Reviewing Roma’s Midfield: The Agony and The Ecstasy

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Roma’s midfield was perhaps the most exciting part of watching the Giallorossi this season. Yes, the Tammy Abraham signing properly received the most glowing praise, and Roma’s defensive integrity grew by leaps and bounds thanks to Rui Patricio, but the meteoric rise of Lorenzo Pellegrini into a world-class midfielder should be story 1c of the season, right behind Roma’s Europa Conference League victory and Abraham’s success with the club.

On the flip side, there were certainly some disappointing elements of Roma’s midfield rotation this season, and if there is one place where the club is looking to fortify itself heading into the 2022-2023 season, it will be in the midfield. Some of those reinforcements are already in the side; Edoardo Bove looks set to become a part of the Roman midfield, and Nicolò Zaniolo will hopefully get at least one more season with the side to shake off his injuries and return to form as a world-class player.

Other reinforcements are reportedly already signed, like Nemanja Matic; still, others are central to Roma’s transfer rumors, like Primavera graduate Davide Frattesi. However Roma’s midfield looks this fall, though, one has to hope that there will be more consistent excellence throughout the rotation. If Tiago Pinto can make that happen, the sky will truly be the limit for Mourinho and the Giallorossi.

Lorenzo Pellegrini

AS Roma UEFA Conference League Victory Parade

Photo by Fabio Rossi / AS Romama via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 41 appearances
  • 14 goals
  • 8 assists
  • 71.8% pass completion percentage

Season Summary

This was the season that Lorenzo Pellegrini became a superstar, the season where it became clear that he might be fit to follow in the footsteps of Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti as Roma’s novel captain. Even though Pellegrini cooled down a bit after a nuclear-hot start to the 2021/2022 campaign, Lolo provided sufficiently consistent and excellent form in all competitions to earn himself the inaugural MVP Award for the Europa Conference League, while also making a case for himself. as one of the best attacking midfielders in Europe.

Outlook For Next Season

More of the same, please. Pellegrini really showed himself to be the centerpiece of José Mourinho’s Roma this season, and one has to hope that the good times will continue to roll for iI capitano.

Final Grade: 9 out of 10

Jordan Veretout

Torino FC v AS Roma - Serie A

Photo by Fabio Rossi / AS Roma via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 48 appearances
  • 4 goals
  • 9 assists
  • 84.5% pass completion

Season Summary

Don’t let the near-double-digit assists fool you: this was by far Jordan Veretout’s worst season in a Giallorossi kit. The Frenchman seemed to be sapped of his quality under José Mourinho, becoming a complete afterthought on the pitch and then reportedly demanding to leave the club post haste this summer. Coming into this season, I was quite excited to see what Veretout could become under Mourinho; the fact that he belly-flopped just as hard as he did has to be my biggest surprise of the season.

Outlook For Next Season

Ligue 1 clubs are circling for Veretout’s services, and in all honesty, I think that’s where Veretout belongs. Don’t be shocked if he rediscovers his form at an Olympique Marseille or Lille; just remember that playing in Serie A and Ligue 1 are very different propositions.

Final Grade: 4 out of 10

Bryan Cristante

AS Roma UEFA Conference League Victory Parade

Photo by Fabio Rossi / AS Roma via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 48 appearances
  • 2 goals
  • 2 assists
  • 82.4% pass completion

Season Summary

All in all, this was an excellent season for Bryan Cristante. Despite being saddled with Jordan Veretout as his midfield partner most of the time, Cristante put in good performances in the more defensive role in Mourinho’s double-pivot, making him yet another manager’s favorite player in the process.

Outlook For Next Season

With reinforcements coming to the midfield sooner rather than later, some may wonder if Cristante will keep his starting spot. My guess is he will, and if Roma signs the DM they’ve been desperately searching for for years, Bryan might get to play in a more attacking role and recreate his excellent Atalanta self. If he can tack on more goals to his game, who knows what Cristante can do next.

Final Grade: 8 out of 10

Sergio Oliveira

AS Roma v Feyenoord - 2022 UEFA Europa Conference League Final

Photo by Giuseppe Maffia / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 22 appearances
  • 3 goals
  • 0 assists
  • 81.2% pass completion

Season Summary

Oliveira was a mid-season loan intended to provide a shot in the arm for Roma’s flagging midfield, and he definitely did what he was supposed to do. His long-term form did not match his excellent introduction to the Giallorossi side in January, but with Jordan Veretout looking miserable most of the spring, Oliveira stepped up and provided a good rotational midfield option. Without Oliveira, Roma probably does not get EL qualification through the league, and I’m skeptical they win the ECL either. He wasn’t Roma’s most critical midfielder, but he filled a gap and filled it well.

Outlook For Next Season

It does not seem likely that Oliveira will stay at Roma for the long haul, but that’s okay; he provided a service, won a trophy, and is moving on. Best of luck in the future, Sergio.

Final Grade: 7 out of 10

Nicolò Zaniolo

AS Roma v Feyenoord - UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2021/22

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Photo by Justin Setterfield / Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 33 appearances
  • 7 goals
  • 5 assists
  • 31.6% shots on target
  • 79.2% pass completion

Season Summary

Zaniolo had a tempestuous season; one minute, he was scoring a hat-trick against Bodø / Glimt; the next, he was getting eaten alive by Serie A defenders; the next, he scored the goal that brought Roma her first trophy in 14 years. Through it all, Mourinho largely continued to play The Kid, giving him the chance to get more miles on his post-ACL tears tires and showing a level of faith that will hopefully pay dividends. This season was far from Zaniolo’s best, but it made me hopeful for the future.

Outlook For Next Season

As for Zaniolo’s future, there are rumors linking him to a transfer away from Rome as per usual, but I do not buy them (at least not for this summer). Roma put in the hard work of rehabilitating Zaniolo, and it would be foolish to sell him before reaping the benefits of at least one more excellent season. Plus, if the rumor mill is to be believed, Roma would be replacing Zaniolo with Domenico Berardi? No thank you, he stays.

Final Grade: 6 out of 10

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Winners' Shoot - UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2021/22

Photo by Tullio Puglia – UEFA / UEFA via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 42 appearances
  • 5 goals
  • 8 assists
  • 82.7% pass completion

Season Summary

Mkhitaryan was arguably one of Roma’s most critical pieces this season. When Jordan Veretout did not impress, Mkhitaryan allowed himself to be shifted into a less attacking role and thrived; when he was playing in his more typical role, he thrived as well, becoming a consistent and calm metronome for the Giallorossi alongside Lorenzo Pellegrini. Father Time is undefeated, but Mkhitaryan kept him at bay for one more season with Roma.

Outlook For Next Season

All signs point to Mkhitaryan leaving the Giallorossi on a high note and signing a pretty pricey free-agent deal with Inter Milan. I can’t begrudge Mkhi his move, and I’ll also note that the Armenian generally stays at a club for three seasons before moving on. Thanks for the memories, Henrikh. You were a champion through and through, and I’ll enjoy seeing you play every now and then even if it isn’t in a Roma kit.

Final Grade: 8 out of 10

Ebrima Darboe

AS Roma v Feyenoord - UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2021/22

Photo by Raymond Smit / NESImages / vi / DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 5 appearances
  • 0 goals
  • 1 assist
  • 95% pass completion (on 40 attempts, so take that number with a grain of salt)

Season Summary

After an exciting first spring with the senior squad last season, many were hoping that Darboe would assert himself as a key part of Roma’s midfield rotation. That simply was not the case under Jose Mourinho, as Darboe became a permanent fixture on the bench and not much else.

Outlook For Next Season

The hope is that Darboe can find a loan move to a smaller Serie A side that will allow him to blossom into the defensive midfielder we know he can become. I doubt Tiago Pinto wants to give up on a clearly talented young midfielder this early in his career; still, I can not see a future where Darboe is wearing a Roma kit in August.

Final Grade: 4 out of 10

Edoardo Bove

AS Roma v Feyenoord - 2022 UEFA Europa Conference League Final

Photo by Giuseppe Maffia / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 13 appearances
  • 1 goal
  • 0 assists
  • 86.1% pass completion

Season Summary

If it weren’t for the meteoric rise of Nicola Zalewski, there’s no doubt that Edoardo Bove would be the most intriguing Primavera prospect to graduate to the senior squad this season. From the minute he stepped onto the pitch for Jose Mourinho, Bove looked calm and composed, knowing his role and becoming a piece of the midfield rotation that The Special One could trust when the injury situation got tough. Although Bove only scored one goal (and was largely limited to substitution appearances) you got the sense that Edoardo was only scratching the surface of what he could become with the Giallorossi.

Outlook For Next Season

Bove looks set to become part of Roma’s midfield rotation in the fall, and while several small Serie A sides are reportedly interested in grabbing him on loan, I think Mourinho keeps him around as the first midfielder off the bench. Bove did not play too much this season, but when he did, he shone (or at least as much as a young player ever shines in their first season with the big boys). Let hope he can join Nicola Zalewski and Lorenzo Pellegrini as Primavera graduates who lead the Giallorossi to the promised land.

Final Grade: 5 out of 10

Amadou Diawara

Torino FC v AS Roma - Serie A

Photo by Jonathan Moscrop / Getty Images

Stats (All Competitions)

  • 7 appearances
  • 0 goals
  • 1 assist
  • 78.6% pass completion

Season Summary

Honestly, not applicable. Diawara never really played much for José Mourinho’s Roma, and he certainly did not play after Roma’s 6-1 flameout against Bodø / Glimt in the ECL group stage. Diawara never showed his full potential in a Roma kit, but this was the season that definitively closed the door on him being a useful Giallorossi player.

Outlook For Next Season

He’s not going to be a Roma player, I can tell you that much. Thanks for your service, Amadou, and I wish you had a better time in Rome. I was really hopeful, but this season was clearly your death knell in a Giallorossi kit.

Final Grade: 1 out of 10

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