One period of his career that Monchi will always regret is his stint at Roma. After a much-hyped spell at Sevilla that had a role to play in helping them win the Europa League three times in a row, the tenure at the giallorossi ended in disappointing fashion last season. It was also the end of Eusebio di Francesco’s time at the club, as changes were made. The mess had to be cleared.
The club did recover under a more pragmatic and experienced manager like Claudio Ranieri. But new sporting director Gianluca Petrachi and new manager Paulo Fonseca had a task at hand. It wasn’t just to take the club forward. It was to take out the deadwood and improve the squad at hand.
Some months on, Roma will head into the Derby della Capitale at the weekend in much better shape than they did last season. In March 2019, they had taken a 3-0 loss and it was symptomatic of there being many things wrong at the club. While Lazio maybe flying themselves currently, the giallorossi are fourth and in the hunt for a Champions League spot.
The biggest change that has come about is in the defensive department. The club had let in 48 goals last season and that was the ninth-best record in the division. More than just the defence, they had failed to replace Alisson well enough. While Robin Olsen had impressed in the FIFA World Cup with Sweden, the signing from Copenhagen looked out of sorts. He gave away goals and cost the club points.
This summer, Olsen was loaned out to Rolando Maran’s Cagliari. The idea was to improve the backline in the best way possible. Atalanta star Gianluca Mancini was signed, while the experienced Chris Smalling arrived on loan from Manchester United. The Englishman’s signing took place after Roma had tried to sign Dejan Lovren and Daniele Rugani. To replace Olsen, Petrachi got Pau Lopez- the former Tottenham goalkeeper.
The loss of Kostas Manolas has been compromised by the arrival of Smalling, who has been one of the best in his position in the Serie A this season.
Monchi had roped in Steven N’Zonzi, but the move never worked out for any party. Petrachi loaned the World Cup winner out, with Daniele De Rossi leaving the club after 18 years of service. The midfield too clearly needed an injection of quality.
The signing of Amadou Diawara is still proving crucial. The midfielder has resurrected his career after having made only 74 first-team appearances at Napoli. He has been the club’s first-choice defensive midfielder, proving to be the perfect replacement for De Rossi.
Fiorentina’s Jordan Veretout was seen as someone who would add some physicality and stint to midfield- something N’Zonzi couldn’t do. The former Aston Villa man has been crucial in midfield, having made 18 starts as the central midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 shape.
Depth in full-back areas was added by the signings of Leonardo Spinazzola and Davide Zappacosta. Young Mert Cetin came in as the young option in the backline, with Federico Fazio not getting any younger with every passing day.
As a misfiring Patrik Schick was loaned to RB Leipzig, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was acquired on a temporary basis from Arsenal. The most important of all, Petrachi managed to keep hold of Edin Dzeko, despite Inter’s best attempts to sign him.
Nikola Kalinic came in as the back-up for Dzeko- a sign of how the club was making the sensible deals. Kalinic would not ask for regular football and do a decent job as a back-up. So far Dzeko has found the back of the net eight times already.
Everything that was done wrong under Monchi has been corrected. There is also a style of play, with Fonseca using a fluid 4-2-3-1 shape with flexible front four. They have shown glimpses of very good football, having to rely on a solid backline.
So far this season, the club boasts of the fourth-best defence in Serie A. They have the fifth-best defensive record and right in the mix for Champions League football in Fonseca’s and Petrachi’s first season. There are very good times to be a giallorossi fan. The future seems bright.