A season in review: Roma 2020/21

Date: 2nd June 2021 at 8:00pm
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A season that promised so much for Roma quickly descended into one that they were glad to see the back of after a year of misery in the capital.

The Giallorossi suffered the indignation of coming seventh, their worst finish since 2012, whilst only scraping into Europa Conference League contention with a late goal in their final match to avoid their lowest position in 16 years.

Yet, a solid first half of the campaign had led fans to believe that a return to the Champions League was a distinct possibility, whilst the more optimistic amongst the Curva Sud even dreamt of a Scudetto challenge as Roma were well in the mix at the turn of the year.

Ultimately, a catastrophic second of the season cost them dearly, with attention fully focused on the Europa League leading to Serie A being neglected. Whilst they battled to the Semi-Finals in Europe, a humiliating 6-2 first-leg defeat to Manchester United meant that even a brave fightback in the return encounter was not enough.

All eyes are now turned to next season and the impending arrival of the ‘Special One’, as Jose Mourinho returns to Serie A and tries to shape the Giallorossi into challengers again.

Player of the Season: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

In a campaign with few standout performers, the Armenia international led Roma from the front and was hugely influential, particularly in the first half of the season.

Showing glimpses of his Borussia Dortmund best, Mkhitaryan flitted between the lines in the final third to great effect and was crucial to coach Paulo Fonseca’s style, particularly after Pedro’s form dipped.

Arriving on a free transfer after spending last season on loan from Arsenal, he provided 14 league goals from an attacking midfield position and was the Lupi’s top scorer in Serie A, enjoying his most fruitful domestic campaign since netting 25 for Shakhtar Donetsk in 2012/13.

The 32-year-old was in devastating form between mid-October and Christmas, providing a combined 11 goals and assists in just 10 league games.

Perhaps most tellingly though, Roma’s collapse began when Mkhitaryan was ruled out for a month with a calf injury around Easter and their lack of creativity without him was striking.

Best Signing: Borja Mayoral

The Spaniard arrived on a two-year loan from Real Madrid and has grown into Italian football as the season progressed, providing an able deputy up front to veteran striker Edin Dzeko.

Mayoral has never been a prolific forward but ended the campaign as Roma’s top goalscorer in all competitions, having netted 17 in his maiden season.

Whilst Dzeko led the line in Serie A, Mayoral proved to be a useful alternative in the Europa League and his pace when playing off the last man allowed him to adapt to domestic football, whilst his seven goals on the continent helped Roma reach the Semi-Finals.

This was particularly useful when Dzeko was frozen out by Fonseca in January following a bitter dispute, and Mayoral went on to score seven league goals in just 15 appearances in which he played more than 10 minutes from that point.

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a positive first year in an underperforming team and there is hope that he will be able to contribute further next season under Mourinho.

The Coach: Paulo Fonseca

Amidst a turbulent season at the Stadio Olimpico, Fonseca remained a dignified figure until the end, even as news broke that he would be replaced by compatriot Mourinho this summer.

The Portuguese was dealt an injury crisis that was too much for his squad to cope with, although he must bear much of the brunt of a second-half collapse that saw Roma drop from third to clinging on to seventh.

His favoured 3-5-2 formation soon grew stale and saw the Giallorossi exposed at the back whilst lacking the attacking bite to overcome this at the other end of the pitch.

The former Shakhtar Donetsk coach was unable to prevent Roma’s season spiralling out of control and any hopes of Champions League qualification were extinguished with a disastrous late spell.

Memorable Moment

After a season hamstrung by an inability to defeat those around them, Roma finally broke their curse in the most important game of all, as they were comfortable 2-0 winners in the Derby della Capitale against Lazio in May.

The Giallorossi were superior to their city rivals and a newly-adopted 4-2-3-1 formation meant Lazio were unable to get a foothold in the game.

After a season of misery, this was a glimmer of positivity and a sign that there are reasons to be optimistic under Mourinho next term.

The Bad

It has been a year that has had offered little to write home about, compounded by not one, but two, administrative blunders.

Perhaps in a sign of things to come, Roma saw a hard-fought point taken from them after a goalless draw against Hellas Verona on the opening day, with midfielder Amadou Diawara not registered in the squad as he took to the pitch. The Lupi were hit with a 3-0 defeat, setting the tone for their season.

Similarly, Roma were sent crashing out of the Coppa Italia at the hands of Spezia in January after imploding in the second half, seeing two red cards and falling to a 4-2 extra-time defeat.

Yet most embarrassingly, Fonseca had thrown on six substitutes after goalkeeper Pau Lopez was dismissed, resulting in another administrative 3-0 defeat.


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