The dark clouds have dissipated, but the Giallorossi could merely be caught in the eye of the storm. La Lupa have reacted well on the field and in the boardroom to their Coppa Italia calamity, but two straight wins and some smart business in the winter window have not solved all of their problems.
Saturday’s crunch clash with Juventus could reopen wounds that are just beginning to heal. Roma have taken only four points from a possible 21 against the current top eight, and those struggles against the best of Serie A are a black mark on the Paulo Fonseca regime.
The Portuguese’s most notable success against a direct rival was a 3-1 triumph at the Allianz Stadium over an Old Lady that had already secured the Scudetto. A repeat of that result would represent a statement of intent in a crowded chase for the Champions League.
Despite their troubles against the Peninsula’s heavyweights, La Lupa are currently well-placed in that race. They’re off to their best start after 20 games since 2016-17, when they set club records for points, victories and goals on their way to second spot.
Edin Dzeko was proclaimed Capocannoniere that campaign, but the big Bosnian’s feud with Fonseca threatens to derail the Giallorossi’s push for a return to Europe’s elite club competition. The veteran marksman has been left out of the last two match day squads but was not transferred despite attempts to find a suitor.
Dzeko has since been stripped of the captaincy, but his presence is needed on the pitch if Roma hope to achieve their aims. Borja Mayoral has stepped up impressively in the 34-year old’s absence, but there is no reliable third option behind the Spaniard.
Depth in all departments will be crucial ahead of theEuropa League round of 32 tie with Braga, and Roma’s squad will be stretched to its limits as long as they remain in that tournament. New sporting director Tiago Pinto has done well to bring in reinforcements in attack (Stephan El Shaarawy) and at right wing-back (Bryan Reynolds), with the capture of the precocious American from under Juve’s nose particularly commendable.
The teenage Texan joins a team teeming with young talent. The likes of Gonzalo Villar and Roger Ibañez have impressed this term (despite the latter’s horror show in the Derby della Capitale), while native son Lorenzo Pellegrini is still only 24.
The building blocks of a side that can consistently challenge near the summit of the standings are already in place, but whether Fonseca or Dzeko will still be around after this summer is a mystery. Saturday’s showdown could shed some light on that question, with Champions League qualification triggering an automatic extension in the Mozambique-born mister’s contract.
Reclaiming a seat at European football’s top table would free up funds for Fonseca, but such success should not tempt the club into a senseless spending spree. La Lupa fell out of the top 30 of the Deloitte Money League in 2021after sitting 16th the year before and investing in fledgling talents is a savvy strategy for making up the gap in spending power with the likes of Juve, Inter and Napoli.
No matter what happens over the next few months, the Friedkins must foster a youth movement in the red half of Rome.