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    De Rossi: "Monza a very good team but we're in form"

    Daniele De Rossi sat down with the media the day before Roma travel to Monza for Serie A Matchday 27.

    Read what the boss had to say...

    How are the injured players coming along? Is everyone available except Tammy Abraham and maybe Rick Karsdorp? Given that tomorrow is the first of three games in a week, how do you plan to manage Paulo Dybala?

    “Everyone is all fine except Karsdorp. He won't be making the trip because his knee is causing him a bit of agro. It's nothing serious but he needs a bit more time. And Abraham of course.

    “Managing the team is easy when you have lots of good players. You pick the team you think can win you the game, knowing that if someone gets tired you can make a substitution and that for the next game in three or four days' time you can change players without lowering the level of the team.

    “I'm relaxed. I'll put out a team that I think can help us win the match. Dybala is fine. I don't know how many times he's played 110 minutes and then another 90 minutes three days later. We should be happy with his condition. I think it's psychological too, not just physical: he's in a good place after scoring a hat-trick.

    “When you score three goals, those little niggles bother you less. I'm happy with the way he and all the other players are doing and recovering.”

    You and Raffaele Palladino are two of Serie A's youngest coaches and Monza and Roma have both been on good runs. Do you think Monza will return to a back three?

    “If you'd asked me two or three weeks ago, I'd have said they would play 3-4-2-1, but they've changed things around a bit in recent matches. They've had some good results. We do have our doubts. As always for matches like this, you have to prepare for more than one type of game.

    “We have to be ready to take on a team that builds with three, defends with three, attacks with three, creates play with four. We're ready for anything, both options. But we know they're a very good team with a coach I rate particularly highly. We spoke a few days ago.

    “We started the UEFA Pro course together. Then we both found ourselves in this situation unexpectedly, him a bit before me. I'm happy for him. He deserves it and he's an excellent coach. He's seizing the opportunity with two hands and I think he has a bright future. Tomorrow we'll try to beat him.”

    You've basically used all the players. Is this your way of making everyone feel involved? Can we say that Roma is a bit more like a family than before?

    “I don't know what it was like before. I've heard a few things but that's not my job. I'm not trying to do something different to before.

    “I try to manage the group the same way I did at SPAL, where the results perhaps weren't so good, but it's not all that different to the way I managed the dressing room as captain, as a veteran, or however you want to call us older players when we try to help the younger lads.

    “Of course it's a different level of responsibility, a different role, different choices to make. When you're the captain, you're everyone's friend. When you're the coach, you are a friend but you have to leave 11, 12, 13 players out of the team every game. And you know that some of them are giving you a bit of a look. You said 'family' and if we're not quite there yet we're definitely getting there. The results we're achieving on the pitch are a massive help. But that's how the dressing should be, how the team should be, how professionals should be. When you're happy, you might stay an extra hour to work on your posture or to have more therapy and you don't rush off home.”

    “I was a footballer myself so I know what it's like. Footballers have to be happy to come to training, to work hard and run hard. Happy to do a job that has to be perfect, mentally and physically. Not happy to play football. It's a deal. We're all happy to come to the pitch but we're here from 7:15 until 5:30 yesterday, 7:40 the other night. It's tiring. You sit in front of the computer all day. It's tiring but we enjoy it. And they have to know they'll enjoy it. They'll have a coach and staff to work with, but as friends, in a family atmosphere. But then they do have to come in here and do their jobs properly, otherwise our attitude will change.”

    Do you think Dybala scoring a hat-trick while playing in a 3-5-2 system – where he's perhaps freer to express himself – was just a coincidence? What's Romelu Lukaku's condition like?

    “Regarding Dybala's position in relation to our formation, he scored a penalty, a 30-yarder and another with one of his runs into the box: one-two, shoots, scores. There's nothing tactical stopping him from doing those things when we play with four and nothing special about three that gets more out of him. I think he's often played with four in the past and done great things.

    “If you look at the goals, they could happen even if we were playing 5-5-0. The change of formation was a coincidence as far as I can see. He seems a lot more relaxed

    “People say Lukaku was called into question but everyone gets called into question. Paulo included. Me more than anyone. I make decisions every day, for many different reasons. Sometimes it's performance related, sometimes team management. Lukaku has played 90 minutes lots of times, so that's one aspect you might want to manage. I took him off against Frosinone because he wasn't at his best in the first half but it's perfectly normal.

    “His condition is that of a player, a star player, who comes on, works his socks off, makes runs, tussles with opponents, sets up a goal. He couldn't be in better condition.

    “Obviously players are happy when they're playing every game. But a player who gets taken off and starts the next game on the bench, then comes on and looks like a kid making his debut is the sort of player every coach would like.”

    It was surprising to see him come off the bench.

    “It's not surprising. That's his job. What's he supposed to do? It would be surprising if a sub comes on thinking he's superior, sulks and doesn't run around.”

    You've seen plenty of players like that in your time...

    “I don't see many in this team. In fact, I don't see any. As a player it's probably what annoyed me more than anything. Sometimes you might be a bit worked up or annoyed with the coach. It's the same now. Some people are going to be less happy and I can take that as it's part of the job. But when you step onto the pitch, in training, you have to run hard. And in a match, you have to run even harder. That's how it should be. They're not my rules – it's the same for any coach. From that point of view, Romelu is the perfect player.”

    It seems like you've created a bubble here: you and the team, with the results on the pitch and your matches. But all around you Roma looks like a work in progress, with people being fired, the sporting director having left, and so on. As someone who's been part of Roma for over 20 years, do you get the impression things are being dismantled? Has anyone spoken to you about it?

    “No, I don't get that impression. We're doing a good job and the club is doing a good job of instilling all the calm we need. Results are helping. In a way, we're a bit of a separate area compared to everything going on above and below us. If you go to Manchester City and other big clubs, the first team wouldn't know if a bomb went off in the offices because they're in a different place.

    “Big clubs are able to and tend to keep the first team not in a bubble, because it's not as if we're on another planet, but in the ideal conditions to focus on your work. That's what I'm doing. It's not that I don't see what's going on around me but I have to relate to the club within the scope of my role.

    “And my club, Lina [Souloukou] Maurizio [Lombardo], the people who are here, they're fully involved, 24 hours a day. They're here for me. If I pick up the phone and call Ryan and president Dan, the same. Time difference permitting, they're always available. I can have no complaints. I know there are changes, as happens in lots of clubs, and there will be in the future because some positions are uncovered, but all I can do is focus on my work.

    “As you say, thanks to the results we're in a better place emotionally, let's say. But as for everything else, it's not my job, it's not my area, it's not for me to say and I wield no power. Focusing on the football is the best thing I can do. Having said that, the atmosphere does seem very good. I don't know exactly what's going on but I don't think it's much different to what happens at lots of other clubs."

    Chris Smalling can play in any position. Is he fully back in the game now? Can he play in a back four or does he need a bit more time?

    “He's getting there now. Maybe I've been unnecessarily cautious and he'd have performed even better playing in a four. We don't know. But when you haven't played for such a long time, your knee is fine and you feel fine but maybe your muscles aren't used to the sprints, the distances, the dynamics you get in a match. You look strong in training but it puts a different level of stress on the body to sprinting in a match or the physical contact with an opponent. My idea was to give him two guard dogs either side of him, so that he had to cover less ground. But that's not to say he couldn't do more. Also because if he's playing, it's because all of the staff have worked with him. They've seen him run short distances, long distances, sprints. It's a team effort. And I'm the final piece. I decided to do it that way to make it easier for him, but he's coming to the end of it now.

    “It was the same thinking against Frosinone. I didn't want to throw him straight into the starting line-up at the first opportunity. I wanted to give him a taster given than he hadn't played for nine months.

    “I was the same when we came back from the summer. You'd start pre-season and for the first hour and a half, you couldn't even pass the ball properly. I guess he felt a bit of emotion, a bit of joy, and I tried to protect him, but going forward he's going to be a very important player for us regardless of the formation we play.”

    How do you think Leo Paredes is doing?

    “Paredes is improving the things I'm asking him to improve. We don't waste time talking about his ball management, although there are a few things I want him to do differently there too – a bit more direct, more vertical, quicker – and he's doing it really well. He's catching on and taking it all on board because he's a very intelligent footballer.

    “He's intelligent without the ball too, but a little instinctive sometimes. A midfielder has to be reflective. A really good midfielder maybe wins a few balls less himself but enables the team-mates around him to win the ball.

    “I had lots of team-mates who were lauded for making ten slide tackles every game and winning the ball four times, whereas I perhaps made one and the other nine times I held my position to allow one of my team-mates to win it. As a midfielder, you have to do lots of work – both seen and unseen. Midfielders and defenders, in my book.

    “It's great to have an energetic, gritty player who charges in and steals the ball but a midfielder who does only that is dangerous. A midfielder who always rushes forward is dangerous. A midfielder who always rushes in is dangerous. Knowing when to hold your position is so important in football. Leo is understanding that and doing it really well. And he's got a football brain. He knows where to position himself. He knows where the ball will end up. Where it will bounce. He's smart in one on ones. A proper Argentine.

    “I like the way he's doing the job I've asked of him. Not that I'm asking him to do completely different things, just slightly different things, as I'm asking everyone. But I'm giving the central midfielders a few more pointers.”

    With all the rotating, I was wondering if it's also an option for Roma to play two centre-backs plus Gianluca Mancini, which could resemble Luciano Spalletti’s famous “three and a half” system that you know well.

    “Yes, why not? It could work. Also because the same thing applies to him as it did to Paredes: he has football entrenched in his head. He understands what he needs to do defensively. He knows when to push forward and he's one of those players who, since my retirement, has also played as a central midfielder.

    “I thought he turned in some exceptional performances in midfield under [Paulo] Fonseca, which impressed me. He can do a bit of everything and he does it well. I'm very happy with him. It should be more of a tactical discussion than a choice of personnel because we have three very strong right-backs. In my opinion, Angelino could also play on the right, obviously with different tasks, with an inclination to move inside, which is a bit different from a traditional full-back.

    “But Mancini can do this and he can do other things. When you have a full-back who is more of a centre-back than a full-back, perhaps the ideal thing would be to have another player in front of him who is good at playing as a winger too. In that position, we have [Tommaso] Baldanzi and Dybala, who are more like attacking midfielders. Having someone who is more of an outlet is always better.

    “On the other side, we have Stephan [El Shaarawy] and we could also think about having a central defender playing on the left flank.

    “But these are all solutions that we then choose on a game-by-game basis. The best coach in the world reaches the Champions League final with centre-backs on the flanks. [Pep] Guardiola has played many games with centre-backs deployed as full-backs. So why not? It's a solution that we would consider based on our game strategy. It’s not because we don't trust our full-backs. We have plenty of good ones in fact.”

    There’s been a lot of talk about Dybala’s hat-trick, but it was also a hat-trick of sorts for you as coach with your first three-game winning run. What sort of opponents will Monza be after facing Torino and Feyenoord? They’ve made life difficult for everyone this season and they push forward down the wings. We suffer as a team when crosses are sent into the box and have conceded plenty of goals that way. How will the approach be against Monza, a side that does so much running?

    “They are certainly a difficult team to play against in any circumstances. They made it tough for Roma in the reverse fixture and put in a strong performance even when down to ten men.

    “They beat AC Milan recently, so they can pull off results against the top sides. They know how to play football. I think they’re less aggressive than Atalanta and Torino, even though they come from the same footballing school. They don’t have the same man-to-man aggression that Torino have. Maybe they’ll do more of that against us because they’ve seen how hard we found it in the first half against Torino. These are the sorts of hypotheses that we’re imagining.

    “As for crosses, it’s important to mark well when crosses come into the box, but it’s also important to manage the crosses. I think that cross could’ve been managed better before they got into the box. I’m speaking about [Duvan] Zapata’s goal because our marking in the area was good. When a player jumps that high and directs it inside the post, they score and it may look like we made a mistake in the penalty area, but sometimes you just have to congratulate the opposition, just as they congratulated Paulo [Dybala] when he scored from 30 yards out.

    “Maybe Angelino needed more support when [Raoul] Bellanova was there because he has an extra yard on him. We had prepared for the game with that in mind. We could’ve helped him by doubling up to be set up better as that would’ve helped us not let the crosses come in. We faced crosses against Torino and we’ll do so against Monza. Crosses are part of football."