‘AFCON made the situation worse’ - Mourinho blames Roma struggles on player absences

Jose Mourinho. (Photo Credit: Imago)

‘AFCON made the situation worse’ - Mourinho blames Roma struggles on player absences

Ayoola Kelechi 22:42 - 06.01.2024

Roma manager Jose Mourinho is the latest to speak out about the problematic scheduling of the Africa Cup of Nations which has disrupted the European football season

Ahead of Roma’s crucial Serie A tie against Atalanta, the Gialorossi’s Portuguese manager, Jose Mourinho, provided insights into the team's current condition and the challenges they face this season.

Injury Woes for Roma

Mourinho began the presser by addressing the pressing issue of injuries plaguing his squad. He revealed that key players such as Chris Smalling, Renato Sanches, and Marash Kumbulla will be unavailable for the upcoming match.

This is undoubtedly a significant setback for Roma, as these players are crucial to the team's defensive stability and overall performance. Additionally, Gianluca Mancini, while not fully recovered from his injury, is determined to contribute despite his condition. Mourinho's concern for the injury-ridden roster was evident, and it buttresses the challenges Roma faces in their pursuit of victory.

Tough Battle Against Atalanta

The Special One acknowledged the enormity of the task at hand when facing Atalanta. He described the opposing team as a formidable force in Serie A, emphasising their high-calibre status. Mourinho anticipates an exceptionally challenging match against Atalanta, recognising their attacking prowess and tactical prowess.

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However, Mourinho also reiterated his confidence in his own squad, asserting that Roma is a resilient and formidable team. He firmly believes that Atalanta will have their work cut out for them when trying to overcome his well-prepared side.

Huijsen's Arrival and UEFA Limitations

Mourinho then shifted his focus to Roma's recent signing, Dean Huijsen. The 18-year-old defender's limited playing time in Serie A was acknowledged, but Mourinho expressed great optimism about his future potential.

Huijsen's presence in the squad becomes particularly crucial due to UEFA limitations and squad constraints. Mourinho explained that, given the circumstances, Huijsen might find himself on the bench for the upcoming match. This addition provides much-needed depth in the central defence, giving Roma some flexibility in the absence of key defenders.

Tiago Pinto's Departure

Addressing the departure of Roma’s former sporting director, Tiago Pinto, from the club, Mourinho struck a respectful and understanding tone. He refrained from passing judgment on Pinto's performance during his tenure and instead focused on their friendship.

Ex-Roma chief Tiago Pinto | Imago
Ex-Roma chief Tiago Pinto | Imago

Mourinho's words conveyed his warm wishes for Pinto's future endeavours, emphasising that their personal relationship remains intact.

Concerns Over Paredes and Extended Absence of Smalling

Mourinho then expressed genuine concern over Leandro Paredes, who recently suffered an injury. While Paredes was fortunate not to have a fracture, his availability for the upcoming match remained uncertain. Mourinho hoped that Paredes would be able to contribute, but the injury added another layer of uncertainty to Roma's preparations.

Chris Smalling in action for AS Roma || Credit: Imago
Chris Smalling in action for AS Roma || Credit: Imago

As for Chris Smalling, Mourinho was less optimistic, acknowledging that the defender's recovery process was still ongoing. He did not anticipate Smalling returning to training until the end of the month. This extended absence posed a significant challenge to the team, especially given Smalling's importance in the defensive lineup.

Impact of Injuries and Africa Cup of Nations

Mourinho's frustration was palpable when discussing the impact of injuries and the Africa Cup of Nations on Roma's season. Renato Sanches, who had struggled to find form, was further hindered by the tournament.

Moreover, the absence of Ndicka and Aouar, who were unable to continue their development with the team due to their participation in the Africa Cup of Nations, added to the challenges Roma faced. He was quoted by Roma press as saying, “Smalling’s injury and recovery times ruined my season. And then there is also Renato Sanches who was never in form and this Africa Cup of Nations which made the situation worse by preventing Ndicka and Aouar from continuing to grow with us.”

Houssem Aouar will be away with Algeria at AFCON 2023 | Imago
Houssem Aouar will be away with Algeria at AFCON 2023 | Imago

Mourinho's remarks highlighted the complexities and setbacks that external factors can introduce to a football season and the need for adaptability in managing a squad.

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