STADIO OLIMPICO (ROME): Paulo Fonseca’s spell in charge of AS Roma was dogged by criticisms of his side’s performances in big games.
The critics had a point. But more than a year into the reign of his successor Jose Mourinho, the problem remains unresolved. The Giallorossi coach was sent off as his side lost 1-0 to Atalanta at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday.
Perhaps it isn’t quite as extreme an issue as before, but Roma’s results against their fellow ‘Seven Sisters’ haven’t undergone much of a revival since their decorated boss arrived.
AS Roma and their stage fright
Last term, Roma won three of their 12 head-to-head clashes with AC Milan, Inter, Juventus, Napoli, Lazio and Atalanta.
There were two draws and seven defeats, and ultimately that took its toll on the table as they finished seven points outside the top four.
Of course, there was a triumphant run in the Europa Conference League going on at the same time, but even a minor improvement in those matches could’ve transformed Roma’s domestic fortunes.
It is certainly something Mourinho and Roma will be looking to improve this season, and it’s something they simply have to fix if they are to live up to the hype.
Roma are starting the season slowly
The showcase summer signing of Paulo Dybala, combined with impressive arrivals like Andrea Belotti, Gigi Wijnaldum and Nemanja Matic, led to talk of a Scudetto push in the capital.
But after seven games, things are looking eerily familiar. Roma are sixth, where they finished last season, and they are yet to win a big game this season.
Granted, they’ve only had two. The first was against Juventus – that’s Massimiliano Allegri’s misfiring Juventus – which ended in a 1-1 draw.
This was the game where Mourinho said he told his players he was “ashamed to be their coach” at half time after they were outplayed in Turin.
They weren’t outplayed against Atalanta, but they came away with nothing after a difficult night trying and failing to find a way past Marco Sportiello in the absence of injured Dybala.
Frustration got the better of Mourinho, who was sent off for protesting a refereeing decision, and that boiled over into the stands and onto the pitch, where the frantic Giallorossi players couldn’t convert chances into goals.
One point from two big games isn’t an ideal start, but Mourinho’s men will soon have a chance to turn that around – they face Inter and Napoli in October, before the first Rome Derby against Lazio on 6 November.
With the teams at the top of Serie A packed in like sardines, the outcome of these head-to-head battles is likely to be crucial to the eventual make-up of the standings – and whether or not Mourinho’s Roma can live up to the hype and expectation they started the season with.