AS Roma went into the season with optimism at its highest in the capital for many years, with the Giallorossi reigning Europa Conference League champions and enjoying a summer in which they arguably made the biggest splash in the transfer market in Serie A.
Coach Jose Mourinho was entering his second season at the Stadio Olimpico, leading a team in front of supporters who have fully bought into the Friedkin Group’s project, whilst the arrival of superstar Paulo Dybala from Juventus was supposed to signify the start of sustained success.
It hasn’t quite panned out that way so far, with Roma only just scraping through their Europa League group, and labouring in seventh place in Serie A after a good start was followed by a stall before the World Cup break.
What’s gone well?
Roma finally looked to have put their curse against the big teams in Serie A behind them when they secured a 2-1 win over Inter in October.
The Lupi were infamously unable to beat their direct rivals under Paulo Fonseca, and this record showed little sign of improvement under Mourinho last term, but a win over his former club is a good starting point.
Elsewhere, the Giallorossi did enjoy a good start to the season and won seven of their first 10 league matches, whilst Dybala has made a huge impact in the matches he has been fit for, with nine goals and assists from 12 games in all competitions.
Roma have also unearthed a potential star in teenager Cristian Volpato, and the midfielder is one to keep an eye on in the years to come.
Player of the season so far
English defender Chris Smalling has been a rock at the back for Roma, showing the form he has displayed since arriving from Manchester United on a consistent basis, whilst avoiding the injuries that have plagued his time in Italy.
Whilst Roger Ibanez has made costly mistakes, such as his error in the Derby della Capitale against Lazio, and Gianluca Mancini is a walking yellow card, Smalling has been a dependable figure at the back and has marshalled the defence expertly.
The 33-year-old has been excellent and Mourinho‘s most dependable player, earning his place in Serie A’s Best XI for the first half of the campaign.
Cause for concern
Despite a wealth of attacking talent, Roma have looked toothless up front and the form of Tammy Abraham in particular will give Mourinho plenty to worry about.
The England international shone in his first season in Italy but has failed to replicate that, with his three goals this term costing him a place at the World Cup, and seeing some Lupi fans turn on him.
Similarly, new signing Andrea Belotti has struggled to make an impact since his free transfer from Torino, whilst Nicolo Zaniolo has only troubled the scoreboard once in Serie A and Eldor Shomurodov has done little to suggest he is the answer to Roma‘s problems.
Roma should improve when they resume in January, particularly with Dybala returning from injury and pulling the strings.
The Lupi have also confirmed the signing of Ola Solbakken from Bodo/Glimt to add more firepower, and will benefit from finally having Georginio Wijnaldum available after the Netherlands international broke his leg after a single game in August.
Mourinho‘s falling out with Rick Karsdorp requires a resolution though, and the Giallorossi will need to source a new right-back, but there is enough in the squad to suggest they can fight for a top-four finish.