Ahead of the new campaign, our columnist takes a look at how Betty Bavagnoli's evolving squad is taking shape...
After laying the foundations for a bright future in their promising first season, Roma Women have made some exciting changes to their squad ahead of the new campaign.
Eight new signings, of seven different nationalities and varying levels of experience, have arrived in the capital, ready to bring their qualities to Betty Bavagnoli’s squad.
The roster was already boosted by the retention of most of last season’s key players, including captain Elisa Bartoli, top scorer Annamaria Serturini, and creative forces Giada Greggi and Agnese Bonfantini.
Now, those star players will be supplemented by several new additions of the highest pedigree, as Roma look to bridge the gap towards the top two.
The most eye-catching arrival of the summer has been Manuela Giugliano, in whom Roma have got themselves a gem. The creative midfielder, who joined from Milan, was a key part of the Italy side that, to some extent, surpassed expectations at this year’s World Cup by reaching the quarter-finals.
Only 21 years old, but already with six years of Serie A action under her belt, Giugliano brings many qualities to the Roma midfield. As a teenager, she had an eye for goal, reaching double figures in the seasons she spent with Mozzanica and Verona, but now, in a more competitive field, she takes more joy in creating goals for her teammates.
For example, in Italy’s World Cup group stage clash with Jamaica, she recorded two assists, each showing a different aspect to her game. Her first, for Italy’s third goal, was an inviting cross from the right wing, floated in deep to pick out Cristiana Girelli. In contrast, her second showed her ability in threading through balls, as she essentially took three players out of the game with a perfectly-weighted pass along the ground for Aurora Galli.
Giugliano’s creativity will add a new dimension to Roma’s midfield, which already has a good blend of physicality and technical ability. Tactically, she should have no problems fitting in, given that she is comfortable either at the base of a midfield three (where she could rotate with Vanessa Bernauer), or in a more advanced role, able to take some of the workload off the wingers and tireless fellow midfielder Greggi when making chances for her teammates.
But Giugliano is not the only World Cup star who has arrived. Brazil international Andressa Alves will add quality to Roma’s attack after years of impressing for the Selecao and at club level with the likes of Barcelona, where she spent the past three seasons.
The 26-year-old will bring plenty of South American flair to the table, while her versatility will be an added bonus for Bavagnoli. Equally comfortable playing out wide or down the middle, Andressa possesses a powerful and precise left foot, which has helped her develop an impressive goalscoring record.
While her starting position can vary, many of her goals come from central areas, which will ease a concern for Roma. Last season, neither Martina Piemonte nor Luisa Pugnali, despite some hard-working displays, managed more than five goals in Serie A. With both now having departed, Andressa will be looking to improve on what her predecessors managed – while offering another option out wide depending on the situation.
Joining Andressa in that quest to get more goals from a central area will be Amalie Thestrup, a prolific attacker from Denmark. Her goals to games ratio speaks for itself, and she could become a focal point for Bavagnoli’s side this year.
Scoring 17 goals in 24 games for Ballerup-Skovlunde Fodbold last season, Thestrup clearly possesses a clinical edge to compliment her technical skill.
She will need to adapt to a new league, but if she can replicate those statistics for Roma, it should help her new side take the step up to the next level. And at 24 years old, she is ready to do the same.
A third new arrival in the forward line is Lindsey Thomas. The French forward only managed four goals for Dijon last season, but coming to a fresh environment should give her the chance to get her career back on track.
Thomas, also 24, still has potential to grow. Just three years ago she scored 12 goals in 20 games for Montpellier, the club where she had come through the youth ranks. Only four players in the French top flight scored more than her that year, so she will be hoping to reignite that form for her new team.
One of the players that scored more than Thomas that season was, predictably, Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg. The Norwegian became the inaugural recipient of the Women’s Ballon D’Or last year, and having scored a 16-minute hat trick in this year’s Champions League final, is likely to be in contention again in 2019.
And one Hegerberg will be representing Roma this season – Ada’s sister, Andrine. Whilst it is important not to judge Andrine by the standards of her younger sibling – they play in different positions, for starters – her arrival will still give Bavagnoli a big boost.
Of course, she has already made clear the affection she had for Roma when she was younger, which means she will be highly motivated to perform well for her new club.
Hegerberg represented PSG last year, playing her part as they pushed Lyon to the end in Ligue 1. And while the expectations on the midfielder will be high, simply because of her surname, the 26-year-old should react well and bring her own unique qualities, adding further bite and physicality to an essential area of the pitch.
Hegerberg, then, will bring a wealth of experience, but when Roma assembled their first ever women’s squad last year, there was a key emphasis on developing young potential – as seen through the prominent roles given to the likes of Greggi, Bonfantini and Angelica Soffia.
That trend has also continued into their second summer, as Tecla Pettenuzzo has been added to the backline.
But despite her 19 years of age, the defender has already amassed a lot of playing experience. She was ever-present for Sassuolo last season, helping them finish just three points behind Roma.
Before that, she had a spell at Brescia, where she got to play in the Champions League, so she will have already developed a good understanding of what it takes to succeed at the top level.
The first signing announced this summer was another defender. Kaja Erzen will provide much-needed experience in some of the most important areas of the pitch.
The versatile Slovenian can play in midfield, but tends to operate as a right-back, a role which was mainly occupied by teenager Soffia last year.
Soffia did very well considering her age, and even if Erzen’s arrival might take some game-time away from her, the new addition will be an invaluable resource for the Italian youth international to learn from. It is fundamental to have experience in such an important position – with Bartoli providing that in spades on the opposite flank of defence – and Erzen will ensure the right-hand side is also strong.
At the other end of the age spectrum to Soffia, 33-year-old goalkeeper Rosalia Pipitone was solid for Roma last season, earning herself a space in Italy’s World Cup squad. However, just like her teammate, she went through the season relatively unchallenged for her place.
Now, Roma have brought in Camelia Ceasar, who should definitely keep Pipitone on her toes. Already having made more than 80 Serie A appearances, before the age of 22, the Romanian can be classed as one of the most promising shot-stoppers in the division.
Whether she will be able to prise the gloves away from Pipitone remains to be seen, but it’s this kind of depth and competition for places that could prove crucial to any side hoping to maintain a challenge near the top of the table.
There is indeed a sense of optimism that this new-look squad will be able to help Roma develop further than last year. Areas that didn’t quite have the required depth last season have been addressed, and experienced bodies brought in to improve upon what was already there.
The positive blend of young and senior players has continued, while the new names that have yet to play in Italy should bring an added element of unpredictability for Roma’s rivals.
All in all, it has been a positive summer for Roma Women off the field, and the players already seem to be gelling with each other. The schedule presents them with some tough opening fixtures – with games against Milan and Fiorentina in the first two weeks – but this squad has enough quality now to not fear any opponent.