Pau Lopez showing signs of a second turning point in his Roma career

It hasn’t been an easy ride for Pau Lopez at Roma, but it looks like he might finally be heading in the right direction again.

Lopez was Roma’s most expensive goalkeeper signing of all time when he joined from Real Betis in 2019. That wasn’t the only reason there was pressure on him to deliver; memories of Alisson Becker were still lingering in the Italian capital.

Alisson became one of the best keepers in the world during his last season at Roma, so it would be hard for anyone to match his levels. But the truth is that the goalkeepers chosen to succeed him have fallen way off course.

Lopez was the man chosen to replace Robin Olsen after an error-laden first season post-Alisson. The Spaniard simply had to be more reliable than his Swedish predecessor, who went out on loan having failed to make the grade at Roma.

Unfortunately, Lopez almost began to follow a similar fate. He was relatively comfortable towards the start of the 2019-20 season, although he did concede three goals on his debut.

In the games that followed, he wasn’t making spectacular saves, but wasn’t making too many significant errors either.

Then, that all changed in the blink of an eye. In the second Derby Della Capitale of the season, Lopez made a glaring mistake. Flapping at the ball in the air, he failed to take command of the situation and was left stranded as Lazio scored an easy equaliser.

It was a moment that threatened to define his Roma career for all the wrong reasons. He was at fault for the team not winning one of their most important fixtures.

In the weeks after that, more mistakes began to creep into his game. It coincided with a poor run of form from the team as a whole, effectively ending their top four hopes for another year.

By the end of Lopez’s first season at Roma, he was starting to face the same fate as Olsen: being usurped by Antonio Mirante as first choice.

Unlike Olsen, Lopez was given a second chance – but he had to be patient for it. Mirante, 37, started the current campaign as number one, and looked more assured than his younger competitor.

Mirante had taken his chance to prove that if a player puts some good performances together, they can retain their starting role.

Eventually, Lopez too would get a similar chance. As even Mirante began to have some lapses in concentration, there was a chance for the 26-year-old – who had mainly been playing in the Europa League – to get his position back.

With Mirante also struggling with injury in the past few weeks, Lopez has been entrusted with more regular gametime. It has done his confidence the world of good.

Against Inter Milan on Sunday, Lopez made his third start in a row in Serie A – marking the first time this season he has played in that many successive games. In fact, he has been ever-present in 2021 so far.

Having benefitted from greater faith from his coach Paulo Fonseca, Lopez took his chance to impress with one of his best performances for Roma.

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He made a stunning finger-tip save to deny a header from Romelu Lukaku, and used his legs to thwart Lautaro Martinez from point-blank range.

Those were his two standout saves, but Lopez was a generally reassuring presence at other times in the match. There was little he could do about either of the two goals Roma conceded.

The former Tottenham backup could not have timed his resurgence in a Roma shirt any better. With the transfer window open, there had been rumours that he could make way for a different keeper.

It always seemed more likely that such business would have to wait until the summer, though. All Lopez can do in the meantime is try to prove a point about his own ability.

He produced the performance Roma had been waiting for on Sunday. That was Lopez at his best, showing the kind of reflexes he is capable of to keep the score down.

He ultimately allowed Roma to stay in the game when they were under pressure, and the reward came when Gianluca Mancini scored a late equaliser to give Fonseca’s side a well-earned point. Their mentality was a step in the right direction after recent struggles against big sides.

While he has come in for a lot of criticism over the past 18 months, Lopez was to thank for Roma getting a result against Inter. The only way he can prove whether or not he is the right long-term option is by using this performance as a building block.

Fittingly, his excellent display came in the month of January, almost one year after his error against Lazio. Like in 2020, Lopez could begin the New Year with a turning point – only this time for the better.

He will have to maintain these standards in the upcoming games to keep Roma’s upwards momentum going. The next opponent on the schedule? Lazio.

By the end of this week, Lopez will hope to have continued his redemption arc in a repeat of the fixture in which it all began to go wrong last year.

If he can replicate what he did against Inter on a more regular basis, starting this Friday, he may be able to finally put all that behind him.

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