When Jose Mourinho joined A.S. Roma almost a year ago today, many within the footballing world suggested that “The Special One” was past his best. However, Jose did what he does best, and defied the odds once again by bringing a trophy back to the Eternal City for the first time in 14 years after winning the Europa Conference League. So, how did we get here?
In April 2021, just days before the Carabao Cup Final, Jose was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur after a disappointing run of results and found himself back on the job hunt. A little less than a month later, the serial winner accepted the assignment in Rome.
At Roma, he found a side that had talent but no real identity. He installed a new formation and brought in striker, Tammy Abraham and goaltender, Rui Patricio who would both prove pivotal in Roma’s European Campaign.
Jose began his Roma career with his patented 4-2-3-1 formation. However, this formation found little success in the more tactical and defensive-based Serie A, thus prompting Jose to do something he has seldom done in his managerial career; Adapt. Jose switched his formation to a high-pressing 3-5-2 that switches to a more compact 5-3-2 when out of possession that denies opponents space centrally and forces them out wide. This formation allows Roma to stay compact defensively and quickly counter while committing numbers forward making their counter attacks extremely deadly.
Without the brilliant work of Tammy Abraham, it is hard to say how Roma would’ve played this season. The England international is quite often the center of any attack that Roma has had as he provides aerial prowess, short link-up play, as well as runs in behind. This season, he provided 30 goals and 17 assists in 52 games across all competitions. This impressive output has given him a real chance at joining the England squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The brilliance of Tammy Abraham, coupled with the reemergence of Lorenzo Pellegrini and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have made Roma one of the most expansive and exciting offensive teams in world football. In fact, the Giallorossi have accumulated the sixth-highest total expected goals in Europe’s top five leagues this season with an xG of 45.69, not bad for a manager known for his defensive aptitude.
However, they also thrive at the other end of the pitch, keeping 22 clean sheets across all competitions in thanks to brilliant goalkeeping from Rui Patricio and a career-defining season from center-back, Chris Smalling, who has also entered the conversation for England’s 2022 World Cup squad.
With Roma, Jose Mourinho has proven once again, that “The Special One” is not to be doubted. He has shown himself to be adaptable, something which he has been heavily criticized for throughout the past several years and is perhaps beginning an entirely new chapter in his long and successful managerial career. While he has work to do if he wants to compete with Europe’s elite, I wouldn’t bet against the newly crowned King of Rome.