Second in Seria A and into the round of 16 in the Europa League, this season is going about as well as a realistic Roma fan could have hoped. I mean, I suppose beating Porto in the Champions League playoff game would have been nice, but that aside.
In recent months the Giallorossi have developed into one of Europe‘s most fun teams to watch, and not only for their style of play. Here are a few reasons why Roma deserve your attention:
Roma are not a vastly wealthy club – in fact they operate on a relatively small budget compared to Europe’s biggest sides, and plans to build a new stadium will presumably mean an even stricter budget in the short term. It means that they have to be creative in the transfer market. Lately they’ve made a habit of loaning players that other clubs have discarded, and making a success of them. Wojciech Szczesny has been transformed from an unreliable hot-head at Arsenal to a mature and consistent keeper. Frederico Fazio was seen as an utter donkey at Tottenham, but Spalletti’s use of him in a back three has seen him return to the towering presence he once was at Sevilla. Even Stephan El Shaarawy and Edin Dzeko were lost souls before Roma took them on loan and eventually signed them permanently. Both are now players re-born. Great coaching is about getting the most out of players, and it speaks well of Spalletti that Roma have become a successful rehabilitation zone.
Three at the back has always been popular in Italy, but less so with Roma teams in recent years. Spalletti though has introduced a 3-4-2-1 that has made the side more defensively secure, given freedom to Bruno Peres – a rampaging right wing-back, and pushed Nainggolan forward into one of the two floating roles behind Dzeko, to devastating effect. Speaking of Dzeko, he’s having an incredible season and part of the reason is that the way Roma play, he’s rarely isolated. For a man with as little pace as Dzeko, that’s crucial.
The local boys
They might have a quick young side employing modern tactics and a hip manager with designer facial hair, but in Daniele De Rossi, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Florenzi Roma also have the local, traditional element that makes them more endearing. Whether it’s a last minute winner from Totti, a crunching challenge from De Rossi or Florenzi famously celebrating a goal by hugging his nonna, the home-grown players add a touch of Roma-nce to club.
Youth on their side
Salah, El Shaarawy, Manolas, Florenzi, Alisson, Gerson, Rudiger, Paredes, Emerson, Mario Rui, Juan Jesus. All of these players are 25 or under, and while one or two may move on, clever recruitment has led to the development of a core of exciting young talent. This is not taking into account academy prospects, which deserves another article entirely.
Diego Perotti is a lovely attacking midfielder, but the best thing about him is his penalty-taking. Somewhere on the spectrum between Balotelli and Cantona, Perotti strolls up to each spot-kick he takes and calmly slots it away in one corner or the other. It’s different, it’s cool and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch.