It is not even November and yet Jose Mourinho’s honeymoon period in Rome already appears to be over.
Snappy, irritated and throwing his players under the bus. It’s like he’s back in England all over again.
Humiliation in the Europa Conference League to Norwegian minnows Bodo/Glimt has brought issues into sharp focus but those who saw Mourinho in the press conference suite after their 1-0 loss to Juventus could see a storm was brewing.
Jose Mourinho was left furious with his heavily rotated Roma side after a 6-1 loss in Norway
Norwegian champions Bodo/Glimt surprisingly ran out 6-1 winners against a hapless Roma XI
‘There are benches and then there are benches,’ he told reporters that day. ‘Today we played with this four (at the back), where Karsdorp was a doubt until the end.
‘The defenders I had on the bench were Reynolds, Kumbulla and Calafiori…’
Silence followed, as did some raised eyebrows from Mourinho. The inference was clear – he just wanted everyone else to join the dots. This group, in Mourinho’s eyes, is simply not good enough.
And so when Reynolds, Kumbulla and Calafiori found themselves part of a side humiliated on the pitch by Bodo/Glimt before they were humiliated in the press by their manager, there should have been little surprise.
Roma had been humiliated and it was evidence for Mourinho of the lack of depth at the club
Roma are lacking the experience and character it was hoped someone of Mourinho’s standing would provide.
But Roma appear to be regressing, the defence is fragile beyond belief and goals seem to be drying up.
Sportsmail looks at the key issues that Mourinho needs to sort to salvage Roma’s ailing campaign including a leaky defence, a reliance on Pellegrini for goals and a mood swing among the fan-base.
LACK OF DEPTH
This has gone from being inferred to being made crystal clear. Mourinho is tired.
‘It’s one thing, 13 of our players. The others are another,’ he said in Norway.
‘The positive is that from today no one will ask me why the same players always play.’
He was backed to the tune of £88million in the summer – no team in Italy spent more in the summer – and yet now feels he only has 13 players he trusts to play.
Striker Tammy Abraham arrived as the most expensive signing of the summer window in Italy and while he has shown glimpses, Mourinho’s gripes about a lack of depth after such an outlay isn’t winning many supporters.
It’s true that Paulo Fonseca had less at his disposal last season and took Roma to the semi-finals of the Europa League. Fast forward and Mourinho’s group are ripped apart in the lesser-prestigious Conference League.
American Bryan Reynolds has been picked out as one player who Mourinho does not trust
STARTING ROMA XIs COMPARED BY AGE
VS Juventus: Patricio (33); Karsdorp (26), Mancini (25), Ibanez (22), Vina (23); Cristante (26), Veretout (28); Zaniolo (22), Pellegrini (25), Mkhitaryan (32); Abraham (24)
Average age: 26
VS Bodo/Glimt: Patricio (33); Reynolds (20), Ibanez (22), Kumbulla (21), Calafiori (19); Darboe (20), Diawara (24); Perez (23), Villar (23), El Shaarawy (28), Mayoral (24)
Average age: 23.4
Many of Mourinho’s gripes are nothing new. Once again he is exasperated with most of the club’s young players, 22-year-old Nicolo Zaniolo being an exception to this.
Take full-back Reynolds as one. Picked out by American owners, they are keen to see one of their own thrive but it has hardly been a warm welcome from his boss.
After a narrow win over Sassuolo Mourinho detailed that Reynolds would not have been sent on if there had been any other option.
‘We don’t have the changes of the other teams like Inter. Reynolds is a kid,’ Mourinho said. ‘I put Reynolds (on) because he was the only full back, if Ibanez had been on the bench I would have put him (on) but he wasn’t there.’
It is no surprise that many in Mourinho’s firing line are all under the age of 21 and this will come as a brutal education – as Luke Shaw found at Manchester United.
Against Juventus, when Mourinho was raging at the referee and VAR, Roma’s average age in their starting line-up was 26 years old.
With nine changes in Norway that dropped to 23 years old with the oldest defender in the side just 22.
Mourinho has already stressed that he signed a three-year deal and it will take time to build a side in his vision.
But nonetheless, young players are important at Roma and failure to recognise that could be fatal.
Lorenzo Pellegrini (left) and Gianluca Mancini (centre) of two of ’13 players’ Mourinho uses
Roma executive Tiago Pinto snapped when asked to respond to Mourinho’s comments after the team’s defeat to Juventus on if the team possesses the quality in depth.
‘It seems you’re trying to create an issue between myself and Jose,’ Pinto barked.
‘We bet more on younger players. There’s plenty of talent here, but we need to find the right way to create the conditions for young players to play in Serie A.
‘It’s not easy to make this leap, obviously there’s a competitive difference. But I think now’s the time to do something in Italy in terms of taking a gamble on younger players.’
DEJA MOU! SAME OLD JOSE
To anyone among the Roma support who tracked Mourinho’s career since he left Serie A with Inter, attacks on players will come as no surprise.
While his jibes towards the likes of Reynolds and Kumbulla don’t exactly inspire much confidence, it feels an all too familiar slippery slope.
Look at how Luke Shaw was targeted by Mourinho at United. It is no surprise that Shaw has thrived since the Portuguese was axed.
As the highest paid manager in Italy he is always going to be held to a different standard; nobody wants excuses after a summer in which he cannot accuse his owners of not backing in.
Luke Shaw (middle) was regularly scorned by Mourinho (right) while at Manchester United
In a long season across multiple competitions when Mourinho will need his squad on side he has taken this bull in a china shop approach once more.
Young players and fringe players feel unwanted having been told they are not up to the job and if what Mourinho has said publicly stings, it’s better not to imagine what is being said behind closed doors.
When he arrived to the whoops and hollers of supporters, everyone was struck by his confidence.
But it is equally true that Mourinho has morphed into a symbol rather than a leader and as such Roma are showing worrying signs of looking lost under his mentorship.
With so many young players it can often feel like an anti-Mourinho group. It sure looked like it in Norway before he sent on some of his regular starters.
Mourinho needs to work with what he’s got – Fonseca did – and prevent the aberration in Norway spreading to infect their remainder of the season.
Failure to do so and Tottenham fans and Manchester United fans will be saying ‘I told you so’ even sooner than expected.
Roger Ibanez (left) is one of the few young players Mourinho is trusting in early in his tenure
FRAGILE AT THE BACK
Critics of Thursday’s ‘betrayal’ as Il Romanista called it on their front cover have likened Mourinho’s defence to something as fragile as the Titanic.
Three changes in the back four from the defeat to Juventus with Reynolds, Kumbulla and Calafiori all getting a rare chance.
It backfired and while hurting, Mourinho may feel vindicated that the noise will now stop around these young fringe players.
In the last three games, Roma have conceded 10 goals without being able to take home even one point.
Roma find themselves in an increasingly delicate moment of their season.
Goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who has played more than anyone so far under Mourinho, is being left exposed and can do little about most of the goals he is shipping.
Defensively, Roma look at sea and Rui Patricio cannot be left exposed time and time again
At home they have been able to use the power of the Stadio Olimpico crowd to grind out some clean sheets but away from home fingers are being pointed at Mourinho.
It’s too naive, too open and not the kind of solidity it was expected Mourinho would bring.
Fonseca’s gung-ho attacking philosophy made sure the defence was always on the brink but Mourinho was supposed to deliver a much more pragmatic and balanced set-up.
On the road they shipped three to bitter rivals Lazio, let in three at Hellas Verona, and got turned over by Juventus. They are the three blemishes from their opening eight league matches.
While defeat in Norway is bad it is now about the reaction.
A sniping Mourinho who wants more tools at his disposal is a movie many have seen before. He needs to fix the defence, find a way to improve peripheral players and cut out the public jibes at his players or hopes of a top four bid will fade real fast.
Roma’s season is still in good standing but it is at risk if Mourinho cannot sort their issues