The sale of Nicolo Zaniolo to Galatasaray with no obvious replacement coming in may have raised some eyebrows amongst the AS Roma fanbase, even considering the way in which the sale came about and the fact he was unlikely to feature again had he stayed.
Zaniolo’s output was poor this season, but it is still a regularly called-upon forward player leaving and not being replaced, unless you count Ola Solbakken who is yet to see any meaningful minutes.
All of the excitement in pre-season for the Giallorossi stemmed from seeing Jose Mourinho fit Tammy Abraham, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Paulo Dybala and Zaniolo into a team. Whilst there were early signs of promise, in truth, he couldn’t.
More space for Pellegrini, Abraham and Dybala
Through injury and poor form, there were very few times when Mourinho had all of those players available at once. In recent games though, he has had Abraham, Dybala and Pellegrini fit and they are looking very fluid in attack with Zaniolo in the frame.
Too many players were trying to occupy the same space when all four played together, but the Lecce match on Matchday 22 which ended 1-1 showed that a real understanding is brewing between Roma’s attackers, particularly Abraham and Dybala.
It may take time before they are tearing teams apart, but they were linking up very nicely at the Stadio Via del Mare despite falling behind early on to a Roger Ibanez own goal. Dybala got on the scoresheet in the first half from the penalty spot to make it 1-1, and Abraham had some very good chances after neat play in and around the box.
This good play is aided by Stephan El Sharaawy’s new lease of life at left wingback and Nicola Zalewski’s impressive ability to continue his good form on the right wing.
Poor finishing and an impressive Lecce backline meant that it was dropped points for Roma, but the signs have been there recently and were there again on Matchday 22 that more goals should be on the way.
Wijnaldum’s return can galvanise AS Roma
For the first time since the opening game of the season, Georginio Wijnaldum was in a Roma matchday squad for a competitive game. The Dutchman was named on the bench after recovering from a tibia fracture early in the match against Salernitana back in August.
Nemanja Matic was very impressive in the midfield two but Mourinho would surely like to field a more dynamic midfielder alongside him rather than Bryan Cristante for a match like the one in Lecce.
Wijnaldum’s dynamism was what made him so important for Newcastle United and Liverpool, and that could be a crucial factor in the Champions League race should the Dutchman hit the ground running once match fit. He was introduced for the final 10 minutes of the game but was never likely to make an immediate impact after so long out.