Sunday sees the second match of 2022 arrive, and unlike the first one Juventus will be heading into the wild and crazy world of their Turin bubble and out on the road, with the destination fully set on Rome and the Stadio Olimpico.
The monster month of January for Juventus rolls on, as the first Serie A weekend of the new year takes Max Allegri’s squad to the Italian capital. (But not actually Allegri himself since he’s now suddenly suspended because he apparently said some not very nice things after Juve’s draw with Napoli.)
But Sunday looks a lot like Thursday in the fact that Juventus, albeit with its own very real problems and maybe no real immediate solution in sight, will be facing a team that is very much searching for something to go right again. Roma is coming off a 3-1 thumping at the hands of AC Milan just a few short minutes before Juve kicked off their 2022 slate of games.
So what do we do when we need some insight into Roma? Easy — we hit up one of our go-to friends of the blog, Mr. Bren from Chiesa Di Totti. Mr. Bren was nice enough to take some time out of his “New year, new me” workout plan to talk a little Roma with us.
Here goes nothin’, and here’s Bren with some thoughts on the current state of Roma.
BWRAO: Hello, my friend. Thanks again for chatting with us. Let’s dive right into this: The last time we talked, you were in the very early stages of the Jose Mourinho Experience. Now we’re just over half a season into it. Would you say it’s been a net positive or something that would be considered the opposite of that because of Roma’s recent struggles?
CDT: The extent to which Roma fans judge the first several months of the Mourinho Makeover as positive or negative likely depends on their feelings about Mourinho in general. If you’re an ardent supporter, you likely view the club’s current struggles, and his, shall we say, passive-aggressive complaints as part of the process. If you were skeptical about his ability to turn Roma around, then you’re likely biting your tongue trying not to say “I told you so.”
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure where I fall on that spectrum. Apart from the opening weeks of the season, he hasn’t really stitched together any sustained runs of success nor has he really implemented any groundbreaking tactics, so, at times, it can be difficult to tell exactly what he’s trying to achieve. But, at the same time, Roma’s defensive record has improved and the players have been quick to praise Mourinho’s management style: his expectations, his treatment of them, and his ability to make them better players.
I think it’ll be at least a year before we can definitively say whether or not he’s got the club pointed in the right direction.
BWRAO: Was Thursday’s loss to AC Milan about as bad as the final score looked? And just as a follow up question: What the hell happened?
CDT: Depends on what you mean by bad. It was bad in the sense that Roma had two players sent off and committed a rather costly error thanks to an errant pass from Roger Ibañez. But it was also bad because Daniele Chiffi was, well, Daniele Chiffi. Seeing the referee suspended after the match for blowing crucial calls lends credence to the notion that Serie A officials have an anti-Roma bias. But broadly speaking, it was proof positive that Roma really are just an average club at the moment.
BWRAO: With the domestic struggles over the last couple of months, are you still hopeful that Roma can compete for a top four finish or is that completely dashed at this point?
CDT: Dashed to the max, bruv. Give me the Europa League or give me, like, 10th place. I want zero parts of the Conference League next season, but Roma are in no way shape, or form a top-four club as currently constructed.
BWRAO: Tammy Abraham has still been a pretty good signing for you guys, huh?
CDT: Absolutely. He’s had a few intermittent ups and downs but he’s completely legit, so much so that we’re already hearing whispers that Chelsea will buy him back in 2023. I’m hopeful that won’t happen because he seems really taken with Mourinho, the city, the club, and all its myth and romanticism. But he has the makings of a superstar, both in terms of playing style, performance, and personality. Surround him with some better players and he can be a capocannoniere candidate.
BWRAO: How do you think the Nico Zaniolo Return Tour has gone so far this season?
CDT: It’s gone exactly as I expected. Some good, some bad, and plenty of frustration. People have this image in mind that Zaniolo was a fully formed player before he got hurt, but we’re talking about a 22-year-old kid who tore both his knees to shreds, missing two critical years of development. So to expect him to come out and dominate the league and somehow become the second coming of Totti was always absurd. We don’t even know what kind of player he is under ideal circumstances, let alone after missing two years and dealing with all the scrutiny of the Roman media.
He’ll be fine.
BWRAO: Prediction for Sunday?
CDT: The only thing preventing me from predicting a complete disaster is the fact the match is in Rome, so I’ll say Juve wins 3-2.