When Jose Mourinho returned to Italy to take charge of AS Roma he was keen to point out that turning around the capital club’s fortunes would take time but the early signs are not good as, once again, his players are not living up to his demands.
Blaming players for his team’s failings is not exactly a new approach from the fiery Portuguese coach as several high-profile public criticisms of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur personnel during his previous two roles show.
During his short reign in Rome, Mourinho has not held back on criticism of his current crop, with his side bearing the brunt of his anger after a humiliating 6-1 loss to Norwegian’s Bodo/Glimt in the Europa Conference League in October.
The mood changed dramatically after Roma’s best display under Mourinho in their 4-1 win at Atalanta just before the winter break – a victory the manager himself insisted could be a turning point in the club’s stuttering season.
Matches against AC Milan and Juventus in the space of four days after the Christmas break were the perfect chance to give a good indication of where Roma are at in terms of performance, with both displays showing elements of promise.
But an injury-ravaged Milan capitalised on basic errors to win 3-1 in the San Siro last Thursday, before Juventus, having trailed 3-1 with 20 minutes left on Sunday, snatched a thrilling 4-3 success – a turnaround that tipped Mourinho over the edge.
“At the end of the day, when you’re in the s**t, you get back on your feet and find your character,” Mourinho told DAZN. “But there are people in this changing room who are a bit too nice, a bit too weak.
“This thing of playing in the comfort zone, of playing to be six to seven out of 10, is too easy for some personalities. We need to get out of this mentality.
“After Milan I told the guys that it’s them who have to move closer to me, it’s not me who has to become similar to their psychological profile. I don’t want to.”
Roma have been regulars in and around the Champions League qualification places in recent years, but they have not finished in the Serie A top four since 2017-18.
A big-name like Mourinho was brought in to change all that, but the two damaging defeats leave Roma trailing fourth-placed Atalanta by nine points having played a game more.
Mourinho pointed to the fact that he needs further investment in his team to oversee improvement, with his current squad hoping any new arrivals can have an instant galvanising effect just to keep the coach off their backs.