help us with your prayers that Smalling returns to Roma!
Keep fingers crossed ;)

I agree with Di Rocco that environment in Rome is EXTREMELY passionate.
Fans over exaggerate with loses or wins. They turn on players instantly, disregarding of what they accomplished/ sacrificed for Roma. Even Totti & Radja felt the wrath of these fanatics!

Dzeko is a living example: One week he's "the Best Roma striker, worth at least 20M", then next week he's "overpaid & useless".
on the 20th August, 2020 at 10:42pm
I'd say only marginally better than Juan Jesus and Fazio. Not anywhere near Acerbi's level, check the stats.
on the 20th August, 2020 at 3:35pm
Also do not forget that he is a great offensive threat on corners too, he usually beats his man.
on the 20th August, 2020 at 9:15am
You don't know much about Rome if you think a player won't get hung out to dry for making a mistake. Lmao
on the 20th August, 2020 at 3:16am

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