STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome) – Jose Mourinho hasn’t held back with his opinions since arriving in Rome.
Referees, transfer business and squad depth have all come into the coach’s critical crosshairs while he’s tried to get a tune out of his team.
But the Portuguese had a different grievance after the Giallorossi’s extraordinary collapse against Juventus on Sunday: Roma’s mentality problem.
“It was so good for 70 minutes, then there was this psychological collapse,” he told DAZN.
It’s hard to disagree. Roma were in complete control at 3-1 up and, given Juve’s struggles to find the net this season, it was hard to see a way back for the Old Lady.
But in seven astonishing second-half minutes, Roma’s defence melted like butter in the sun as the Bianconeri scored three times to turn the game on its head.
“The fear set in. A psychological complex. It’s not a problem for me having 3-2, it’s a problem for them. For my team.” Mourinho added.
“At the end of the day, when you’re in the shit, you get back on your feet and find your character. But there are people in this locker room who are a bit too nice, a bit too weak.”
Mourinho has a point. Although the nature of this collapse was unprecedented, a Roma meltdown was not.
The Giallorossi’s struggles in big Serie A games were used as a stick to beat Paulo Fonseca with repeatedly during his two years in the capital.
In games against the so-called Seven Sisters, that is Inter, AC Milan, Juventus, Napoli, Lazio, and (now) Atalanta, Fonseca mustered four wins, eight draws and 12 defeats in two seasons. A 50 percent loss rate.
Mourinho has so far picked up one win, one draw and six defeats from his big-game clashes. A 75 percent loss rate.
He has already lost more big games than Fonseca did in 2019-20, and he’s one more away from matching his predecessor’s defeats in these fixtures last season.
Then there have been the collapses. Last season, Roma lost 6-2 to Manchester United and 4-0 to Napoli. This year, there was the humiliating 6-1 hammering in Norway against Bodo/Glimt.
The mental fragility Mourinho alluded to may be a problem he has inherited, but he’s seemingly nowhere close to fixing it after more than half a season in charge.
That was evident in the 3-1 defeat to Milan last week, when they were outplayed and had two players sent off, and when Juventus were given an easy job of their turnaround on Sunday.
Manuel Locatelli was unmarked for his header. Alvaro Morata was allowed to chest down a high ball from six yards out for the shot that led to Dejan Kulusevski’s rebound.
Chris Smalling provided a neat assist for Mattia De Sciglio’s strike – his first league goal in 1505 days and second ever in Serie A.
“After Milan I told the guys that it’s them who has to move closer to me, it’s not me who has to become similar to their psychological profile. I don’t want to,” Mourinho said.
It is a typically bullish stance from Mourinho. Whether that is what’s needed to finally inject some backbone into the Lupi squad is another question.
But one thing’s for sure; Roma will not achieve their goals until they learn to stand up for themselves when it matters most.