Read everything boss Jose Mourinho had to say after an opening day win over Fiorentina...
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jordan Veretout (2) were the scorers in a 3-1 win at the Stadio Olimpico, as debutant Tammy Abraham also caught the eye with an all-action display.
What are your initial thoughts after that game then?
“It was a great game, a true battle, even if we didn’t play great. We did well when it was 11 against 11 and then 10 against 10, but when it was 11 against 10 we didn’t do so well.
“Perhaps that’s because we thought it was going to be easy for us. I said to [Vincenzo] Italiano after the game that, given the way that Fiorentina played tonight, they clearly have a great coach. I have to say that the referee did well tonight and that VAR was amazing – that’s what it is there for, to spot the small mistakes that can have a decisive impact on the result.
“I liked the spirit we showed, the sacrifices we made, the hard work we put in after a really hard game like we had on Wednesday. But, that being said, we ran into some issues I wasn’t expecting. When it was 11 against 10 we lost a bit of our structure and the pressure dropped – but it should have been easier to apply pressure at that point. Then, when it was 10 against 10, we were back in the game – we had the chance to score through Tammy [Abraham], and then after that we did get the goals and were able to see out the game.”
Do you think that Eldor Shomurodov and Tammy Abraham can play together in future?
“Definitely – even today we discussed that option, because it’s not easy to leave on the bench a player who has scored in three straight games. Shomurodov can play on the left or in a front two alongside Tammy.
“The problem is that, right now, I don’t want to think about putting the two together – right now neither of them have the same sharpness as a player who has been training with us since the start of pre-season. So to play them together right now is a bit too risky.
“But I immediately thought about it, with Pellegrini sitting behind them. We have different options. But right now the only thing that makes me say this is my team is the spirit they show: the team-work, the sacrifices and the organisation, especially in defensive. In terms of the attacking element, it will take time.
“Fiorentina made life difficult; they know what to do when they have the ball and also when they don’t. I have to give a lot of credit to Italiano, because he joined Fiorentina at the same time I came to Roma and, for me, it’s hard to really reshape a team in six or seven weeks of work. Fiorentina really play well. They will make life hard for every other team they face. They will have a great season and I wish them well.”
What’s your verdict on Tammy Abraham tonight? And why did you decide to start him?
“I decided to start him because, as a target man to work off, he’s better in that role than Shomurodov. Eldor is more of a mobile player who, when he came on, I was thinking that those spaces in behind their defence were made for him to attack.
“Tammy wanted to come off but, even if he hadn’t been tired, I would have made the same change a few minutes later because Shomurodov is very dangerous when he attacks the spaces, whereas Tammy is more involved in the hold-up.
“We knew that they would try to press us high and, when that happened, Tammy did well to drop in and help hold up the ball – it came to his feet and that allowed Pellegrini and Mkhitaryan to get behind him and start to build the play forward.
“That’s what we worked on, but at times you have a gameplan and then things go completely differently. Sometimes that’s our fault, sometimes that is down to the opponents. I would like to say this time that, when it didn't work, it was down to Fiorentina, who played really well.”
What can you tell us about your emotions after your debut here?
“My debut with the fans was when I signed the contract with Roma in London and the news was published to the media. I have to thank the fans for that day. I had not done anything for them and had even won a Coppa Italia here in this stadium. I haven’t done anything for them yet.”
And yet you are already one of them now…
“Because there’s an attraction, for how I’ve been embraced, even from a distance. And you know what I do: when I arrive, I see the new shirt and I immediately become one of the fans. I think I can transmit this attitude to the players too.
“I think the fans saw that today, even if we didn’t play too well. The players gave it everything, despite having played on Thursday, despite having returned at four in the morning and despite not being as fresh as they could have been.
"That heart, that bond with the fans, is my promise: with me we will always give everything.”