RomaPress – A debut. A goal. Three assists. A standing ovation. Roma’s first victory of the season against Sassuolo had two co-stars playing in the lead role on the evening: Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellegrini. The Armenian made his first appearance in the red and yellow and was spectacular from the very first sound of the whistle while the Roman-born lead the Giallorossi’s attacking line with three assists against the Neroverdi.
The former Borussia Dortmund man showed everything that Roma have been craving in attack: intelligence, maturity and huge technical ability. Mkhitaryan displayed sensational composure and linked incredibly well with left back Aleksandar Kolarov. He even showed the willingness to drop deep to receive the ball and carry it forward — a trait injured attacker Diego Perotti is renowned for. In fact, Mkhitaryan’s average position on the evening was just slightly deeper than that of Kolarov’s. The Armenian represents another tool in the arsenal of Roma’s attack and his versatility could become a major asset moving forward.
Lorenzo Pellegrini, meanwhile, was given the keys to drive the attack from Paulo Fonseca against Sassuolo. The Italian midfielder, who admitted earlier this week that his preferred role is that of trequartista, responded with arguably his best performance since re-joining the Giallorossi in the summer of 2017. The 23 year-old showed not only his ability to cut-out decisive passes, but also a strong work-rate as he was the main protagonist with the Giallorossi’s pressing. His performance certainly gives Paulo Fonseca something to think about when it comes to choosing his team moving forward.
The Portuguese manager put Pellegrini in a deeper midfield role alongside Bryan Cristante in the first two matches of the season against Genoa and Lazio. However, it’s more clearer than ever that the youngster’s best performances in the Roma shirt have come when he’s deployed just behind the striker and is given more freedom.
At some point, this will give Fonseca the uncomfortable task of having to find a solution for Nicolo Zaniolo, another one of the team’s young jewels. It’s still too early to label this any sort of controversy, but there will certainly come a time — perhaps even once Cengiz Ünder returns from injury — when Fonseca will have to choose between Zaniolo and Pellegrini as the first-choice to play behind Edin Dzeko, and it seems very straightforward that the latter is the answer for Roma, at least for now.
In the meantime, it will be up to Roma’s new manager to find the right mix in not his attack, but also the midfield. The Giallorossi still showed some fragility in defence against Roberto De Zerbi’s men, who hit Roma for two goals. Fonseca could opt to even further protect his defenders by putting Amadou Diawara alongside Jordan Veretout, who also had a strong debut for Roma.
While there are still some kinks to work-out, Roma were much better than what we saw in the Derby and are slowly, slowly starting to play the football that their manager wishes for.