AS Roma: Their smart market moves and Mourinho’s plans for the new season explained – scout report
AS Roma underwent a huge improvement under José Mourinho in the 2021/22 season, with the team building an identity and ending on a high note with their UEFA Europa Conference League triumph. After finishing sixth in the Serie A last term, their ambition to improve was underlined by their summer transfer window moves.
The team have been quite active so far, and whilst they haven’t spent big money on new players, they have been smart enough to secure some very experienced free agents who increase the value of the team and can fit Mourinho’s vision well.
At the time of writing, the only fee they have paid is €7.00m for the right-back Zeki Çelik, who was one of Lille’s key players last season. The manager made sure to reunite with Nemanja Matić, as well as to secure the signature of Georginio Wijnaldum, both brought with an aim to achieve dominance in midfield.
The highlight of their summer, though, was the arrival of Paulo Dybala on a free transfer from Juventus. The Argentine received a warm welcome from the fans and is expected to increase Roma’s efficiency in front of the goal along with their goalscorer from last season Tammy Abraham.
Their smart transfer market moves
Before diving into what can the new signings bring to the team, it is worth mentioning that the team not only secured players in much-needed positions without spending millions, but actually, the outgoing transfers have brought in €41.35m back to the club, which they still have the time to spend on someone new, although the only rumoured player to be targeted by Mourinho is the Manchester United defender Eric Bailly.
One of the most anticipated transfers of the summer was Dybala’s move to the capital. The 28-year-old Argentine will bring a much-needed edge to Roma’s attack. While Abraham became the leading figure in front of the goal, scoring 27 goals in all competitions last season, the team needed a player to support his actions after the departure of Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Internazionale and the rumoured departure of Nicolò Zaniolo.
Dybala certainly could increase the team’s efficiency in the final third, not only by providing a direct threat to the goal but also by combining with his teammates and helping with ball retention. That’s mainly thanks to his dribbling skills that he uses to take on defenders and exploit spaces. Last season, he averaged 5.58 dribbling attempts per 90, which helped him in threatening the goal but also in finding quality positions to set his teammates up. His high pass completion rate sets the expectations high, as he could use his abilities to provide quality balls to Abraham.
Dybala’s constant movement off the ball could help Roma in increasing their efficiency from outside the box. The team attempted a high number of shots from distance last season, but very few of them have been accurate enough to threaten the goal.
Matić is another player Mourinho insisted on signing and it might turn out that he is a good match for Roma’s playing style. As we explained in our scout report on him, the Serbian can influence the team’s actions both in and out of possession. His composure can support the team in their build-up as he can spread the ball, while his teammates exploit the more advanced areas.
With his long-range passes, he can supply the ball directly to the attackers and help with breaking the lines, increasing the team’s chances in attack.
He can use his spatial awareness to support the smart movement of players like Dybala and Abraham and set them up in quality positions.
The 33-year-old’s anticipation skills can be crucial out of possession as they allow him to block the opposition’s movement and move the ball out of the danger zones. Not only does his positioning help in blocking the lanes but his direct interventions often pressurise the ball carrier and trouble the build-up.
Speaking of midfielders that can influence Roma’s performance, we move to Wijnaldum. The 31-year-old gained valuable experience with Liverpool and PSG, which will be beneficial for Roma’s young midfield. He can help the team in many aspects of the game.
His passing abilities, though, are what might help the team the most, especially in the opposition half. With an average pass completion rate of 91.3% Wijnaldum often helps in bypassing the press and progressing the ball to the final third. He can play both as a left and right central midfielder and his presence on both sides will give the team more options in their build-up and help them expose the wide areas better. He can serve as a passing outlet and help in breaking through the defence.
He also likes to occasionally exploit the spaces in and around the box, which often results in shooting more than once per game and threatening the opposition from close range.
Zeki Çelik, whom the team secured for the right-back position, is very reliable defensively, despite his tendency to support the attacking actions as well. The 25-year-old has an experience in the right wing-back position too, which could be quite fitting if Mourinho sticks to the back three formations. The player successfully blocks the ball and recovers possession, something Roma were often lacking on the right last season.
He comes as the only replacement for the regular starter Rick Karsdorp after the team decided to sell Alessandro Florenzi to Milan.
Their pre-season highlights
While the team won 4/6 of their pre-season friendlies, their performance didn’t show the expected confidence and versatility. They experienced difficulties against pressing teams which is a worrying sign, considering their ambitions for the new season.
They were lacking creativity against Sporting CP and Tottenham and struggled to break the lines and advance the ball. Their limitations in possession and the lack of smart movement resulted in them creating very few positional attacks, respectively threatening the goal rarely. The opposition press resulted in Roma breaking their structure and being inaccurate in their passing. This made it harder for them to get the ball out of the midfield and it also led to them losing the ball mostly in their own half, which makes the situation even more problematic.
Against the rest of the teams, the Giallorossi managed to maintain their structure and employed a slightly higher defensive line than usual. While most of their actions were focused in the midfield, they were more adventurous up front and managed to create more opportunities.
What can be expected in the 2022/23 season?
Roma’s UEFA Europa Conference League triumph increased the expectations for the upcoming season and the new signings have increased the hopes that the team can improve and become more competitive. The team start the season with games against Salernitana and the newcomers Cremonese, which are considered must-wins, but the real test will come soon after as they meet Juventus in the third round.
Mourinho is expected to rely on the back three formations even more in the new season. While he will try to stick to the team’s strengths and improve them even more, he might be able to introduce an enhanced playing style thanks to the new arrivals.
The new additions in midfield could help Roma minimise the chances their opponents create from distance. Last season, the team conceded nine goals from outside the penalty area, but with the support of players like Matić and Wijnaldum, who successfully contribute defensively, this number can be narrowed down.
It is expected that Abraham’s aerial abilities will continue to be used in the attack as he would threaten the goal frequently through his aerial presence, while their efforts from distance might increase due to Dybala’s movement.
The team would most probably continue to struggle in their crossing attempts. The only player that tries to support the attacking actions by frequently crossing the ball is the right-back Karsdorp. Not only are the team lacking a player that can commit to that, but they had the third worst success rate in their crossing attempts last season. Improving on that could be a major boost to their chances in attack.
While they need to improve in attack, Mourinho will still set the focus on stable defensive performances. It is expected that the team will keep their lower positioning, despite sometimes struggling to get the ball out from the back.
As our analysis shows, Roma’s smart transfer market moves are in line with their increased ambitions for the new season. Mourinho has insisted on bringing a few players that he knows can be beneficial to the team and their experience would help them improve.