He’s one of the best players to come out of Roma’s academy in the last few years, but Lorenzo Pellegrini’s first season with the club since returning from Sassuolo was mixed.
He had some good moments, scoring his first goals for his boyhood club, but other times he didn’t have as much of an impact as he could have. He managed a respectable three goals and four assists in Serie A, but some fans were still left wanting a bit more productivity from the 22-year-old.
However, those fans shouldn’t lose faith just yet. Pellegrini has a big year ahead of him, one that will show the direction he is going in as a player. And if history repeats itself, he could be in for a good year.
Looking back at his time at Sassuolo – where he played under current Roma boss Eusebio Di Francesco – it’s clear that Pellegrini performed much better in his second season. Whereas his first campaign with the Neroverdi had brought just 13 starts, in which he scored three times but failed to register an assist, he became more comfortable in the first team the following year. In 2016/17, Pellegrini featured in 28 league games for Di Francesco’s side, also making his European debut after Sassuolo’s remarkable qualification for the Europa League.
As his gametime increased, so did his output. He contributed an equal number of goals and assists – six each, a high figure for a midfielder. At the end of the season, he was rewarded for his form with his senior international debut, against Liechtenstein in a World Cup qualifier, and a transfer back to Roma, where he had previously captained the Primavera side.
Can he follow a similar pattern of progression in his second season back in Rome? His first year was decent, but showed that he sometimes needs to be more clinical. He certainly managed to make that transition after a full year in Sassuolo’s first team, doubling his goal tally, and he will be hoping that he can progress again as he looks to nail down a place in Roma’s midfield.
With the summer acquisitions of Javier Pastore, Bryan Cristante and Ante Coric, there is now more competition in the position. Pellegrini will have to work hard to secure his place in the side, but if he does, he will have a big opportunity to show what he can do. A good season could see him get back in contention for a place in the national team, and would make him another success story for Roma’s youth setup.
Some fans seem to have lost a bit of belief in Lorenzo Pellegrini, but with the right attitude, he can prove all his doubters wrong in 2018/19. It’s time for him to step up and deliver on a regular basis. And with a wealth of lessons learnt from one full season at Roma, it’s something he has the potential to achieve.