Dibala will have to find common ground with Mourinho at Roma
This summer transfer window so far has been rich in high-profile acquisitions – Paul Pogba left for Juventus, Bayern acquired Matthijs de Ligt, Erling Holland moved to Manchester City. Another one happened today – Paulo Dibala said goodbye to Juventus and signed a contract with Roma. At the new team he has other tasks, new roles and Jose Mourinho is the head coach of the Romans.
Dibala is a top footballer. But he has talent in certain positions
If Mourinho wants to get the most out of this transfer, he will have to solve the conundrum in terms of placing Dibala on the field – the player’s career at Juventus shows that he reveals his full potential in certain positions.
After coming to the Old Lady the Argentine gradually switched from the position of a central striker to the position of the “ten” – the decision taken by the Turin head coach Massimiliano Allegri. For Paulo it was perhaps the best in his career – in the new role he revealed himself most clearly, scoring 22 goals and giving 5 assists in 33 games in the Italian Serie A season 2017/18. Later, the forward was tried to put on the right wing, but with this position Dibala had problems.
In Rome, the Argentine will not be so easily given a place in the center of attack – Tammy Abraham has already played well there, it will be better for the team to leave the Englishman in the same place. It would be logical to switch to the scheme 4-2-3-1 – that’s how Juventus played in Paulo’s successful season. It’s also how the Romans played at the start of last season and in the middle of it. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pelligrini shared playing time with this formation under the striker. Given that the Armenian left, the acquisition of Dybala makes sense – he will add variety to the attack.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that Juventus, under Allegri, have been more proactive than Mourinho’s Roma. The Portuguese built his career on playing second-string and now often has a deeper footing when tackling the ball. Paulo will probably need to be involved in defensive action, which means that once he has possession, he will be further away from the other side of the pitch. A possible solution to the problem could be a switch to a pair of Abraham-Dybala strikers.
Mourinho has always demanded character – he can mentally crush Dibala
José is famous for his fiery interviews – they clearly describe the Portuguese’s demands on the players who make up his team’s ranks.
In January 2022 he noted:
I have been given three years for this team to add, but for that I need help from the club. The team doesn’t show leadership qualities when something happens on the field. There is no man with a strong character. We have to get out of our comfort zone, where we’re happy with sixth or seventh place. I told the guys that in order to do that, they have to reach for me, not me to move in their direction, as far as the psychological aspect is concerned.
The Argentine forward, on the other hand, is considered a player who needs to be approached – to adjust his game model and find the optimal position. This is also borne out by the fact that Paulo’s productivity at Juventus eased after Ronaldo arrived – Allegri immediately restructured the scheme for the Portuguese forward and started to put the Argentine on the right flank more frequently. The game didn’t go well there and Dybala went down – he failed to fully regain his form.
Jose might roll over the team during a press conference – it will not be the best way to affect the microclimate in the team. The situation is reminiscent of the relationship between the coach and Pogba at Manchester United – the Frenchman is also seen as a mood player, although more selfish and lazy on the pitch than Dibala. But the parallels suggest that Mourinho might simply “eat” Paulo, and he would sink and lose a few years of soccer life.
José may not work out until winter – any slump in the table could be mistaken for a failure
Roma looked weak in Serie A, without the usual traps of the Portuguese in the pressing, but with a simple bus. As a result, the team were at the back of the European top seven – sixth place with 63 points in 38 meetings. The negative impression was smoothed out by a victorious performance in the Conference League. But the fact remains that, absent progress, the Italian side will have to part ways with Mourinho.
The acquisition of Dybala also fits into that picture. It will be strange for the management not to see the result of the quality reinforcements – in addition to the Argentine Nemanja Matic, familiar with Mourinho from Manchester United, and the profile right-back Zeki Celic came to the team. The measure of success is likely to be getting into the Champions League zone – seven points short of it last year.
Speaking about the goals for the upcoming campaign, Jose said:
“We want to try to qualify for the Champions League, but when you look at the level of transfer activity of Inter, AC Milan and Juventus, you realize that three of the four qualifying spots are already taken. There is a fourth place, last season it was Atalanta, this season it’s Napoli, can we get there next season? I think we can do it. Next season, after a year of work and development at every level, I think we have a chance, and that’s the next goal.
Romans’ first match of the new Italian championship season is August 14 against Salernitana. We may see initial attempts to build Paulo into the game model there already. But so far it looks like not a very well-thought-out gamble – the player has a quality vision of the field, good at long-range shots and at the last pass, but by mentality he clearly does not suit Jose. In the worst case, this transfer could be a serious blow to Dibala’s career – he has already endured the transformation of Juventus under Cristiano heavily. Judging by the calmness in the management, dismissal of Mourinho should not be expected, so the only salvation will be a quick adaptation of Paulo at Roma.