Roma season preview: the defence

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With the start of their 2018 campaign just over a week away, Roma are looking to build upon their successes from the previous season under Eusebio Di Francesco, which saw them finish third in Serie A while also making a deep run into the Champions League semi-finals. One area of the pitch where Roma will undoubtedly have to improve is at the back – especially in the Champions League. The Giallorossi’s defence struggled in the latter stages of the competition and showed that in order to win a trophy, Eusebio Di Francesco’s men will have to improve. Here’s a deeper look at Roma’s defence for the upcoming season.

Notable Departures

GK Alisson Becker – Sold (Liverpool, €75 million)

GK Lukasz Skorupski – Sold (Bologna, €9 million)

DF Elio Capradossi – Loan (Spezia)

Notable Arrivals

GK Robin Olsen (Copenhagen, €8.5 million)

DF Ivan Marcano (Porto, Free)

DF William Bianda (Lens, €6 million)

RB Davide Santon (Inter, €9 million)

Expected Starters

GK Robin Olsen

RB Alessandro Florenzi

DF Kostas Manolas

DF Federico Fazio

LB Aleksandar Kolarov

Season Outlook

The biggest and most glaring question mark surrounding Roma’s defence is whether or not Robin Olsen has the quality to replace Brazilian international Alisson. Olsen isn’t a youngster and, at the moment, his characteristics don’t seem to mesh well with Eusebio Di Francesco’s preferred method of having a goalkeeper who can play with the ball at his feet. The Swedish international has shown strong reactions and reflexes so far in the pre-season, however, his inability to play the ball out from the back mixed with his hesitancy to come off his line when needed seems like it could be a recipe for disaster over the long-term. One hope for Roma is that their highly-rated goalkeepers coach, Marco Savorani, is able to raise the Swede’s level and help him adjust to this new playing style, though, at 28 years old, you have to wonder if Olsen has already reach his ceiling in terms of development.

The other big question mark in defence is on the right flank in the form of Alessandro Florenzi. The Italian is coming off his worst season as top-flight professional since becoming a regular for the Giallorossi in the 2012/2013 season. Florenzi himself admitted that he had a poor 2017/2018 campaign during his contract renewal press conference last week, although, he did vow to change peoples’ minds that were critical of the club handing him such an important wage increase. It’s true that Florenzi’s natural position is in the midfield and it’s highly regrettable that the club forced him to change roles in the 2014/2015 season, however, he has been playing as a right back for over four years and it’s time that he showed growth and development in this position. Florenzi’s poor positioning and lack of ability to properly defend one on one opportunities was a huge problem last season for Eusebio Di Francesco.

With Rick Karsdorp having fully returned to training with the team, you have to wonder if the Italian tactician would be tempted to start the Dutchman as the right back while having Florenzi return to the midfield or use him as an alternate on the right wing behind Cengiz Under – regardless, his performances must massively improve.

The rest of the defence remains untouched as Kostas Manolas, Federico Fazio, and Aleksandar Kolarov will round out the back-line. There is intrigue, though, as to how Ivan Marcano, a fresh arrival from Porto, and Luca Pellegrini, Roma’s club-grown and highly rated left back, will serve as alternates to Di Francesco’s first choice players. Given the ages of Fazio (31) and Kolarov (32), it’s likely that Di Francesco will opt to utilise his bench more this season than he did previously. Marcano has struggled so far this pre-season while Pellegrini has the looks of a serviceable left back, something Roma lacked last season. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how Davide Santon is utilised by the club given his ability to play on both flanks, though, he is coming off a very poor second stint at Inter and hasn’t been very convincing in the pre-season.

There was only one change to Roma’s first-choice back-line from last season, yet it feels like their defence had an entire makeover – perhaps due to losing Alisson, arguably the best goalkeeper the club had in decades. Nonetheless, Roma won’t have the luxury of the Brazilian bailing them out this season like they did previously; Eusebio Di Francesco will need his entire defence to raise their level or else they could be in for a long season.

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