De Rossi transforming Roma into an offensive machine after Mourinho's defensive tactics

AP , Wednesday 6 Mar 2024

When former Roma captain Daniele De Rossi was hired as the club’s coach in January, fans were still busy protesting the firing of Jose Mourinho, who had led the Giallorossi to consecutive European finals.

Daniele De Rossi
Roma s Italian coach Daniele De Rossi looks on during the Italian Serie A football match between AS Roma and Torino on February 26, 2024 at the Olympic stadium in Rome. AFP


De Rossi, given a six-month contract, was considered a stop-gap solution until Roma could hire a more experienced coach for next season.

Nearly two months later, De Rossi has exceeded all expectations by winning seven of nine matches across all competitions — with only one loss, to Serie A leader Inter Milan — and he’s now expected to get an extension.

“I’m satisfied but I’m also aware that we haven’t achieved anything yet,” De Rossi said on Wednesday as Roma prepared to host Brighton in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 on Thursday. “Nobody knows this city better than me, so I know that everything can change here in a split-second."

In only his second head coaching job after managing SPAL in Serie B for four months last season before being fired, there was a feeling that De Rossi wasn’t quite ready to lead the capital club.

But considering his 18-year playing career for his hometown team, Roma's owners and players were willing to give De Rossi the benefit of the doubt.

Roma was in ninth place when Mourinho was fired and is now up to fifth and closing in on the American ownership’s goal of a top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League.

“I already had a relationship with them but recreating the relationship as a coach wasn’t so automatic,” De Rossi said of his players. “But they’re showing that they believe in what I say and it’s working out well. But we’ve still got two fiery months to go.”

Having cast aside Mourinho’s single-striker formations and defensive schemes for a more offensive 4-3-3, De Rossi has transformed Roma into an attacking juggernaut averaging nearly 2.5 goals per game — up from 1.5 under Mourinho.

Roma has scored 10 goals in its last three Serie A games.

And there's none of the constant criticism of the referees that Mourinho resorted to so often.

Current Roma captain Lorenzo Pellegrini seems reborn under De Rossi. Midfielder Leandro Paredes shares a special kinship and a love of Boca Juniors with De Rossi, who ended his playing career with the Argentine club. And center back Gianluca Mancini is almost like an assistant coach under De Rossi.

Forwards Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku are happy about having more chances to score, and goalkeeper Mile Svilar has been promoted ahead of the more experienced Rui Patricio to great effect.

In the penalty shootout win over Feyenoord in the Europa League playoffs, Svilar saved two spot kicks.

“I think he’ll remain here for a long time, that’s my personal opinion,” Pellegrini said of De Rossi.

If so, he wouldn’t be the first De Rossi coaching long term at Roma. That’s because De Rossi’s dad, Alberto, was a long time coach of Roma’s youth team.

But, as De Rossi said, things have been known to change quickly in Rome and the matchup with Brighton pits the Giallorossi against an equally offensive coach in fellow Italian Roberto De Zerbi.

“Roberto is doing something that’s been recognized around the world,” De Rossi said. “He’s showing what’s possible if you have a coach with great ideas and a club that can buy young players.

“I’ve have a great friendship with Roberto since I was a player. We used to chat after matches and I would express by admiration for his football.”

Now De Rossi is starting to gain admiration for his coaching, too. And he isn’t content to see Roma keep competing in the Europa and Conference leagues, as it has for five straight seasons.

“I was still playing the last time Roma was in the Champions League and it seems like I’ve been retired for 20 years,” De Rossi said. “And that’s unacceptable, because Roma needs to be at that level.”

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