Giallorossi | Part 4 | Superstar Summer Signing

AS Roma secured Champions League football on the final day of the 2022/23 campaign, but had plenty of work to do in the summer if their threadbare squad was to close the gap on runaway leaders AC Milan.

Indeed, as the new season ticked over we had just 14 first-team players at the club! However, our finances were vastly improved thanks to the unexpected January firesale, with a balance of £108m and a transfer budget of £79m. That was unfortunately added to through the previous regime’s idiocy as Real Madrid met Paulo Dybala’s ludicrously low £17.25m release fee.

We made a big name signing in his place as Nicoló Barella, who requested to leave Inter, joined for £20m rising to £45m. He could be an absolute bargain – and just look at those mental attributes!

However, we massively struggled to compete with the financial power of English clubs, such as Newcastle paying £80m for Giorgio Scalvini and £40m for Jean-Claude Todibo and Spurs paying £87m for Alessandro Bastoni. Although they continued to make derogatory bids for our players! But that meant we had to get a little bit creative.

First was another Scandinavian wonderkid winger as 17-year-old Roony Bardghji arrived for £10m from Kobenhavn. We also brought in a new goalkeeper as Marco Carnesecchi joined at the end of his Atalanta contract and a player I thought would be a backup could solve our first-choice issue. We also snapped up a promising defender in Abakar Sylla for £16.75m from Club Brugge. And we rounded out the squad with a few intriguing loan deals as Dybala was replaced by fellow Argentine Julián Álvarez, Dominik Szoboszlai came in from Leipzig and ball winner Giovanni Fabbian joined from Inter.

Pleasingly, we had several players returning from loans who either had decent current ability or solid potential. So I bolstered the first-team squad depth with the likes of Justin Kluivert, Carlos Pérez and Gonzalo Villar plus youngsters Riccardo Pagano, Cristian Volpato and Leonardo Graziani. And having inherited an aging squad, Spinazzola is now the only player over 30.

With the squad fairly rebuilt over the summer, I decided to implement a 4-3-3 approach.

Wonderkids Andreas Schjelderup and Barghji will start out wide with Barella playing as a box-to-box and Lorenzo Pellegrini playmaking. While youngsters Giacomo Faticanti, Sylla and Nicola Zalewski are also first-choice starters.

Second season in Serie A

The media still have us to finish fifth in Serie A this season with title odds of 15/1. Juventus (5/2) are favourites followed by Milan (13/5), Inter (9/2) and Napoli (11/2) with Lazio at (20/1).

We played the first match of the new season with the early kick-off at home to Udinese. And we got the season started in style with a thumping 4-0 win with a Tammy Abraham penalty, a screamer by Faticanti then goals off the bench for Álvarez and Kluivert.

We backed that up with a dominant but wasteful 1-0 win at Bologna with Schjelderup scoring the only goal. And we kept the good start going as Atalanta came to town and had Demiral sent off inside 13 minutes. Kluivert opened the scoring a minute later and Schjelderup made it two, but we somehow only won 2-1, wasting a host of chances and gifting them a late consolation.

The winning start ended with a 1-1 at Spezia but we were impressive in dismantling Sassuolo 4-1 led by another Faticanti screamer and Barella and Szoboszlai’s first goals for the club. That was followed by a real statement of intent as we went to Inter and Abraham’s strike created by former Inter man Barella and six Carnesecchi saves sent us top of Serie A.

Our wide players put Brescia to the sword as Schjelderup opened the scoring inside four minutes. Álvarez doubled the lead a minute later and doubled his tally before the break before Abraham wrapped up a dominant 4-0 success.

That sent us into a top vs. second clash in confident form, which showed as we put in easily the best performance of the save to dismantle Juventus. Abraham got things started in the second minute and doubled his tally just before the break, finishing off a brilliant move that started with Carnesecchi. An even better goal saw Barella curl home a delicious curling shot before Abraham wrapped up his hat-trick. That allowed me to make all five subs but we weren’t done there, as Villar scored before Abraham tapped home his fourth. Roma 6-0 Juventus!!

We showed no sign of relenting as Fiorentina came to town and a sumptuous Abraham chip from a delicious Schjelderup pass got us going then Pellegrini curled in a free-kick. Then at Verona, an unreal Schjelderup goal gave us the lead as he headed a brilliant lofted Szoboszlai pass over the keeper and into the far corner from 18 yards! Verona equalised but yet again Abraham nicked us a winner.

We lost Abraham to injury on international duty and slipped to a 0-0 at Lecce without him, but his replacement Álvarez inspired a win 3-1 over Genoa with two assists. That took us into a month-long winter break still unbeaten in Serie A and with a five-point lead over Lazio, six points clear of Napoli and seven points ahead of Milan and Juventus.

Abraham is the best player in the league with a 7.90 average rating and only Vlahovic and Osimhen (12 and 11) have scored more than his 10. While Faticanti has a league-high seven bookings and only Kvaratskhelia (6) has more than Pellegrini’s five assists.

Into the Champions League

We got a much easier-than-expected Champions League group alongside Aston Villa (which must be a bug?), Bayer Leverkusen and Benfica. We began at Benfica and did so terribly, conceding twice inside 24 minutes, Schjelderup got sent off for a horror challenge and we got battered 4-0.

We got back on track with a 3-0 win at home to Villa led by a brilliant Barella brace. Then we made a great start at home to the Germans as Roony curled home his first goal for the club, a Pellegrini free-kick and Abraham made it 3-0 inside 16 minutes! And we made it four straight from the second-half kick-off as a brilliant move ended with Schjelderup crossing for Abraham to head home. We won 4-0 with 26 shots, a 3.06 xG and hit the post three times, which shows just how exciting this team has become. 

We confirmed qualification with a totally undeserved 1-0 win at Villa, in which we had more bookings than shots (6 to 4) but Szoboszlai finished off a superb team move. And we won the group despite having Sylla sent off early against Benfica as Kluivert inspired a 2-1 comeback win.

Could AS Roma keep up their impressive league form and progress in the Champions League after the winter break? Join us next time to find out!

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