Paulo Fonseca – AS Roma – Tactical Analysis

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AS Roma are still far from the side they were many years ago, but they have enjoyed two of their better seasons over the last decade since Paulo Fonseca arrived at the club. The Portuguese manager came to Roma with a respectable reputation, having led Shakhar Donetsk to three league titles and a 74% win rate in his three seasons at the club. During his first season in charge at I Giallorossi, Fonseca led AS Roma to a fifth place finish in Serie A – securing Europa League football for the team. Roma have since performed well in the competition this season, with a semi-final against tournament favourites Manchester United to play for in the next few weeks. Their performances in the Europa League have outshone their relatively sub-par season in Serie A, with the side currently in seventh place. Nonetheless, if Fonseca’s team were to pull out a miracle and make the Europa League final, this season would be seen as a complete success. With that, here is a tactical analysis of Paulo Fonseca’s AS Roma this season.

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They’ve had a reasonably successful time winning the ball back when given the chance to set up their defense, but often struggle in transition. This is one of their greatest faults that has led them to a poor defensive record. Particularly, Roma don’t tend to specifically set themselves up to counter-press and they are not overly careful when it comes to the number of players they push up the pitch at once. Their central overloads in attack mean that when they lose the ball high up the pitch, they’re usually able to shuffle their opposition into the wide areas before recovering their positions. And against stronger opposition or after taking the lead, Roma’s central midfielders may be a bit more sensible about picking their moments to join the attack and sit a bit deeper instead. This is the one method of counter-pressing that the team occasionally deploy. But with Roma’s midfield men not being the strongest, quickest players, they still struggle in transition. And they’re not the only one’s..

Of regular starters and substitutes, Pau Lopez is the only player who has won the same amount or more tackles than he’s attempted this season. Every other player, including every starting midfielder and defender, attempt significantly more than they win. This means that Roma have struggled to adequately stop their opposition, either by being forced to foul, or by being dribbled past altogether. In fact, only Verona have won fewer tackles this season in Serie A. They’ve been significantly more successful at stopping their opposition from playing through them, making the fifth most interceptions per game in the league. This may demonstrate that they prefer to stay on their feet, but the total number of tackles attempted speaks against that. More likely, it demonstrates that Fonseca has set up his team’s shape very well to stop passes into key areas of the field, but that the players lack the necessary speed, strength and overall aptitude to stop runners and dribblers, particularly in transition. If by the time next season comes around they can improve that ability, Roma may easily find themselves within the top five once again.

concluding thoughts

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AS Roma have not had the best of seasons in Serie A, but their performances in the Europa League have been much better, and they’ve now reached the semi-finals of the competition. Paulo Fonseca hasn’t been able to drastically improve their defense since arriving in 2019, but he has improved their possession and attacking tactics, inspiring the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Chris Smalling to revitalize their careers. He’s also fashioned Bryan Cristante into a libero at the back, and pushed Lorenzo Pellegrini and Jordan Veretout into more attacking roles, to get the best out of their abilities. So despite likely finishing in 7th place in Serie A, this season should be thought of as a relative success for Paulo Fonseca, and one that has certainly enhanced the Portuguese manager’s reputation.

So there it is! A tactical analysis of Paulo Fonseca’s AS Roma this season. Be sure to check out more of our tactical analyses, and see the YouTube video from @RDFTactics below. Thanks for reading and see you soon!

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-> Erik Ten Hag – Ajax – Tactical Analysis
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3 thoughts on “Paulo Fonseca – AS Roma – Tactical Analysis

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