AS Roma Season Preview: Can Roma push for Champions League football?
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AS Roma Season Preview: Can Roma push for Champions League football?

Can new manager Paulo Fonsesca get I Giallorossi back into the UEFA Champions League?

uttiyos
Uttiyo Sarkar

The rebuilding process is well and truly underway at AS Roma, who endured a very harsh reality check last season to miss out on a UEFA Champions League spot. Now under new management again in former Shakthar Donetsk gaffer Paulo Fonseca, the Romans aim to build block by block into reaffirming their dominance in Italy. A stronger challenge awaits their new manager, but with a new dawn awaiting them, there’s optimism they’ll come out stronger on the other side.

Transfer Business Overview

Despite having a rocky season last time around, AS Roma haven’t really gone all guns blazing in the transfer market. Granted, they’ve spent quite a lot of money in sealing down necessary players, but Fonseca has retained faith in his current unit, adding younger players to solidify the squad depth.

I Giallorossi have signed many players from fellow Serie A sides, with exciting left-back Leonardo Spinazzola being roped in for €29.5 million from Juventus as the eventual successor to Aleksandar Kolarov. The Italian put in some good shifts for the Bianconeri, being an effective force marching forward and also quite capable defensively as well.

They’ve also reinforced their goalkeeping department by signing Pau Lopez for €23.5 million as competition for the error-prone Robin Olsen. Exciting midfielder Bryan Cristante’s in to spice up their midfield, while Amadou Diawara’s effectively Daniel De Rossi’s replacement after being signed from Napoli. La Lupa have also roped in Turkish centre-back Mert Cetin for €3 million, while Gianluca Mancini, Jordan Veretout were also signed in loan deals.

However, Kostas Manolas’ sale to Napoli for €36 million is definitely a setback considering how influential he was to their defensive state. Moreover, they also sold promising left-back Luca Pellegrini to Juventus for €22 million, while Stephen El Sharawaay moved to Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua for €16 million. Gerson also moved back to Brazilian side Flamengo, while unnecessary assets in Ivan Mercano, Ezequiel Ponce, Andrea Romagnoli, Elio Carpadrossi, Daniele Verde, Christian D’Urso were all shipped off.

While I Giallorossi have signed a variety of different players, they failed to answer some attacking questions. An ageing Edin Dzeko’s been burdened with leading their line throughout the season, while youngsters Cengiz Under, as well as Nicolo Zaniolo, are under pressure to fire up this season. There also wasn’t any experienced centre-back brought in for Manolas, which could haunt them as the season progresses.

Manager

Paulo Fonseca is a Portuguese manager who almost spent the entirety of his footballing career in Portugal, enjoying a 14-year playing career before reverting to management. However, he’s been much more successful in a suit than he was in a jersey, having won quite a few accolades in recent years. He did the Ukrainian double(Ukrainian Premier League+Ukrainian Cup) three seasons in a row with Shakhtar, while also helping them perform pretty well in the UEFA Champions League as well.

In his years of dominance in Ukraine, the Portuguese built Shakhtar into a menacing unit known for their thunderous attacking style. Relaying a 4-2-3-1 style, he loves to set-up a fast-paced, fluid attacking system which relies greatly upon the wingers and striker coming good. Considering that he elevated the likes of Fred as well as Bernard, the Portuguese is already planning on building his side around La Lupa’s fantastic young players.

Of course, the transition from Ukraine to a much more competitive Serie A will be a daunting task for the 46-year-old. However, knowing his impressive adaptability to situations, the 46-year-old should bring back that fire in Roma’s attack once again next season.

Player To Watch

It’s rather clear I Gialorossi are believing in their youngsters to pave a brighter future for them and perhaps the brightest star to have been signed in years is Nicolo Zaniolo. The 20-year-old is absolutely majestic whenever he plays at the Stadio Olympico, dazzling fans with his exquisite movement along with incredible dribbling skills on the ball.

On the technical side, Zaniolo has everything a winger/playmaker needs to add that cutting edge to his side’s attack. He’s quick, decisive and most importantly clinical in front of goal. Granted he only scored four goals last season, but the 20-year-old’s ability is unquestioned at Roma. With an encouraging manager like Fonseca rallying him on, the Italian should find his feet in Serie A and add more consistency to his game this season.

After having spent a full season at Roma, Zaniolo now knows exactly how they operate and has built up effective partnerships with his fellow peers as well. Knowing his chemistry with Under and Dzeko, the 20-year-old should feature more prominently in their goals in the new fluid system.

Considered Italian football’s “Golden Boy”, it’s about time the 20-year-old starts freeing his wings and flying high. Zaniolo’s majestic ability with the ball has proved he can leave defences for dead, but it’s time he developed that lethal aspect to complete his talent for scoring goals and wowing crowds.

One For The Future

There are quite a few youngsters to pick out to shine in the near future, but Justin Kluivert is probably atop that list for being primed for greatness. The 20-year-old didn’t really take to the Serie A kindly in his debut season last time around, scoring only two league goals in a relatively quiet season when those around him started to fall apart as well.

However, under a manager like Fonseca who can amplify the effectiveness of youngsters, the striker should come good sooner rather than later. Then again, he has greatness inscribed in his blood for being the legendary Patrick Kluivert’s son. Also, with that reputation, comes great responsibility to step into his boots and try to imitate his incredible goal-scoring ability going forward.

Justin’s shown glimpses of being a deadly striker and as he takes time adapting to his new surrounds, he should slowly start scoring more often next season. He obviously has excessive talent around supporting him, as under a more proactive attacking system should find back his goal-scoring boots sooner rather than later. While dethroning Dzeko from the number nine position is a relatively impossible task now, Kluvert is the future of I Giaollorossi’s attack, as he’ll be gunning to prove that by thumping in goals next season.

Predicted Finish

Paulo Fonseca's arrived at Roma looking for greater competition. He’ll definitely get that in a heated Serie A environment. With the likes of Inter Milan, AC Milan, Napoli all stacking on big talents while rivals like Atalanta, Lazio brimming with potential, breaking into the top-four will be a daunting task.

It’s because of the Portuguese’s inexperience that Roma might narrowly miss out on the Champions League spot to finish somewhere around fifth next season. However, knowing his expertise in cup competitions, they could go far into the Coppa Italia and perhaps even win the prestigious Italian trophy. They could also get into the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals or more with Fonsesca’s European knowledge, but the bigger emphasis will be on finding back their flair in the league.

 

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