Roma’s Gambles on Smalling, Mkhitaryan Paid Off

John Solano

Within the span of 72 hours late in the summer transfer window, AS Roma officially welcomed Premier League outcasts Chris Smalling and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the club.

The duo joined the capital side on straight loan deals without any options to buy as they were deemed surplus to requirements by their respective managers.

Both additions were met with plenty of skepticism. It was unclear what the expectations were for the defender and the attacker, especially given the revolution the Giallorossi underwent throughout the summer as they welcomed a new sporting director and a new manager.

Despite the massive changes — many of the top betting sites had the Giallorossi among the favorites to finish in a Champions League place. Nonetheless, questions remained throughout the team.

But fast-forward six months later, and the Giallorossi are now keen to keep both Smalling and Mkhitaryan at the club beyond the expiration of their respective loan deals.

English international Chris Smalling officially joined the Giallorossi on 30 August as Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer couldn’t promise the defender the playing time he was looking for.

“It (joining Roma) just come up the last couple of days, this opportunity for Chris. Of course, we sat down yesterday and discussed it. At the moment we’ve got six fit centre-backs. I couldn’t promise Chris regular football. He’s on the plane over now and I think he’ll enjoy the experience over there,” the Norwegian said back in August during a press conference.

While Smalling may have been considered excess for the Red Devils, the former Fulham man has been one of the most important pieces for the set-up of Roma manager Paulo Fonseca.

The Englishman has won 66% of his duels this campaign and has been lauded for his quick adaptation to Serie A. Many of the questions surrounding Smalling upon his arrival primarily had to do with whether or not he would be able to adjust to a slower, significantly more tactical league. Smalling, though, has dispelled all these doubts as his positioning and tactical acumen have been his strengths.

Much of the same can be said for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Unai Emery, who was sacked by Arsenal in December, was unable to give the Armenian the playing time he was promised.

Mkhitaryan arrived in the Eternal City after Roma’s Diego Perotti suffered a hamstring injury late in the preseason.

And while he has had his fair share of injuries – which has limited him to 13 league appearances – the former Dortmund man has been sensational when available for the Giallorossi.

Mkhitaryan has bagged 6 goals and 4 assists in all competitions this season while playing in a variety of attacking roles.

Even though all leagues are on hold due to the Coronavirus, there’s no doubt that Roma hope both players can remain at the club upon the expiration of their loans in June.

Even though Roma will have to wait to de whether or not they can keep the Premier League duo in the Eternal City permanently, there’s no doubting that their gamble on two so-called “outcasts” undoubtedly paid off.

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MatchDay 32
14 Apr 18:00