I’m not sure any club in the history of the sport has run the table for an entire season, but after going six-for-six to start the new campaign (all comps), it felt like Roma had a shot at going 38-0-0. Okay, not really, but the tide of optimism and the euphoria washing over us for the past month-and-a-half almost made the impossible feel…plausible. Such is life during the Mourinho honeymoon. Combine that winning streak, Mourinho’s epic sideline celebrations, and the general appearance of calm and serenity on his face, and the start to this new season felt different.
And guess what? It still does. The defeat notwithstanding, the manner in which Mourinho handled the post-match presser—and for that matter, the extent to which he attempted to temper expectations all week long in the face of the club’s perfect start—should remind us all that Mourinho is thinking with the long-view in mind.
Matches like yesterday’s happen in any season, so it was refreshing to see both Mourinho and his players take it all in stride; admitting their mistakes while also remaining firmly focused on the bigger goals: developing this project and getting back to the Champions League.
Okay, enough with the pleasantries, let’s run through some of the highs and lows from yesterday’s defeat to Verona.
What else needs to be said? Pellegrini is playing out of his mind at the moment, and if he can sustain this pace over the course of the year, he could enter the conversation among the most effective midfielders in the world. In 90 minutes yesterday, Pellegrini produced another man of the match performance, leading Roma in touches, shots, and key passes while going 2-6 on crosses and 1-2 on long passes.
Throw in his sensational first-half goal and his would-be assist on Verona’s own goal and Pellegrini was pretty much the only Roma player worth a damn yesterday.
While it was exciting to see Shomurodov and Tammy Abraham start side by side, Roma’s 26-year-old winger/forward had an evening to ignore in Verona yesterday. In 64 mostly forgettable moments, Shomurodov completed only 61% of his passes and lost possession 12 times while taking only 32 touches the entire match. Shomurodov didn’t manage a single shot on goal, nor any take-ons, and had only one key pass to speak of. He’ll have better days, but yesterday was proof positive: moving to Roma is a big step in his career, so we should expect some volatility in his performances as he adjusts to life in the capital.
But he was far from the only Roma forward to miss the mark yesterday…
Making his third league appearance of the season, Zaniolo looked hesitant (at best) and downright lost (at worst), failing to register any key passes, dribbles, or shots on target. In 64 minutes yesterday, Zaniolo completed only 62% of his passes and lost possession 16 times while taking only 36 touches.
Are you sensing some ugly symmetry between Roma’s two wide forwards yesterday? I guess it was no coincidence that Mourinho replaced both of them in the 64th minute against Verona.
Much like Shomurodov, Zaniolo has better matches ahead of him, but he’s definitely struggling to reacclimate himself after losing nearly two years of his career to knee injuries.
The early yellow card knee-capped the Frenchman, but Veretout didn’t exactly do himself any favors yesterday. In 65 minutes, Veretout was…scattered…completing only 59% of his passes while losing possession 14 times in his 36 touches. He did manage three tackles and two interceptions, but he struggled to gain any traction in this match, failing to really make his mark anywhere on the pitch.
: A nice assist on the Pellegrini goal and two key passes, but otherwise a quiet evening from Karsdorp Bryan Cristante : He was a woodwork away from notching his second goal of the season and threw in three tackles for good measure, but the midfield was a noticeable weak spot for Roma yesterday, so he’s stuck in fake purgatory for the time being.
: He was a woodwork away from notching his second goal of the season and threw in three tackles for good measure, but the midfield was a noticeable weak spot for Roma yesterday, so he’s stuck in fake purgatory for the time being. Riccardo Calafiori: Four tackles, one interception, and once clearance. He couldn’t equal those efforts in attack, but not a bad day at work for the 19-year-old.
Four tackles, one interception, and once clearance. He couldn’t equal those efforts in attack, but not a bad day at work for the 19-year-old. Carles Pérez: Two shots, one key pass, one dribble, and 89% passing in little more than 25 minutes; Pérez is taking to his role as a late-match sub with aplomb.
This wasn’t the worst performance we’ve ever seen from the Giallorossi, but as the first sour note of the Mourinho era, the way they approach Thursday’s match against Udinese will be quite telling.