Can The Special One work his magic on Roma’s defence?

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Last season’s Serie A was one of the most dramatic in living memory as long-running rulers Juventus lost their dominance over the league. The Old Lady ultimately finished fourth in the table, trailing Inter, Milan and Atalanta.

Roma, meanwhile, experienced a dismal campaign and finished seventh, barely hanging on to European qualification. Even though it was an all too familiar feeling of hurt and disappointment for supporters, could we be experiencing a new dawn in Serie A? A period of competitiveness where the champions aren’t all but decided before a ball has been kicked?

Football fans can get an idea of what to expect this season by looking at the best betting sites for football. There they’ll find the opinions and predictions of traders as well as the odds on Roma in the major markets.

What about the attack?

Before looking forward, we must look back for clues on what Roma must improve on if they are to have any chance of challenging for the title. They will, at least, want to make a bid for a top-four finish and place back in the money-spinning UEFA Champions League.

As already mentioned, the Giallorossi finished seventh in the Serie A table during the 2020/2021 campaign. They finished the season having scored 68 goals but showed major problems at the back, conceding a total of 58.

The Giallorossi had an adequate goal output, scoring more than their city-rivals Lazio, who finished one place ahead of them. However, they underperformed in expected goals (xG) and must improve their finishing next season if they aspire to finish in a Champions League place.

Borja Mayoral finished as the club’s top goalscorer with 17 goals and four assists for the season. He finished ahead of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who posted stats of 14 goals and 11 assists. Completing the top three in the club scoring charts was Edin Dzeko on 13 goals and four assists.

Roma are expected to primarily focus on their midfield and defence in the transfer market. However, finding a successor to the aging Edin Dzeko will certainly be a top priority.

Gianluca Mancini of AS Roma reacts during the Serie A football match between AS Roma and Atalanta BC at Olimpico stadium in Roma Italy, 22 April, 2021. Photo Antonietta Baldassarre / Insidefoto antoxbalda

Defence the issue

At the back is where the biggest problems lie for Roma, and that’s something new manager Jose Mourinho must address in the summer. The Special One is known for his defensive approach to football, making the likes of Tottenham and Manchester United difficult to break down. He will be asked to work his magic again at the Stadio Olimpico.

What will Jose find when he walks through the door on day one of pre-season? He’ll certainly welcome the sight of Italian internationals Gianluca Mancini and Leonardo Spinazzola, who has been sensational for Italy in the Euros. Right back Rick Karsdorp is also expected to catch the Portuguese manager’s eye after his renaissance season last term.

However, question marks remain at goalkeeper at central defender. Pau Lopez is close to leaving the club for Marseille while Chris Smalling, who joined the club permanently last summer, previously had a rocky relationship with Mourinho.

Youngster Marash Kumbulla showed plenty of potential last season, but lack consistency – something that Mourinho could bring out in him.

Possible transfers

Mourinho has already called on his experience of English football with Granit Xhaka closing in on a move to the Italian capital.

The two sides are still in negotiations, but the Swiss star has made it clear that he wants to join Mourinho in the Eternal City. Xhaka has endured a bit of a mixed career at Arsenal over the years. Could he be looking for a fresh start after being made a bit of a scapegoat by the fan in London? Keep your eyes on that move as it develops.

In between the posts, Portuguese international Rui Patricio appears to be the frontrunner and is edging closer to an exit from Wolves.

In attack, the Giallorossi are keen on Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostić — a technically gift assist machine who should have no problems adapting to Serie A. Torino’s Andrea Belotti has also been linked with a move, but the Granata’s asking price, for the moment, has turned-off the capital club.

Regardless of who arrives, Mourinho’s tactical ability will give the team an immediate boost. He’s much more tactically drilled than his predecessor, Paulo Fonseca, and rarely leaves his defence exposed.

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