Jose Mourinho’s honeymoon period at AS Roma is well in the past after a shock 3-2 defeat by Venezia on Sunday left the capital club in crisis and their Portuguese manager raising familiar gripes.
Mourinho enjoyed a strong start to life in Rome, winning six games in a row in all competitions, but since then performances have slid and the 58-year-old has criticised his players, Roma’s transfers and referees.
He said after the defeat in Venice that “this is not the year to dream big”, complaining that his squad is unbalanced and that “when you lose a player to injury or suspension, you have to invent something”.
A lack of squad depth is already a familiar complaint, but there were few excuses for the result.
Venezia, promoted from Serie B last season, are fighting relegation and began the day with the worst attack in the league. Roma were the first team to concede three times to Paolo Zanetti’s side this season, and did so after holding a 2-1 halftime lead.
The result saw the Giallorossi drop to sixth, with one win in their last seven games in all competitions and four points from their last five league matches.
Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport described Roma as in ‘freefall’. Their report highlighted that Roma’s average points and goals scored have slid from 3 and 3.1 respectively in their first six games, to 0.8 and 1.3 in the last six, while the average goals conceded per game has risen from 0.4 to 2.3 in that period.
The Venezia setback was not Mourinho’s first embarrassment. Last month, a second-string Roma side lost 6-1 at Bodo/Glimt in the UEFA Conference League.
“If I could pick the same players every time I would, but it is a risk. There is a difference in quality between one group of players and the other,” Mourinho said after the game in Norway.
Mourinho subsequently left five players who started in Norway – Bryan Reynolds, Marash Kumbulla, Amadou Diawara, Gonzalo Villar and Borja Mayoral – out of his squad for a 0-0 draw with Napoli, filling his bench with youth players instead.
The coach was sent off in that game for complaints to the referee, and has since tried to hold his tongue despite being visibly furious with the officiating in a 2-1 defeat by AC Milan and against Venezia. He also hit out at the club’s summer transfer business, complaining that the signings were “reactive” and that “the squad is not better than last year”. That was despite a net transfer spend of around 100 million euros ($115.54 million), the highest in Italy.
Parallels between Mourinho’s public outbursts in Rome and those in his previous two jobs at Manchester United and Tottenham have not gone unnoticed. At Spurs, the manager was widely criticised for his treatment of Dele Alli, who was regularly left out of the squad and made two league starts last season before Mourinho was sacked in April.
The Portuguese also said in February 2021 that Gareth Bale’s social media post saying he had a good training session was a “a contradiction of reality”.
At Manchester United, Mourinho repeatedly picked out Luke Shaw for criticism, and his relationship with Paul Pogba broke down. The Frenchman was stripped of the vice-captaincy in Sept 2018 after being dropped for key games the season before, including their Champions League last-16 second leg defeat by Sevilla.
Mourinho has emphasised that he has three years to make his Roma project a success, but the club’s demanding fanbase will hope to see the slump reversed soon, and a more positive atmosphere return.