Thomas Vermaelen is the only player - other than the long-term Giallorossi absentees - who is unavailable for the game due to injury. The Belgian could return to face Torino on Sunday.
People have been saying that Roma’s squad is short. Do you see it as a problem?
“The squad is not short, but we do have a few injuries. We’re fine as we are. Our squad is plenty big enough and of a good standard."
Mohamed Salah has been a little off colour recently. What do you expect from him against Crotone?
“I’ll make a general point about the team. As a quality player, Salah needs support, he needs enthusiasm, he needs his team-mates. When it comes to creative, technically gifted players, it’s up to us to provide them with service. It’s also worth pointing out that it’s more noticeable when forwards don’t score than it is with other players. I think we need to show more of a mean, determined streak.”
James Pallotta has said that he’d like you to be the Roma coach for a long time to come.
“Pallotta is exactly the type of president I like working with. He’s brimming with enthusiasm and he wants to improve Roma. We can all see the hard work he’s putting in. He has real empathy and can instantly create a bond with the people around him. He has lots of good qualities. He’s a bit like a chameleon: he’ll be acting one way in the dressing room and then be quite the showman at dinner. He instils confidence – he believes in you. I always say that he’s the kind of guy you’d buy a used car off. He’s really innovative – a fantastic person.”
Is Daniele De Rossi’s punishment over? Were you expecting more from him in this period?
“Yes, it’s over, the three matches are done. I got what I was expecting. He’s trained well, reacted well, produced some good performances, so if he plays tomorrow I’ll give him back the armband.”
Might Radja Nainggolan deserve a rest?
“We need to think about what’s happening to the team as a whole – you could say all of the players deserve a rest. I’ve seen some really important signs and I’ve told my players that we’re on the right track. We need to keep doing some things while working on others, such as our passing accuracy and our determination. We also need to try to dictate the play in our opposition’s half of the field. I saw some good things in our last game. If we can reproduce that performance and add a little bit more then the real Roma will return. Radja is a great player and like all great players he can be the difference in any game. You always think twice before leaving a player like him out. But we have a big squad so he may get a rest from time to time.”
Do you want to prove to the president that you should be the Roma boss for many years to come?
“That will come from the work we do and what the team produces on the pitch. You can’t say now that we’re going to do this for the next two or three years. The future is now – we’re playing in the future. I have to be the one that takes responsibility and shows I can take us in the right direction. I have to prove I can move forward.”
Do you agree that Stephan El Shaarawy has been lacking a bit of incisiveness this season? Are you considering mixing up his role?
“It comes down to the kind of team we are. We have to dictate the play. It’s that kind of quality possession that we can use to give our attacking players the killer pass. It helps us give them the confidence to try something, to relax a bit, to channel their genius. It starts at a collective, team level. We’re the ones that can change our performances and results. It’s not down to an individual player to pull off that extra bit of skill. El Shaarawy is a quality wide player, he’s technically gifted. He controls the ball well and makes quality runs. I think he’s at his best either on the left or right flank.”
How is Gerson settling in?
“Gerson is a quality player, but of course we have to see if he can show that at a club like Roma and be up to the necessary standard right away. We need to give him a chance to adapt, to get to grips with a few things. He is a good attacking player, but he can’t turn his back on the play because he’s not the quickest. He makes good runs and holds his own well, but he’s not strong enough yet so he needs to improve on that. He didn’t do badly against Plzen, but the team wasn’t working so I thought it was best to make a change. He needs time.”
What’s Roma’s biggest weakness right now? Does Francesco Totti have a chance of starting the game tomorrow?
“We need to focus more on the quality of our possession. We need to dominate the match so that we can go up a level. I don’t want us to play the ball back to our goalkeeper so much and we need to spend more time in the opposing half. That’s what we’re working on more than anything else. I’ve seen real improvement and, more importantly, the players are listening to what we have to say and buying into what we want to do. Totti is definitely capable of starting, as he always is. He’s a Roma player and I’ll make decisions the way I always have done.”