Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s rebirth to propel Roma back into the Champions League

Since assuming the reins in 2019, Paulo Fonseca has wasted no time implementing his footballing philosophy in the nation’s capital. The veteran tactician has proven to be a willing learner since making the switch to Italian football, switching from his preferred 4-3-3 into a more fluid 3-4-2-1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has arguably been the biggest benefactor of the formation change, establishing himself as one of Serie A’s deadliest creative threats.

The Armenian international is off to one of the best starts to a season in recent memory, registering seven goals and six assists in 14 appearances. Mkhitaryan has combined wonderfully with Edin Dzeko and Pedro up top, interchanging freely in the final third. The former Arsenal man has excelled with his newfound freedom and has since led the Giallorossi into third place heading into 2021.

Roma has failed to qualify for the last two editions of the Champions League and will be eager to make their return to Europe’s elite competition. Beyond the prestige that comes with the competition, Champions League qualification would represent more funds to bolster the side. Mkhitaryan’s rebirth offers a cause for excitement in the nation’s capital and could propel Roma back into the conversation alongside Europe’s elite.

The 31-year-old initially broke onto the scene back in 2016 in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, emerging as an elite attacking midfielder under Jurgen Klopp. Mkhitaryan finished the season with 11 goals and 15 assists in 28 starts, prompting interest from England’s giants. The Armenian international eventually made the move to Manchester United, where he struggled to replicate his past exploits. Simply put, English football did not suit Mkhitaryan’s skillset.

Mkhitaryan later moved to Arsenal in hopes of reviving his career, but once again, failed to prove his worth in London. His woes in England meant he was available on the cheap, with Roma swooping in for his signature, securing him on a loan deal. The former Manchester United man impressed on his loan, scoring nine goals and recording five assists in 16 appearances. The decision to trigger their option for him proved to be an easy one for Roma.

The switch to Italian football has since helped Mkhitaryan get his career back on track and show glimpses of his past form. The Armenian international is currently on pace to beat his breakout season with Dortmund and surpass his personal best for goals and assists. Beyond his impressive numbers, Mkhitaryan makes Roma tick in the final third.

The 31-year-old is always looking to dictate play in possession and regularly looks to take on his man. His connection with Dzeko has made for one of Italy’s most intriguing strike partnerships this season, with the Giallorossi netting 31 goals already on the season. Given both their experience, expect Roma to continue their run of form heading into 2021.

Fonseca’s men open up the new year against Sampdoria and Crotone, but they can’t get too comfortable. After all, mouth-watering clashes against Inter and Lazio await them in the space of five days, wrapping up an enthralling month of January. With Mkhitaryan firing on all cylinders, the Italian giants will like their chances.

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Reality check against Atalanta but Roma stay in Serie A title hunt

Football isn’t always plain sailing even if you are experiencing good form and Roma were. Before Paolo Fonseca’s team faced Atalanta they had won back to back games and scored 8 goals as they lay charge to put pressure on both Inter and Milan.

Then of course came Atalanta. The game in which Roma imploded and lost the game 4-1. What was perplexing is that not only did Roma take the lead through Edin Dzeko as early as the 3rd minute but just before the hour mark they were still leading the game.

Atalanta had just 1 shot on target in the first half and it seemed as if Roma were going to have a routine win and add a second. Then the crumble happened in the space of 25 minutes and the home side scored 4 goals. Duvan Zapata scored the equaliser and three different goal scorers followed to stun the Giallrossi.

Paolo Fonseca had this to say after the game: “The team was stretched out, not aggressive, and that is fatal against a side like Atalanta. It wasn’t physical, it was psychological, a question of attitude. We played well for 25 minutes, then changed attitude completely. That cannot happen.”

Fonseca continued: “We want to win every game and if the team had kept the attitude of the first half, we may well have won. However, playing like we did in the second half makes it extremely difficult to take points off big opponents. It was just totally different after the break. The team went too deep, showed no aggression, no determination. There was no reason for it. We must make sure the players understand they cannot change their attitude like that. We made it too easy for Atalanta. Without aggression, you cannot win this type of match.”

Win before the Christmas break

The Giallorossi’s next match was a home one against Cagliari and they had the chance to forget about the poor Atalanta result and get back to winning ways, and they done just that with a 3-2 victory.

Jordan Veretout who has come back to form in recent weeks gave the home side the lead on 12 minutes and the half ended 1-0. Joao Pedro equalised for Cagliari early on in the second half . But on the 71st minute the in form Edin Dzeko put Roma in front and just a few minutes later Gianluca Mancini sealed the game, the defender scoring a rare goal. Cagliari pulled one back in injury time for a couple of tense minutes but Roma were fine.

Roma now has 27 points and are seven points behind Milan and six points behind Inter. The Christmas break is here and Roma’s next game will be at home against Sampdoria.

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Roma hit Bologna for 5 and are in search of a top 4 place this week

After their disappointing 0-0 result against Sassuolo the Giallorossi were back in style as they went to Bologna and thumped then 5-1.

There were four different goalscorers for Roma and an own goal in a very eventful game. It started with a bang too within just 4 minutes Andrea Poli had scored an own goal after a low dangerous cross and Roma were one up. But this start was nothing compared to what Bologna would face in the next 10 minutes of the game.

When the clock struck the tenth minute it was 2-0 and five minutes later it was 3-0 and this game was put to bed within the first quarter of an hour. Edin Dzeko scored Roma’s second when he found the ball just inside the box and made a brilliant turn to fool the defender and slotted home with absolute ease.

The third goal came after a brilliant long pass from Leonardo Spinazzola and the ball found an unmarked Lorenzo Pellegrini who steered home rather easily. Indeed it was well taken but the defending from Bologna was comical it was as if they had switched off possibly looking for an offside that never came. However against the run of play Bologna pulled one back after Roma scored an own goal through Bryan Cristante.

But Roma were playing like a team possessed and it was soon 4-1. The fourth goal was perhaps the best of the lot as it was a classic team goal that consisted of passes and quick one twos. It was finished off by Henrikh Mkhitaryan whose brilliant pass found Jordan Veretout who had been quite the last few weeks and he slid home easily. It was a perfect goal.

The Gallorossi were not finished yet though and would score their 5th goal before half time in a nightmare 45 minutes for the home side. It would be Mkhitaryan who would score the fifth goal after great team work again and with 5 in the bag at half time people were wondering if we were going to see double figures by the end. It wasn’t to be though and the game ended with that scoreline.

It said it all that Bologna at home had just 1 shot on target the whole game and Roma thoroughly deserved their victory. It is a win that has put the club in sixth place and was their sixth win of the season. Roma now has 21 points and are seven behind the league leaders Milan who drew at Genoa.

Europa League draw for Roma

Roma were impressive in the Europa League group stages and their reward for reaching the knock out rounds which begin next year is a two legged match with Portuguese outfit Sporting Braga. The clubs haven’t met before and the encounters are sure to be memorable and very close.

Serie A- the next 3 games

Christmas time is coming and that means that Serie A will shut down for a few weeks. Roma have 3 games left to play. Tonight they will be at home against Torino and then on Sunday they will play Atalanta away. Their final game before the break will be against Cagliari and that will take place at home.

Top 3 best performing players

Let’s take a look at the best performing players in the fantasy rankings so far for Roma.

1. Henrikh Mkhitaryan 44pts

2. Jordan Veretout       27pts

3. Lorenzo Pellegrini    17pts

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Roma’s hot start comes crashing down against Napoli

Roma kicked off the season in sensational form after their bizarre forfeit against Hellas Verona, propelling themselves into an unlikely title race. The Giallorossi’s hot start came to an abrupt end, suffering a comprehensive defeat against Napoli. Paulo Fonseca’s side failed to get into the game, eventually losing 4-0 to the Partenopei.

While it is the side’s only defeat on the field this season, the manner in which they lost was slightly concerning. Roma was completely played off the pitch by Gennaro Gattuso’s men and will need to turn it around ahead of the holiday stretch. Bryan Cristante, a midfielder by trade, has had to deputize at the back due to an injury crisis at the club, and did a solid job – that was until Sunday.

Summer arrival Marash Kumbulla is expected to return to the lineup, after battling with COVID-19 for the better part of the last two weeks. The defender’s return will offer Roma some much-needed stability at the back, allowing Cristante to return to a more familiar position.

Beyond their defensive woes on Sunday, Napoli completely overran Fonseca’s side in the middle of the park. Jordan Veretout and Lorenzo Pellegrini struggled to get a grip of things in the midfield and regularly turned over possession. Roma’s 3-4-2-1 setup has worked in recent weeks, but in big games, their midfield duo needs support.

Whether it is a winger tracking back centrally, or one of their wingbacks coming into the middle, Fonseca would be wise to make a tactical adjustment. Otherwise, Roma risks getting outnumbered in the midfield in every big game. Gattuso took full advantage of this opportunity, deploying a midfield three of Diego Demme, Fabian Ruiz, and Piotr Zielinski.

The Polish international was a constant menace in the final third and often drifted between the lines, without being marked. Fabian Ruiz, on the other hand, was offered more freedom by Gattuso and regularly popped up in and around the area. As Demme shielded the back four, Fabian Ruiz and Zielinski’s runs opened up Roma’s rearguard and overloaded the middle of the park. If Roma wants to continue its fine run of form, Fonseca should take note of this and make the appropriate tactical changes.

As a result of their midfield struggles, Roma’s front three of Pedro, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Edin Dzeko were largely stranded up top. Mkhitaryan often dropped deep to collect possession but was unable to find outlets in the final third. Roma’s wingbacks tried to get forward in support, but Napoli did well to double up on their markers out wide and nullify their threat.

Roma had been flying high before matchday nine, but have since been rocked back to earth following their heavy defeat. Fonseca would be wise to learn from his side’s mistakes and retool his setup ahead of the upcoming stretch. Roma has made some significant progress under the Portuguese tactician and is arguably a few tweaks away from hitting their best form. It may have taken a 4-0 defeat, but it might just help them in the long run.

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Mkhitaryan in the form of his life as Roma go 3rd with third win in a row

There were no problems for Roma who went 3rd in the league as they beat Parma 3-0 for the 3rd win in a row in Serie A.

Paulo Fonseca’s side were ruthless as they scored all of their goals in the first half, having 5 shots on target alone in that period. Parma had to make do with having 1 shot on target for the whole match.

The plaudits will once again be paid to Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored 2 goals, and a few weeks ago scored a hat trick. The player is on fire and is obviously enjoying himself.

With his 2 goals Mkhitaryan earned 10 points at the weekend in the fantasy rankings and he now has a total of 38. This total is enough to make him currently the best player in the rankings for Serie A.

So far this season Roma have scored 19 goals and Mkhitaryan has been involved in 9 of them, scoring 5 and assisting in a further 4.

The opening goal in the Parma game came after 28 minutes after some lovely work from Leonardo Spinazzola. His reverse clever pass found Borja Mayoral unmarked in the area and tucked away with precision. That was Mayoral’s first goal of the season and also Spinnazola’s first assist.

Minutes later it was 2-0 and this was a belter. Mkhitaryan picked up a bouncing loose ball on the edge of the area and thumped it home. Then just a few minutes after that it was 3-0, this goal again for Mkhitaryan won’t be remembered as was just a simple tap in.

Roma may have been left frustrated in the second half as no further goals developed but they had done their job early on and earned the three points. With the club in 3rd place they are just 3 points behind AC Milan.

Paulo Fonseca happy with Roma’s performance

“We put in an excellent performance, especially in the first half, as we scored three goals and could’ve had quite a few more. I think the team played well, in the second half we controlled the situation and still created more chances to find the net. I always said Mkhitaryan is a great professional who can do well in various different roles, so I am not surprised by what he’s doing. The team is feeling confident. It’s true Edin Dzeko is very important to us, but it’s also important to see that the team maintains its identity despite changing numerous players.”

Roma prepare for Cluj and receive fantastic boost

Roma will play Cluj in the Europa League on Thursday evening and the club received some good news. Striker Edin Dzeko has been passed fit to play in the game. It was initially thought that he would miss this one and instead make his comeback from injury against Napoli at the weekend.

It is expected that Dzeko will start from the bench and play at least 20 minutes of the game to get his fitness levels up before the Napoli match.

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Edin Dzeko hoping to return this month as Giallorossi prepare for new director of club

Roma have not played since November 8th due to the international break and their next game will be against Parma. The big news surrounding this is the return of Edin Dzeko back from injury. Although the player is set to miss the Parma clash the target is to have the Bosnian international back before the end of the month.

At the beginning of the season it seemed that Dzeko was on the verge of joining Juventus but an eleventh hour change means that the talented striker has stayed with the Giallorossi at least for this season.

Dzeko’s possible return in a weeks time has been making all of the headlines in Italy and that’s for good reason considering that he’s scored 81 goals in just 177 league appearances for the club.

Tiago Pinto is welcomed to Roma from Benfica

Roma have taken advantage of a break in domestic football duties to appoint a new director of football and have chosen 36 year old Tiago Pinto. Pinto will come from Benfica. Pinto had been with Benfica for 3 years and his new role at the club will not commence until January. Pinto said “Leaving Benfica was a very tough decision, given what we have achieved together over the past eight years, but the chance to join a resurgent Roma and to contribute to that momentum under this dynamic new ownership was a professional opportunity that I could not turn down.”

Preparing for Parma

Roma’s next game will be at home to Parma. The club come into the game in 4th place and are just 3 points behind current leaders Milan. At Stadio Olimpico Roma are undefeated after 3 games winning 2 and drawing one and come into this game with back to back wins. Their last match at home ended in a 2-0 win over Fiorentina.

The Giallorossi could be without Chris Smalling who has become ill through food poisoning. Smalling has made a big impact on the team but after his Coronavirus and now this he has had a stop and start time to the new campaign.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan was banned from playing for Armenia in the international games because of recently contracting Coronavirus and this means that the player who has amassed the most fantasy points with 28 so far must be a doubt for the Parma game. A lot of responsibility will fall onto the shoulders of Jordan Veretout who has earned 22 points this season for the Italians and been their second best player in the fantasy rankings.

R.I.P Dino Da Costa

Roma legend Dino Da Costa has passed away at the age of 89. Da Costa scored 75 goals in 160 games for Roma and played for the club for six years between 1955-1961. In scoring 106 goals Da Costa is 8th in the all time club scoring charts for Serie A.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Seven – Other Games

CAGLIARI-SAMPDORIA

Cagliari: they were again productive on the offensive end as Giovanni Simeone and Joao Pedro both found the target, registering respectively the fifth and the fourth goal of their campaigns, but some defensive problems did them in versus Bologna. While Riccardo Sottil had scored in the previous game, Adam Ounas came off the bench really well and could get an opportunity to start in this one. Nahitan Nandez has enjoyed a more offensive role but has yet to post goal or an assist, while Marko Rog and Razvan Marin’s contribution in the final third is limited, even though the ex-Ajax could make up for it with his set piece prowess. Their fullbacks have both been very good, as Charalampos Lykogiannis has found the net once and Gabriele Zappa has provided two assists. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Six – Top Matches

INTER-PARMA

Inter: Romelu Lukaku suffered a thigh injury that will cost him at least one game and the Nerazzurri will have to make up for the loss of their target man, something that rarely happened last year. Alexis Sanchez is dealing with a small problem as well, therefore Lautaro Martinez, who has slowed down after opening the campaign with three straight goals, will have to shoulder the attack, then they will hope Andrea Pinamonti can be decent right away. They also briefly used Ivan Perisic as second-striker in the last game. Stefano Sensi is back on the shelf with his customary muscular problems: Christian Eriksen had some flashes last week, but so far him and Marcelo Brozovic have produced nothing too exciting. Their best midfielder has been Nicolò Barella (two assists), while Arturo Vidal has mostly taken care of the dirty work. At some point Radja Nainggolan will get in on the action, but it has not happened yet. Fortunately, Achraf Hakimi (one goal, two assists) was a false positive and he will resume plowing the flank from the start here, while Ashley Young has shaken off the virus and will challenge Ivan Perisic, who has been solid (two assists) but has not really taken off. Their back-line has improved with Alessandro Bastoni back in the fold.

Recommended picks: Martinez, Perisic, Hakimi.  Continue reading

Roma crush Benevento to head back into the top 10 in Serie A

After back to back wins Roma are now in the top 10 in Serie A after an initial slow start and after four games played are 8th and just five points behind current league leaders AC Milan.

Roma were widely expected to beat Benevento and let no one down as they powered through to a 5-2 win at Stadio Olimpico. But the visitors were not just going to roll over and gave Fillipo Inzaghi’s side a few scares.

Indeed in just the fifth minute Benevento took the lead through Gianlula Caprari’s shot which actually took quite a deflection before looping in and beating the goalkeeper for a freak goal.

From then on the game was predictable as Roma had the lions share of possession and made some good attacks although it took until just after the half hour stage to see Roma equalise through Pedro and bad defending.

Roma then took the lead just four minutes later through Edin Dzeko who after good work simply had to tap it in against a naive Benevento defence which were being torn apart by the pace of the home side. Soon after Roma thought they had a third goal but this was rightly ruled out for offside by VAR. The first half ended 2-1 to Roma and the second half seemed like it would be a formality.

However against the odds Benvento would be the next team to score and pull the game back to 2-2 after the 55th minute through Gianluca Lapadula. Jordan Veretout who is having a solid start to the season gave away a penalty after some confusion in their own box and Lapadula then missed the spot kick but got the rebound and suddenly we were in for a shock result.

However in the 69th minute Veretout made amends when Roma were awarded their own penalty when the goalkeeper fouled Pedro. Veretout stood up and made no mistakes to give Roma the lead once more.

Eight minutes later the game was effectively wrapped up as Dzeko struck again and again it was a simple tap in after good build up play where he couldn’t really miss. By this point Benevento who had worked hard throughout the match had given up the ghost and with just one minute left of the game Roma got their 5th.

It came through Carles Perez who may have scored the contender for goal of the season. Starting in his own half he beat 3 players before confidently smashing the ball home. Had Lionel Messi did that over the weekend the headlines would surely be tripping over themselves. It was a great win for Roma and their next game will be away to leaders AC Milan it what should be a mouthwatering encounter.

Top Roma performers in fantasy league so far:

1. Jordan Veretout 15pts

2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan 10pts

3. Antonio Mirante 10pts

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Serie A Fantasy Previews – Round Five – Top Matches

ATALANTA-SAMPDORIA

Atalanta: the Bergamaschi looked unprepared to match Napoli’s aggressiveness in the last fixture and the much-anticipated bout ended with a shocking beating. They will look to return to form in Serie A as well after pummelling Midtjylland. Alejandro Gomez has been the tip of the spear so far and straight-up one of the best players in the League. Luis Muriel has put his name in the stat-sheet twice, like Sam Lemmers, who has made the most of his limited opportunities. Duvan Zapata has been more up-and-down. Josip Ilicic looked rusty in his first game back, but that is understandable: the good news is that he indeed came back and the coach will likely give him regular minutes to get him into shape. Ruslan Malinovskyi is questionable due to an injury, which may lead to some playing time for the intriguing Aleksey Miranchuk. Their stud wing-backs Hans Hateboer and Robin Gosens have scored one goal each, with the German international adding two assists.

Suggested picks: Gomez, Muriel, Zapata. Continue reading