Algeria, AS Roma: Houssem Aouar on a redemption mission


By: Manu Tournoux

The year of change. In 2023, Houssem Aouar (25 years old) decided that it was time for him to make a fresh start. In the French team since the U17 category, the midfielder officially joined the Algerian selection a year ago almost to the day. A few months later, the footballer born in 98 left his lifelong club, Olympique Lyonnais, free to settle down in the Italian capital. A joy for Aouar: “I am very happy to have signed for Roma, because it is a great club with a great history,” said the 24-year-old midfielder. I think it’s the right project for me, with a great team, quality players and a unique audience. I am now a Giallorossi player and I am ready to start.”

Houssem Aouar made his debut in the Louve jersey on August 20 against Salernitana (2-2). That day, he started. The following match, Fennec started on the bench before coming on and scoring his first goal in his new colors during the 2-1 defeat against Hellas Verona. The rest of Aouar’s adventure in Rome resembled these first meetings as he juggled between starts and appearances. He finished the first half of the season with 15 appearances in all competitions and 2 goals. Then, he joined Algeria to play in the African Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast. His first major competition with the Fennecs. But everything didn’t go as he imagined. Indeed, the Greens missed out on their tournament.

A challenging CAN to digest

Aouar appeared twice. He came on as a substitute against Angola (11 minutes) before starting in the crucial match against Mauritania. He was replaced at halftime. Very disappointed after this premature exit, the former OL player published a long message on his social networks. “Wearing the Algerian jersey is a great responsibility and an honor. Going out through the back door defending these colors is an anomaly and a huge disappointment. We apologize to millions of Algerians for this disillusionment. You deserve so much better. It is still difficult for me to accept today but we owe it to you to put these sacred colors back on high. Thank you for your unfailing support. Thanks for all your messages. Thank you to our people for coming out once again.”

He will certainly have the opportunity to return to the Fennecs in March, he who has a chance of being called up by the new coach Vladimir Petkovic. At the club, Aouar also has to deal with a new coach. During the CAN, AS Roma sacked José Mourinho and replaced him with Daniele De Rossi. A technician who decided to use Aouar as a replacement. Since his arrival, the midfielder has come on against Salernitana (January 29, 20 minutes), Frosinone (February 18, 9 minutes) and Feyenoord (February 22, 51 minutes). But he returned to the starting lineup last weekend for the match against Fiorentina. It was his first start in the league since November 5.

Convince the new AS Roma coach

On the field for 90 minutes, he responded and scored a goal in the 2-2 draw. His performance visibly convinced the Italian press. THE Corriere dello Sport gave it a 6.5 and added: “De Rossi dusts him off to let Pellegrini rest and he takes advantage. Dynamic and dangerous, the Algerian has not played since November and responds to Ranieri with an impeccable header which beats Terracciano. There Gazzetta dello Sport, she gave it a 6. If Daniele De Rossi had to give it a score, it would certainly have been higher. Indeed, the Italian technician was enthusiastic about the Algerian international.

“Aouar is strong, very strong. He scored a good goal. I’m happy because it will give him more confidence. I’m happy he played the whole match. With his morale soaring, Aouar can give us a big helping hand.”, he admitted at a press conference. Enough to give confidence to the midfielder (3 goals in 19 appearances in all competitions this season) who is experiencing ups and downs as Cédric Canale, journalist specializing in Italian football, explained to us. “Houssem Aouar is having a complicated first season at Roma. José Mourinho quickly gave up on integrating him into his 3-5-2. He mainly criticized him for a lack of intensity to play in the middle and his lack of speed to be higher up. From the beginning of November, he disappeared and then got injured. The arrival of Daniele De Rossi, whom he discovered on his return from the CAN, offers him a new opportunity to show himself.

Aouar talks about his difficulties

He pursues : “De Rossi gave everyone a chance and seems to see him more within the attacking trio, rather than in the middle. Lukaku and Dybala are untouchable. The third position is played between El Shaarawy (used as a piston on Sunday), Baldanzi and him, even Pellegrini who currently plays more in the middle. Against Fiorentina, Aouar was decisive in equalizing. Overall, he had quite a bit of waste in the game, but he was active. He had not played 90 minutes for Roma since October 22.
Aouar said it himself after the match. He needs time but wants to help Roma (…) Roma is in the race to qualify for the next Champions League and should continue its journey in the Europa League. Aouar will therefore have other possibilities.”

Opportunities that the player, who has spoken perfectly in Italian since his arrival, is ready to seize. On Sunday, he spoke about his complicated passage and his desire to move forward. “Since my return after the African Cup of Nations, I was in difficulty mentally. Then every day I tried to work hard and talked a lot with the coach. He asked me for more intensity and every day I try to do what I can. I’m happy and I’m ready for all possibilities, I hope to help this team.” Then, when a journalist asked him what he was missing to see the real Aouar, the footballer replied: “Last year was a very difficult season for various things that I don’t want to talk about. I have to work every day to be physically ready, it’s also a new championship for me and so I have to learn.” He will perhaps have the opportunity to respond this Thursday against Brighton in the Europa League.

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