Coach Jose Mourinho held his customary pre-match press conference on Wednesday afternoon, as Roma prepare to face Udinese in another important Serie A meeting.
Thursday's game at the Stadio Olimpico gets underway at 20:45 CEST, with the Giallorossi looking to bounce back after a first defeat of the season against Hellas Verona.
Here's what the boss had to say about that 3-2 defeat, and the challenge now in front of the team...
The game against Verona seemed to confirm the suspicion that Roma will struggle in really physical games this season, in games where there are lots of one-on-one battles. Can you resolve that issue somehow, or will you ultimately need to sign a central midfielder who is better suited to dictating the play?
“The transfer window is closed, but you guys want to talk to me about the transfer market! I won’t do it, I won’t talk about transfers. Obviously we will analyse this topic, but I can’t share with you everything we look at and everything we analyse. I understand your question, but I won’t answer it. Not even the first part – I don’t want to talk about the squad suffering in certain circumstances. In the same I didn’t join your euphoria when we won three games in the league and three more in Europe, I am not going to get involved with any talk of 'big problems' now.
“We lost a game, we didn’t play well. And as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing more I need to say to you than that. To my players then, yes, obviously we have analysed the game in detail, but even then we did it in a way that looks to the future, and not back on a game that is already lost and that has already seen us drop three points.”
You are a coach with a lot of experience, that has won everything there is to win. After a defeat like that, which few people expected, how long does it take you to realise whether it is a one-off, or the symptom of a bigger problem?
“Why did so few people expect it? Because we had won the three games before it? Perhaps because here it is too easy for euphoria to start when we win and depression to begin when we lose. I won’t get involved in that. You have all seen me celebrate like crazy [against Sassuolo] after a special win, on a special day for me, in a special minute, in a special way … but you have seen me in that way for just one minute in two months so far. Just once. Other than that you have always seen me remain calm, balanced, never euphoric, never saying that a team that finished 29 points off the top spot last season can win the league. You’ve never seen that from me.
“And, now, you won’t see me doing the opposite just because we’ve lost one game. Perhaps I am too honest, perhaps after the game I could have said that, ‘The referee should not have given Veretout a yellow card, it affected him and how he could play for the rest of the game’. Or I could have talked about the rain which didn’t help, or the condition of the pitch. Perhaps I was too honest when I said, ‘We didn’t play well, we made mistakes.’ Perhaps a draw would have been fair for all; but we lost. We are sad about that but we are still keeping it in perspective.
“And you all will not influence me this way or that way based on one result. I am keeping a balance. I knew what it was like before I came here. I am here exactly because of the experience, the maturity and the balance that I have. To make sure I don’t get the fans too excited after three games won – three games, not thirty. Those were my words. And now, in the same way, to tell the fans not to be too disappointed. We have a lot of work to do, a lot of work to do.
“You are trying to put us in the mix with teams that have finished recent seasons with 15, 20, 25 points more than us. Instead, you need to leave us to it. In the good moments and the bad ones. In the good moments, don’t say that we are candidates to win something – because we are not candidates for anything yet. My words again: We are only candidates to win the next game in front of us. That’s all.
“We lost, and you want me to analyse the game in Verona. I can’t involve myself with that. Monday was a day off for the team, but not for me and my staff. We were here at 10 in the morning. We worked all day, analysing and preparing. The next day the players arrived. We analysed the game, we held meetings both individually and as a team. We went back to work. Now we are trying to win another tough game, this time against Udinese. We are both trying to win this game.
“So we stay calm, we stay balanced. And I am calm. Am I a bit less happy? That’s normal, that’s natural when you’ve lost a game. And we’ve talked about that as well. We need to turn that disappointment into motivation. Not disappointment into depression. If we already have a ‘big problem’ after losing one game, then imagine what’s going on with the other teams that have lost two or three or drawn a few. So we will stay calm.
“We are following our path, and that path is about ambition and focus. But ambition built on a level of calm. That’s how it is. Calm. We are calm.”
What particular difficulties are you expecting from tomorrow’s game? Udinese are also going into the match having suffered a pretty painful defeat at home.
“Painful in terms of the scoreline, yes, but not in the performance. They played against a really good side [Napoli], but they conceded goals from set plays, and the first goal was a bit strange too. But in terms of their organisation and the way they played, both in their first game against Juventus and in that one against Napoli, they showed that they are a solid side that know how to play and how to defend. They are a tough side, in my opinion.
“If they play with five at the back again then it will be in a different system to the five-man defence we say from Verona; it’s a different way of playing but they have a solid foundation about the way they play. They are physically strong, they have some quality players and some creative ones too. They are a decent side. It’ll be a tough game for us.”
Have you lost a bit of the defensive solidity that you seemed to have at the start of the campaign?
“If we didn’t have so much to work on from the outset then, instead of giving me a three-year contract, the ownership would have given me three months and asked me to resolve everything by then. Not three years. And then in those three months I could have sorted it all out. But when I say me of course I mean us: myself, the players, the coaching staff. It’s hard to make great strides in three months. In three months you can improve a team that already has a lot of elements in place. In that situation then you can bring something personal to the situation that will help a well-established team take another step.
“But when a group of players isn’t really a formed team yet, then you can’t expect to improve everything in three months. If the chances we gave away against Sassuolo are a consequence of our own attacking ambition, then that’s not a problem for me. It’s not. It’s the same if we lose a game because we showed too much ambition and desire to win. I have taken some risks in some games with a few substitutions, but I knew what I was doing at the time. Perhaps [after the subs in the game against Sassuolo] we win, or we lose, or we draw 1-1 as it seemed like it was going to finish. That’s not a problem for me. But it is absolutely problem to concede three goals in a game.
“That’s too many. And if you score twice away from home, then you should be winning. You shouldn’t be drawing, you should be winning. In that game then yes, from a defensive perspective, we had a few issues. I won’t go into them now because I think [Udinese coach] Luca Gotti might be interested. That’s normal. But I can acknowledge that we didn’t play well in that game.
"We could have drawn it anyway, if not for the fact Davide Faraoni scored the goal of his life in a part of the match where we were just getting back on top. But I don’t want to make excuses. The referee was good. I won’t blame the pitch, the rain. We lost. And now tomorrow we have another game to win.”
How is Matias Vina doing? Is Riccardo Calafiori a valid option to replace him – or are you thinking of getting a more reliable full-back?
“Vina won’t play tomorrow. But Calafiori is a valid option. But, he’s valid for a 19-year-old, who hasn’t played many games in Serie A yet. He’s a valid option for us as a club. But if you ask the same question to four or five teams in Serie A who are stronger than us then perhaps they won’t say the same, they will say they have two players with more experience than that for the position. But for us he’s an option.
“Against Verona he was a bit timid, but overall it was a balanced performance I thought. When we talk about struggling a bit defensively, I would also say that I always expect my full-backs to have a bit more confidence to go out and play. And we are moving in that direction. He’s a 19-year-old, with talent, but without much experience. He naturally will need time to become a fully-formed player.”
Will you continue to manage Cristante and Veretout’s workload through substitutions, considering how many games the team has coming up?
“There are teams that can think in that way. For us it is a bit tougher. In a few positions it is easier, because there are a number of different players with the same sort of level of quality, experience, workrate, rhythm – but there are others for us where it is a bit harder to have this sort of rotation. I don’t usually say who is going to play, but tomorrow both Cristante and Veretout will start.”
With all your experience, amid all this talk about euphoria and depression, do you think it’s something that risks affecting the players? Even more so in this social media age?
“I can only control my players, I can’t control what you journalists write or what the fans think. I can only try to influence those nearest to me, and obviously the players are first among that.
"I liked what I saw in the dressing room after the wins we’ve had so far, but after the defeat I saw a dressing room that kept a balance. We celebrated a bit after the win against Sassuolo, but I think that’s normal. After our defeat the dressing room was a bit down, which I liked, but down without being excessive. We are back to work now, back focused.
“We need to turn that disappointment into motivation. But with a balance about things, that’s important. I’ve already said that a season is not a motorway. The season is a country road, with twists and turns and ups and downs, and you need to drive it with concentration, attention but also with a level head. It’s not a motorway.
"Perhaps a season is a motorway for the very best teams, the teams that win, win, win. Perhaps Bayern Munich, or Paris Saint-Germain. But it’s not a motorway for us. So we’ll stay calm. Slowly, slowly we’ll make our way.”