Stephan El Shaarawy, fresh off his match-winner against Sassuolo on Sunday night, faced the media on Wednesday to preview Roma's Europa Conference League opener against CSKA Sofia.
Thursday's game, the first of the group stage in this season's competition, gets underway at 21:00 CEST at the Stadio Olimpico .
Here's what the Italy international had to say...
In your career you have always been a key player for your teams – how are you finding it now, starting the season on the bench?
“I’m certainly not feeling anxious or under pressure about it. I have a lot of experience in Serie A and I know what the coach wants, what his process is. I know that if you want to compete at the highest levels then you need a lot of competition for places in attack, and you need to be able to accept the decisions the coach makes.
“As I said after Sunday’s game, the wait is always worthwhile. And what I mean by that is that the goal I scored was really important for me. So it’s important to be able to wait for your moment and then be ready when it comes. I think that is something that has helped me stand out over the years.”
If you look back on things, what do you think now about your spell in China?
“That chapter of my career is closed for me now. It was a different experience, I took the opportunity I had, and then my aim was to come back to Roma. We were able to do that and I have to thank the General Manager and the club ownership for bringing me back. Now I’m focused exclusively on helping Roma, doing well here, and of course earning back my spot with the national team.”
What are the differences between the Roma you left behind and the one you returned to? And with experience do you see the environment around the club a little differently now?
“When I came back, I was rejoining a really strong squad in terms of the quality. We had started the season really well, then we dropped off a bit towards the end. But we have restarted this season with a project that has plenty of players with experience and also some younger guys with a lot of talent. The club has really invested in the coach, who has a vast amount of experience and knowledge – everyone knows what he’s done – and who the players all want to follow.
“Clearly there are high expectations, but I don’t think this should put too much pressure on us. It will just make us more determined and enthusiastic to get to work. That enthusiasm will feed us. We can achieve what we want by winning and by working hard, just as we’ve been doing so far.”
How much healthy competition is there within the dressing room at the moment – and do you think that’s the recipe needed to achieve something?
“There’s a lot of competition. If you want to focus on big targets, then that’s how it needs to be and it can’t scare you. There are young players here and others with more experience. But the aim for each of us has to be to train hard, calmly but with focus, to make sure we are all ready when called upon.
“There will come a time when things aren’t going as well. We’ve started well, we’ve started strongly, but we need to stay focused and on guard. Because the tough moments will come, we know that well, and so we need to make sure we are able to react and bounce back in the right way.”
How does having a striker like Tammy Abraham change the way the team plays?
“He’s another really young guy. But he’s settled in really well in Rome. I think he was welcomed into the fold in the right way and he’s managed to adjust and integrate in the best manner possible.
“He’s a complete player – he’s technically good, he can run into the spaces, he can hold up the ball. So, because of all that, he’s definitely a key player for us and can be a huge help on the pitch.”
After your time in China, was it a bit difficult to rediscover your fitness or re-adjust mentally to being back?
“A bit of both. But perhaps it was more about the fitness. Because during the year that was worst affected by Covid, we stopped for sixth months. Then I came back to Italy, only playing when I was with the national team, not training with a club side either in Italy or in China.
“So this summer was my first pre-season in three years, so in terms of the fitness stuff I had the chance to charge up a bit more. We discussed all that with the fitness guys and prepared an individual training plan as a result. Now I feel really good, and the target is to make sure I keep building on this.”