It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The Football Manager 23 Beta is here! And that means our customary early season trip over to Italy is back for the third successive year.
This time we’re headed to the Italian capital to take on one of the city’s big two. And the Special One, José Mourinho, finds himself The Unemployed One as we take his position at AS Roma.
I haven’t managed Roma since the good old days of Championship Manager when they had the likes of Francesco Totti, Gabriel Batistuta, Vincenzo Montella, Cafu, Marcos Assuncao, Walter Samuel, Marco Delvecchio, Aldair, Hidetoshi Nakata and a young Daniele De Rossi. So I thought it was high time we managed I Giallorossi (the yellow and reds).
Who are AS Roma?
Associazione Sportiva Roma is a three-time Champion of Italy that’s competed in the top tier Serie A for all but one season of its 95-year history. Roma’s last title came back in 2001, which followed lengthy spells without titles being ended in 1942 and 1983. The club also has nine Coppa Italia successes, most recently in 2008, two Supercoppa Italias, and won the inaugural Europa Conference League last season – having been runner-up in the European Cup in 1984 and the UEFA Cup in 1991.
In true Italian style, Roma shares its Stadio Olimpico home with city rivals Lazio. The 72,000-capacity stadium is the second-biggest in Italy, after San Siro, but Roma does, apparently, have plans to build a new one, with construction yet to begin.
The Giallorossi Challenge
So our task during the Beta period (and probably slightly beyond it) is to overcome the dominant forces of AC Milan, Inter and Juventus to win Roma’s fourth title and try and take them to a first “proper” European trophy. And the man in charge of that task is 38-year-old English boss Robi di Lathamé.
The board expects us to sign young and high-reputation players and sell players for a profit, grow the club’s revenue and reputation and, somewhat ambitiously, qualify for the Champions League. While the fans – which is a feature I really like the look of – also want to see young and high-reputation players signed, finish above Lazio and Napoli (aka Parthenope) and, very ambitiously, want us to win Serie A!
AS Roma in 2022/23
The best player at AS Roma is midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini, followed by attacking midfielders Paulo Dybala and Nicoló Zaniolo, who I’m really excited to work with, and goalkeeper Rui Patrício. We also have two attacking full-backs in left-sided Leandro Spinazzola and right-sided Zeki Celik and two fellow English chaps in centre-back Chris Smalling and striker Tammy Abraham.
Other key players will be midfielders Bryan Cristante, who looks much better than I expected, and Giorginio Wijnaldum (when he’s back fit), while I’m unimpressed with Andrea Belotti and flatly refuse to play Nemanja Matic unless I really have to. Feel free to scroll through the player profiles below…
The club is sorely lacking youth, but a couple of promising youngsters to look out for are 20-year-old left-back/winger Nicola Zalewski and 17-year-old midfielder Giacomo Faticanti.
Financially we look OK, with £24 million in the bank but only a £12 million transfer budget and the club is narrowly underneath the £1.8 million wage budget. But I set about flogging some of the deadwood at the club, bringing in an additional £4 million. But we didn’t sign anyone until deadline day when Yacine Adli came in loan from Milan – mainly as the new recruitment approach baffled me and the scouts didn’t bring me anyone good.
Tactics-wise, I’m not 100% convinced what formation or style I want to play – which isn’t hugely helpful! I want to get Dybala, Zaniolo and Abraham into the team, while a mass of injuries through pre-season didn’t help. So I initially went with the classic 3-5-2 attacking approach with a Christmas Tree 4-3-2-1 formation up my sleeve.
Getting started in Serie A
The media have us to finish 5th at 11/1 for the title, which feels ambitious. Juve are 11/4 favourites followed by Inter and Milan (3/1) and Napoli (17/2). We also have Pellegrini and Dybala in the media’s dream 11.
Pre-season went pretty terribly as we lost three out of five, including one against Sassuolo – who we travelled to in our first league game. We started well as Abraham scored a cheeky dink on 25 minutes but immediately conceded to Pinamonti then Berardi to trail within 10 minutes. Belotti scored on his debut just before half-time but a shocking second half saw us lose 4-2. And I think I’m already done with the idea of three at the back.
So I switched things up for our first home game, moving to the 4-3-2-1. And that worked a treat as Abraham dominated Lecce (aka Salento) with an 18-minute first-half hat-trick. Centre-back Gianluca Mancini headed home a Dybala corner just after the break and Abraham bagged a fourth and a fifth to wrap up a 6-1 thumping! Although a day later Immobile bagged six in a 7-1 win at Cremonese!
Yet another injury saw Dybala ruled out for four weeks and without him I moved Pellegrini forwards with Faticanti making his full debut. And we started poorly next up at Bologna, conceding after 25 minutes. But that man Abraham turned the game around, scoring twice in 18 minutes from brilliant Spinazzola and Pellegrini assists to nick a 2-1 win. That takes Abraham to eight goals in three games, which obviously won him the first Player of the Month of the season.
Another away day followed, this time a really tough one at Inter. And we were terrible, only having one shot (a 30-yarder that went miles over in the 83rd minute) and lost a dreadful game 1-0.
And yet another away match (that’s four out of five!) took us to Udinese, but this time we not only had a shot but scored inside 29 seconds! Some shocking defending gifted Abraham the opener then great play by impressive right-back Rick Karsdorp put a second on a plate for the striker. Udinese were allowed back into it as Patrício let their first shot on target in, but that man Abraham doubled the lead with a sublime left-footed volley. More shaky defending gifted Udinese a second before Abraham latched onto a Patrício hoof to slam a right-footed volley into the net. Another four-goal haul takes Abraham to 12 goals in five league games – which is only five fewer than he scored all of last season (17 in 37)!
And after five games, of which just one has been at home and having played a game less than most, that leaves AS Roma 8th in Serie A only three points off the Champions League places.
Europa League kicks off
We’re also competing in the Europa League, which gave us our first taste of the exciting intro music and fancy new branded draw. Which is actually kinda cool. But our excitement was short-lived as we got a potentially tricky draw alongside Real Sociedad, Union Berlin and Icelandic side Vikingur.
We opened up at home to Sociedad in the game after playing Inter and had more shots in the first minute than in 90 at San Siro! We dominated the Spaniards in the first half and eventually made one count as Stephan El Shaarawy (who I didn’t realise was still at Roma) dinked the keeper then Pellegrini bent in a delicious 30-yard free-kick. Then, ridiculously, Sociedad scored their first shot just before the break. But Abraham finally scored with his 11th shot of the match to confirm a dominant 3-1 win.
Next time in Giallorossi
We’ll leave things there for now with this introductory blog to Giallorossi. However, one interesting observation to note is the fact that an aforementioned Roma legend – probably the biggest legend in Roma history – has a son at the club in the game. Francesco the Great’s legacy lives on in the form of 16-year-old Cristian Totti – who isn’t very good but is apparently an “exciting young prospect.”
Can Abraham keep scoring at more than two goals per game? Find out next time as we push further ahead into our first season on FM23 with AS Roma!