Nicolo Zaniolo captured everyone’s attention in Italy’s 9-1 win over Armenia last night. The Roma man notched up his first brace in the Azzurri shirt and made sure that the world was looking at him. Juventus probably were too.
The Bianconeri have long been linked with Zaniolo. The most recent links came last week, when Calciomercato talked of Juve possibly tempting Roma with an offer for the youngster.
His performance last night wouldn’t have disappointed Juve at all. Zaniolo played on the left of a 4-3-3, but later moved in as the attacking midfield player. That’s where he got his second goal from.
The way he has been playing as turned out to be a big regret for Inter. The Nerazzurri signed Radja Nainggolan from Roma by offering them cash plus Zaniolo and Davide Santon. Nainggolan was loaned out to Cagliari this past summer and Zaniolo’s progress is evident.
His emergence took place last season itself. Under former manager Eusebio di Francesco, Zaniolo played as the attacking midfielder. After Di Francesco was sacked in March, Zaniolo began playing in wide areas under Claudio Ranieri.
Under the former Leicester boss, Zaniolo got only one assist. While under Di Francesco, he had contributed to seven goals. This shows that Zaniolo can’t really thrive in a pragmatic system like that of Ranieri.
This season has proved that. Under Paulo Fonseca and in an attacking 4-2-3-1 shape, Zaniolo has enjoyed himself. Even though he played more often in wide areas, fluid football has helped him. He has found the back of the net thrice in the last four games.
He has done that against Milan, Napoli and Udinese. That too, while playing on the right flank. It shows that it isn’t really about the position for Zaniolo. It is more about the system he is playing in.
Club legend Daniele de Rossi heaped praise on the youngster last season. The current Boca Juniors man said:
“He has an incredible natural physique for someone who is only 19 and also has great technical quality. In my opinion, as perhaps with everyone now, he is already a very good player – and can become a great one.”
With Italy also playing an attacking brand of football under Mancini, Zaniolo is enjoying himself.
These facts will raise the alarms of Juventus even more. Unlike how it was since 2011, Juve now have a manager who believes in playing an attacking brand of football.
The manner in which Paulo Dybala is back thriving tells that a player like Zaniolo would like it too. Last season, La Joya had a tally of five goals and four assists in a defensive manager like Massimiliano Allegri. This season, he has already got a tally of three goals and one assist. He has also scored twice in the Champions League, assisting once.
Playing in a 4-3-1-2 shape under Sarri, Dybala has usually played up front with either Gonzalo Higuain or Cristiano Ronaldo. He has been used on his preferred right side and he has been enjoying the freedom to have that space all to himself only.
The 4-3-1-2 shape has the space of a number ten- something Zaniolo would be happy about. That has been his position in the younger days. Even though he has been impressing in a wide right role too.
In an attacking system, Zaniolo would have two runners in front of him. Those will be world-class players. This will bring the best out of Zaniolo.
Having said that, Tottenham were keen on the player this past summer. His agent did confirm that this past summer. A move never took place, Bayern Munich (Il Messagero via Calciomercato) were also linked with a transfer for the young Italian.
That would be a good sign for Juve. This is a player who is out to show the world that he isn’t a one-season phenomenon.
But the way he has begun the new season, Zaniolo is already making himself proud.
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