Last season was truly crucial for Roma, they not only proved that they can play at the top and threaten Juventus, they also learned that they have to exceed at least 90 points to beat Juventus. Now, this means that they will need 30 wins in the 34-game Serie A, a goal that seems ridiculous if you are not Juventus. Only the gods of football know how they can maintain their success. Nevertheless, without Mohammed Saleh, Antonio Rüdiger and Leandro Paredes, their job is not easy this year. Although Rüdiger's and Parades's replacements are a mystery, at least Roma fans know who will replace Saleh, with a much different style, namely Cengiz Ünder from Başakşehir. With their current transfer record, Ünder is the only player who can maintain Roma's attacking power on the wings.
Now, at this point careful readers may point out that Ünder's original position is not right wing, but left wing. This comment misses the point that Ünder's game is still developing quickly and his style of play is not set in stone yet. He may take his skills to the right wing with ease considering his age and his ability to learn. When I interviewed Başakşehir FK's coach Abdullah Avcı last year, he told me that Ünder was so quick in adapting his game to the needs of his team that he immediately put him in the starting line-up without hesitation.
On the other hand, Roma has Stephan el-Shaarawy on the left wing, and even though he is also young and developing, his style is pretty much decided by his left footed dribbling abilities on the left wing. In my opinion it is a much harder quest to force Shaarawy to adapt his game to the right wing than simply preparing Ünder to play in this position starting from pre-season camp. Of course, Paraguayan international Juan Iturbe is also an alternative for that position, but since he has not had a good season at both Roma and Torino, I do not think he will be enough to compensate for Salah's departure.
Now, Ünder and Mohammed Salah are obviously two vastly different players, and it would be irrational to expect the same performance from them. Ünder may not compensate the physical qualities of Salah and especially his explosiveness in counter-attacks, but he can contribute to controlled, skillful set-pieces in the right wing of Roma. His playmaking and passing skills would be a great partner for Radja Nainggolan in the center. But this does not mean that as long as Roma continues to practice counter-attacking the efficiency of Ünder will decrease, he can also adapt his game to that and that was pretty much what Başakşehir practiced last year. But the question is, how well his potential can be used in an imbalanced and uncontrolled offensive game? Yes, Salah was the type of player who would triple his performance in counter-attacking, but Ünder is a different jewel. If Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco can see his potential, Roma can come up with a game that can beat Juventus.
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