Whenever Roma have suffered a poor result this season, it has led to debate of whether the blame lies with Paulo Fonseca, or if the squad needs improving.
In reality, elements of both opinions contain some truth; this squad is capable of more, but it does have some gaps that could be filled.
Either way, the club will be looking ahead to the summer for how they can strengthen in the transfer market. One position is increasingly becoming a priority – centre-forward.
Roma still have one of their greatest ever goalscorers on the books in Edin Dzeko. However, there are doubts about his future, and at the age of 35, a longer-term option will be required.Embed from Getty Images
Borja Mayoral has been trying to show his credentials when playing as Dzeko’s backup this season. The Spaniard will remain with Roma next season – whether on loan or having been bought permanently – but it seems he will stay in the role of second choice. It remains to be seen to whom.
Should Dzeko depart, the Friedkins will hope to make a statement with a big signing. A number of names have been linked with the club to fill the void – some less realistic than others.
It would be impossible to compare every single one of them, but there are four names that seem to be appearing in multiple reports: Andrea Belotti, Mauro Icardi, Alexandre Lacazette and Dusan Vlahovic.
Belotti and Vlahovic have shown what they can do at a lower level in Serie A with Torino and Fiorentina respectively. Icardi also has history in the division and could return to Italy after falling down the pecking order at PSG. Meanwhile, Lacazette has just one year of contract left with Arsenal and could seek a new challenge.
It should be clarified that this is not necessarily the shortlist that Roma have in mind. However, to a distant observer, they seem to be mentioned in more reports than other targets.
So, how do those four players compare in each area of their game? And in turn, how do their statistics differ from Dzeko and Mayoral?Embed from Getty Images
Here, Giallorossi Yorkshire breaks down the key stats for each player in comparison to one another. Statistics are considered per 90 minutes, counting league matches only from the start of the season to the March international break.
The data is divided into sections: one for goalscoring/shooting; one for passing/creating chances; and another for duels. For each sub-category within those sections, each player has been ranked in comparison to one another. If they are the best in one department (for example, having a high number of goals scored, or a low number of number of fouls committed), they score the most points. Those tallies are then accumulated and the players are ranked accordingly. Then, Dzeko and Mayoral are brought into the discussion as a comparison.
By the end of the whole thing, the players are ranked overall using the same points system.
So, what can we learn?
The first thing anyone is going to look at when it comes to a striker is their effectiveness in front of goal. Putting the ball in the net is the primary task of every player in that position.
The ideal striker would be someone who scores frequently and finishes a lot of their chances. However, Dzeko has shown that even a less-clinical striker can be effective with the right persistence over time.
But Roma are looking to upgrade key areas of their team, including up front, where a striker capable of at least 15 to 20 goals a season would be ideal. So, who could step up and deliver?
In this section, the statistics that have been taken into account are: shots, shots on target, goals, goals inside the box, goals outside the box, left-footed goals, right-footed goals, headed goals, shot accuracy, and conversion rate.
Shots: Dzeko 3.2, Mayoral 2.3; Shots on target: Dzeko 1.3, Mayoral 0.7; Goals: Dzeko 0.4, Mayoral 0.5; Goals inside box: Dzeko 0.3, Mayoral 0.3; Outside box: Dzeko 0, Mayoral 0.1; Left-footed goals: Dzeko 0.1, Mayoral 0.1; Right-footed goals: Dzeko 0.3, Mayoral 0.5; Headed goals: Dzeko 0.1, Mayoral 0.
Of the four potential targets, it is Belotti who attempts the most shots per 90 minutes. However, the player who scores the most goals is the one who attempts the fewest shots, Lacazette – who also has the best conversion rate, shot accuracy and most shots on target. If it is a finisher that Roma are after, then the Frenchman seems to be the ideal candidate.
Vlahovic also has a favourable conversion rate that is above 50%, but somewhat surprisingly, Icardi – possibly the most high-profile player on this list – does not. That may just be a side effect of the higher number of shots he takes per match, or it may be something less inspiring to take into consideration.
All four players are poachers whose majority of goals come from inside the box. In terms of what body parts they use for their finishes, Lacazette and Belotti seem to demonstrate the most variety, whereas Icardi and Vlahovic are more reliant on their stronger foot only.
Shot accuracy: Dzeko 51.2%, Mayoral 57.1%; Conversion rate: Dzeko 17.1%, Mayoral 42.9%.
Interestingly, Mayoral has a higher conversion rate than all the other players being compared here, showing Roma already have a natural finisher on their hands.
However, given that he averages less than one shot on target per 90 minutes, Roma need someone ready to take on more attempts – meaning someone with the instincts of Lacazette or even Vlahovic could be an upgrade.
Ranking with current strikers included: 1. Lacazette 50, 2. Belotti 41, =3. Mayoral 40, =3. Vlahovic 40, 5. Icardi 35, 6. Dzeko 33.
Of course, a striker’s sole focus is not just on scoring. That may be their main objective, but every player needs to contribute in the system and that means providing for others as well.
Dzeko and Mayoral have both shown their value in this area of the game, so if anyone comes in to replace them, they will need to match those attributes too.
Four statistics are up for consideration here: successful passes, pass completion rate, assists, and chances created.
Chances created: Dzeko 1.4, Mayoral 1.6; Assists: Dzeko 0.1, Mayoral 0.2.
While Icardi may have surprisingly fallen short in the goalscoring efficiency stakes, he has a better rate of providing assists than anyone else in question here. His chance creation rate is also impressive, although Mayoral actually outranks him and Dzeko matches him.
Pass completion rate: Dzeko 68.8%, Mayoral 77.7%; Successful passes: Dzeko 16.1, Mayoral 17.3.
In addition, Icardi has a smaller sample size, as he attempts and completes fewer passes per match than the others – raising questions of his involvement.
In contrast, Lacazette leads the way in terms of the number of successful passes, and the rate at which he completes them. However, he compares unfavourably in terms of assists and chances created, perhaps suggesting he chooses safer options when passing.
Vlahovic, meanwhile, is the lowest for chances created – being the only one to spark less than one per 90 minutes – and pass completion, although this may be down to him playing in a weaker team than many of the others.
That could also be the case for Belotti, though, who still manages decent, if not spectacular, numbers in this department. He comes out at a similar level to Dzeko, so although they are players with different characteristics, bringing him in may not disrupt the overall attacking function too much.
But once again, it is Lacazette who is the standout – while Mayoral can make his own case as well.
Ranking with current strikers included: 1. Mayoral 21, 2. Lacazette 19, 3. Icardi 16, =4. Belotti 14, =4. Dzeko 14, 6. Vlahovic 7.
No striker will have it all their own way, so a player who can go toe-to-toe with his opponents confidently is always beneficial.
In this part of the comparison, the following areas are put under the microscope: number of dribbles completed, dribble success rate, number of aerial duels won, percentage of aerial duels won, number of times dispossessed, fouls won, and fouls committed.
Dribble success rate: Dzeko 51.4%, Mayoral 53.8%; Dribbles completed: Dzeko 1.2, Mayoral 0.6.
When it comes to dribbling, Belotti completes the most per 90 minutes. However, Lacazette manages to complete his dribbles at a more successful rate.
Icardi and Vlahovic, conversely, perform at a lower rate in this department than either Dzeko or Mayoral.
Aerials won (%): Dzeko 59.0%, Mayoral 23.9%; Aerials won (tally): Dzeko 3.8, Mayoral 1.0.
In the air, which is a natural strong point for Dzeko and one of the areas in which he will most be a tough act to follow, Vlahovic wins the most duels per 90 minutes. Icardi outperforms the Fiorentina man as a percentage, winning more than half of his aerial battles, but from a smaller sample.
Dispossessed: Dzeko 1.3, Mayoral 1.0; Fouls won: Dzeko 2.0, Mayoral 1.7; Fouls committed: Dzeko 1.5, Mayoral 0.5.
As for ball retention, Icardi is dispossessed the least often and Vlahovic the most. In fact, Icardi is the only non-Roma player here to be dispossessed less frequently than Dzeko or Mayoral – showing the importance the former Inter man could bring in keeping attacks flowing.
However, Icardi draws the fewest fouls per 90 minutes. In comparison, Belotti and Lacazette win more than Dzeko.
In the opposite phase of the game, Icardi gives away the fewest fouls (other than Mayoral). Belotti and Lacazette are also quite evenly matched here at the other end of the spectrum, raising questions of their discipline on the pitch – while Vlahovic matches Dzeko.
How important those factors are is a matter of personal preference, but they could influence any decision making.
Ranking with current strikers included: 1. Dzeko 32, 2. Belotti 28, 3. Lacazette 25, =4. Icardi 22, =4. Mayoral 22, 6. Vlahovic 21.
For the overall ranking, two more factors have been put into consideration: touches, and the number of times each player is caught offside.
Touches: Dzeko 39.5, Mayoral 34.0.
Belotti sees more of the ball per 90 minutes than anyone else, whereas Icardi has the fewest touches. That isn’t necessarily cause for concern for him, though, as he has always been a player capable of scoring even in games in which he is quiet.
Other than Belotti, none of the other potential targets average more touches than Dzeko, although Lacazette is close – which illustrates how they may need to increase their level of involvement to work for Roma.
Offsides: Dzeko 0.4, Mayoral 0.7.
As for offsides, Lacazette matches Dzeko in terms of timing his runs the best. Vlahovic, in contrast, is caught offside most frequently, which could become a frustration despite his talents in front of goal. The Viola hitman is the only player to be offside more often than Mayoral.
Now that all the players have been compared for individual statistics, it’s time to merge those together to see who is best overall.
As a reminder of the format, for each statistic considered, each player has been ranked from first to fourth. If they are the best in a category, they score four points, whereas if they are the worst, they score one. If two are equal, they both share the higher level of points (for example, if they are both second, they each get three points).
Those sums have then been tallied together to see who comes out on top.
And that player is Lacazette.
Best at shooting and passing/creating, the Arsenal forward has the clinical instincts in front of goal and the ability to be a team player.
Perhaps the only thing working against him would be his age, as he will be 30 in the summer. However, that’s a similar age to how old Dzeko was when he arrived, and he has shown players of that experience can bring much value.
Lacazette still has a good few years left in him – potentially bridging the gap for a number of seasons before a younger option matures and becomes ready – and statistically seems to be the most natural fit for Roma.
Behind him in the order would be Belotti, who is strong at shooting and in duels. Now 27 years old, he should be in the prime of his career, but the only question will be whether he has left it too late to make the leap to a big club.
Icardi and Vlahovic would not be bad additions, but their numbers tell a different story. Few would complain if a striker of the former’s quality arrived, though, and the latter may improve with better teammates around him.
But when bringing Dzeko and Mayoral into the equation and using a similar ranking strategy (this time with six points for being the best), Lacazette and Belotti are the only two who come out above those that Roma already have. Perhaps they should be the subject of the club’s focus in the summer.
Sometimes statistics do not tell the whole story, though, and perhaps only two numbers will be significant for Roma in relation to these players: their transfer fees and salary demands.
Should they be within reach financially, though, then this might clear up who would be best to pursue.