Serie A has had the reputation of being very predictable. Juventus would win the league and another team would run them close but narrowly miss out. Juventus have now won the last eight league titles. This season in Serie A is quite different as it has become quite close and competitive at the top with five teams having a viable chance of clinching the Scudetto. Amongst those teams is Roma, who are just behind the leading pack.
One of the top performers for Paulo Fonseca’s Roma team is 23-year-old attacking midfielder, Lorenzo Pellegrini. An academy product of Roma, Pellegrini was sold to Sassuolo in 2015 before Roma bought him back for ten million euros two years later. He worked his way into the first team where he is now an important attacking cog in Fonseca’s side. This season Pellegrini has been one of the most impressive players in Serie A. This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of the role that Lorenzo Pellegrini plays at Roma, and shows his improvement in bringing his game to a whole new level.
Pellegrini plays the attacking midfield role in Paulo Fonseca’s 4-2-3-1 operating just behind the striker which is normally Edin ǅeko. Pellegrini is an unorthodox attacking midfield as he likes to drift out to the wings instead of staying centrally. He predominately drifts out to the right-wing, which is clearly shown in his heatmap below. The young Roma midfielder keeps opposition defensive midfielders and backline guessing with his movement. Pellegrini likes to drift out to the wing drawing out opposition players then moves into space he created centrally to receive the ball.
Pellegrini has great game intelligence that is beyond his years. His anticipation of where the ball will end up is second to none. The young Italian positions himself well to the point that he is always two steps ahead of the opposition. As a result, Pellegrini picks up dangerous pockets of space in which he can hurt the opposing sides he comes up against.
With Pellegrini taking up dangerous positions between the opposition’s midfield and defensive lines he punishes them with his devastating defensive line-splitting passes. Majority of Roma’s attacks run through Pellegrini where he makes around 36 passes per game this shows that Pellegrini demands the ball and is confident in his passing ability. The Giallorossi midfielder backs up this confidence with an impressive 81% passing accuracy. Pellegrini’s passes are not safe lateral passes, he passes with purpose looking to hurt the opposition. The young Italian has great vision and makes 3.1 key passes per game, the most by any player in Serie A this season. An example of his great passing ability and vision is shown below, where Pellegrini who is circled in red receives the ball in a dangerous position and is crowded by Florentina players. Even amongst the crowded bodies, he has the awareness to lift his head up and see Nicolo Zaniolo free. He executes a sublime chipped pass to Zaniolo who then pulls the ball back to ǅeko to tap into the net.
Overall Lorenzo Pellegrini is one of the top creative midfielders in Europe, where he has 8 assists this season, he has created 10 big chances and he is part of only 10 players this season to provide a hat trick of assists in one game. The young Roma midfielder’s passes are perfectly weighted in behind for his teammates sending them through on a 1v1 with the keeper. A prime example of Pellegrini’s perfectly weighted passing is shown below, Pellegrini picks up the ball in a pocket of space and plays a perfectly weighted ball into the path of ǅeko past the opposition defender making it easy for ǅeko to score past the keeper.
Pellegrini receives the ball a lot from his teammates, as I mentioned earlier. When Pellegrini receives the ball a pass is not always on so to keep possession he must dribble by his opponent. The young midfielder does not have blistering pace but makes up for this with good ball control and dribbling. Just as Pellegrini is not afraid to make passes he is also not afraid to take on opposing players. The Roma midfielder shows his ability to dribble past multiple opposition players, in the image below. Pellegrini receives the ball out on the right-wing, where he does not see a viable pass on so backs his dribbling skills. He ghosts by opposition players taking out four players. He makes his way into the box but scuffs his shot but made the chance himself with great ball control.
Another aspect of Pellegrini’s dribbling is his ability to manipulate the ball through a trick or a body feint in a 1v1. This serves two purposes for the Italian midfielder. First, to create space and buy him some time so that a pass to a teammate opens up. Second, to send the defender the wrong way so he can easily go by them and then leaving him in on the opposition’s defensive line to cause problems. You can see in the image below that Pellegrini fakes to go right before going left leaving the defender in his wake and setting up a chance that is narrowly missed.
Pressing and tackling
It has been established through this analysis that Pellegrini is very good on the ball. What is underappreciated about Pellegrini’s game is his off the ball work in terms of pressing and tackling. Pressing and the ability to press effectively is such an important facet of a modern player’s overall game. With managers placing a huge emphasis on high pressing and counter-pressing, forward players cannot shy away from this part of the game or risk being frozen out of the first team.
Under Fonseca’s high pressing system Pellegrini has excelled in this area. The Giallorossi midfielder looks to win the ball back high up the pitch and is successful in his efforts its seems. Pellegrini wins possession back in the final third 1.1 times per game creating an opportunity to create a goal-scoring chance, which can be seen in the image below. Pellegrini wins the ball high up the pitch. Sassuolo are in the transition phase so all of their players are out of position. Pellegrini takes advantage of this and plays ǅeko in on goal but he squanders the chance to score.
Pellegrini is also good at coming from an advanced position and tackling opposition midfielders by coming up behind them and blind-siding them. The opposition midfielders are worried about what is ahead of them, this is when Pellegrini pounces as they are not expecting him so the opposition midfielder is not protecting the ball effectively. The young Roma midfielder can then win back possession for his side, an example of this can be seen in the image below. Overall, Pellegrini does not shy away from a tackle making 0.9 successful tackles per game, an attribute that would not be associated with a creative, flair player but the young midfielder is a selfless team player.
The young Giallorossi midfielder is flourishing under Paulo Fonseca’s tactics this season. The Italian attacking midfielder is extremely good at picking up pockets of space in dangerous areas, devastating defences with his incisive passing and dribbling ability. It was surprising that many teams overlooked Pellegrini in the January transfer window including the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal who needed to strengthen in this area plus his release clause is just over 30 million euros which is a bargain for a player with his calibre and potential. Pellegrini is one of the most creative midfielders in Europe being directly involved in a goal every 109 minutes which is truly outstanding from a player who is still relatively young and has a couple more years to develop before his prime.