Jacopo Petriccione has enjoyed a promising first season in Serie A for Lecce, the 25-year-old Italian who operates in central midfield has proved himself to be instrumental for The Giallorossi under Fabio Liverani.
The main focus on players who were promoted to Italy’s top tier from Serie B has been on Sandro Tonali of Brescia, allowing Petriccione to operate without the additional pressure of the spotlight.
The Italian has racked up 1,456 minutes of football for his side who currently occupy one of the relegation places in the league. Jacopo has four goal contributions (four assists) in 20 appearances, in what has been only his fourth full season playing at the senior level.
Petriccione has seen his market value take a steep trajectory over the past few years during the player’s rise in profile. Starting his career playing for Cagliari Primavera in 2011/12 the midfielder moved on and found himself a home in Florence where he lived for two years playing for Fiorentina and their Primavera.
The Viola sent Jacopo out on loan to Ternana Calcio where he secured his first season in Serie B, playing out of the Stadio Libero Liberati in Terni, North of Rome, he scored one goal and secured five assists as his side finished in 18th place.
His performances attracted the interest of Bari who secured his signature from Fiorentina for £270k. His signature had barely time to dry on his Bari contract before the Italian would move again, this time to Lecce who were returning to Serie B after six years in Lega Pro after being found guilty of match-fixing in the Scommessopoli scandal secured his signature for £360k.
This scout report will provide a tactical analysis of Jacopo’s playing style for Lecce and take a deeper dive into the midfielder’s game analysing how he has impacted on Lecce. In this scout report, we will also carry out an analysis of the player’s strengths and areas of his game which he could improve upon.
Style of play
Under Liverani, Lecce have favoured the 4-3-1-2 formation, a tactic which has been used in 79% of their games in Serie A. This formation allows Lecce to deploy three central midfielders, their tactics under the Italian will be explored in a little more detail later on as we see how the 4-3-1-2 is flexed to ensure space is screened in front of the back four, adding additional protection in the defensive phase of the game.
For Petriccione, despite being used as a central midfielder, the Italian often takes up the role of a regista, a role which his childhood role-model Andrea Pirlo mastered.
At Lecce, Petriccione often is the catalyst to the majority of their play, his passing ability allows the midfielder to dictate play across all three sides of the game, which we will carry out an analysis on later in this article.
Furthermore, Jacopo has an energetic style of play which can be seen in his willingness to connect the team not only by his passes but his movement off the ball and awareness of the game.
It is these stand out attributes that have seen the fans at Lecce give the player a personal nickname Modriccione, matching him for his resemblance to the Real Madrid champion. Like Luka Modric, Jacopo has had to make up for his physical deficiencies, he has done this through his technique and intelligence on a tactical level.
One of the standout qualities that can be seen when watching Petriccione play is how intelligent he is in terms of his positioning and his desire to be on the ball. During the transition phase, the midfielder can often be found dropping deep to receive a pass off his defensive unit just behind the pressing line. The benefit of this allows the defenders to break the line through a penetrative pass taking the pressing unit out of the game. Whilst receiving the ball in this situation comes with a risk factor of the potential of being crowded out.
Petriccione’s intelligence and constant scanning of the field of play often helps him to escape the challenge or draw a foul relieving pressure from his team. The Italian has attempted 87 dribbles this season and has been successful in 74% of them, these have usually occurred in the defensive third of the pitch and often lead to him getting the better of an opposition’s central midfielder (39 out of the 64 players beaten have been central midfielders).
Similar to his desire to be on the ball, Petriccione often consistently features in Lecce’s build-up, this is reflected in the players passing statistics which sees him lead Lecce’s rankings in terms of accurate passes across all areas of the field (own half 312 passes, opposition half 382 passes and final third 196 passes). Jacob Petriccione is also just as effective without the ball, he supports the ball carrier offering an outlet in a pocket of space, which he identifies through his ability to scan, crediting his positional play. He is also adept at positioning his body to create a shield between the ball and opponent, often drawing a foul allowing Lecce to re-group.
Stand out attribute – passing
Jacopo’s main strength is his passing ability, the midfielder has completed 2,132 passes in his 20 games for Lecce and boasts a passing accuracy statistic of 93%, seeing him rank inside the top 20 players in the league for this statistic.
He has also proven himself equally adept at playing a long pass, his long pass accuracy sits at 91%, showing his diversity in terms of pass range. This figure is made even more impressive when taking into consideration that his average pass length is 19.89 metres, only Bryan Cristante of Roma (20.89 metres and 88.93% ) has a longer average pass length and pass accuracy out of all midfielder’s in the league.
Analysis into the above data shows us just how good Petriccione has been with regards to his passing this season for Lecce, especially considering his side are ranked 18th in Serie A in relation to their average possession (42.8%). His accurate passing has enabled the Giallorossi to build a platform through the midfielder, providing confidence to his teammates through the reassurance that if they can get the ball to him regardless of the on-field situation, there is a strong likelihood that he will be able to find a teammate with a pass and continue to relieve/build pressure.
Over the following two sections I will carry out an analysis in relation to the role which Petriccione plays in both the attacking and defensive phases of the game, with a focus on the tactics which are often implemented by Liverani.
Attacking phase contribution
One observation of Lecce’s tactics under Liverani is how his side change their favoured 4-3-1-2 formation during the transition from defence to attack, moving to a 3-4-3 as they move into the opposition’s half.
Jacopo ‘The Dictator’ will often drop in deep to receive the ball from a defender and build play as his side moves up the field. He is as effective at playing short-sharp passes as he is with a long ball. When he is on the ball you will often find Calderoni or Rispoli making progressive runs up their flanks facing Petriccione, knowing that the Italian will locate them with a pass and move play up the pitch. The thought of Petriccione playing in a side with more attack-minded players is one which leads to salivation, it could be argued that with smarter movement in the final third Petriccione would be effective at playing that killer ball down the passing channel into space, ready to be attacked.
Petriccione can also often be found sitting on the edge of the semi-circle in front of the defensive three when his side has the ball in the final third. It is here that his simple yet effective play helps to keep Lecce’s ticking over, by distributing long passes out to either flank helping Lecce to break down an opponent by creating space as their defensive unit re-adjust their positioning. He can also play a short ball to a player in space between the lines if they opt to drop off into space, highlighted below.
Petriccione, despite his exceptional high long ball accuracy, is surprisingly not as effective when it comes to his delivery into the box via a cross. He has attempted 82 crosses this season of which 85% have been high crosses, 65% of them from the right flank and only one has resulted in a goal being scored. In Petriccione’s defence Lecce have only scored five goals from a header this season, 14.7% of their goals scored. It remains to be seen if his numbers could be improved if he was supplying those balls to someone as effective in the air as Edin Dzeko of Roma or Stefano Okaka of Udinese.
One of the main features in Liverani’s tactics is the idea of Lecce playing in a compact way. In other words, reducing the distance between the lines serving to generate a numerical superiority and force the opposition to face the challenge of picking out an acute pass.
Analysis of this phase highlights Lecce can often be found switching their tactic to a 5-2-3 when an opponent brings possession into the final third. Panagiotis Tachtsidis often drops from his position as a defensive midfielder and joins the defensive unit due to his superior height (six foot two inches), making him taller than both regular centre-backs.
Petriccione standing at five foot seven operates in the midfield two in this defensive tactic, here his primary role is to screen space, taking it away from the opposition’s attackers. Here the Italian also uses his intelligence to position himself in areas where he would pass the ball if in possession, this has led to 44% of his 201 interceptions to have come from getting between a pass.
Once he turns over possession, Petriccione often uses his dribbling ability to bring the ball out from the back in the transitional phase, he has been successful in 74% of his 1 vs 1 dribbling duels this season, more often than not beating a member of the opposition’s central midfield.
It comes as no surprise that Petriccione is not the greatest when up against the high ball, the midfielder has lost 54% of his aerial duels this season for Lecce, hence why he is deployed in front of the defensive unit in Liverno’s tactics.
After conducting an analysis on Petriccione’s contributions during the defensive phase, I have highlighted an area of the game which I feel Jacopo will need to develop if he is to be considered a top Serie A midfielder, his one on one defending.
The Lecce midfielder has lost a whopping 76% of his 1vs1 duels this season, a figure which sees him in the bottom 10% of players in the league. Often Petriccione can find himself diving into tackles, he is too predictable when in close proximity to an attacker making it far too easy for them to get the better of him.
A prime example of this trait is highlighted in the above image, Antonio Candreva is on the ball for Inter and is offering no direct threat to Lecce. The right-sided midfielder has only a backwards pass on as the Lecce players have positioned themselves well, closing down all progressive passing options. Here, instead of jockeying his man Petriccione dived in and fouled Candreva, presenting Inter with the opportunity to load the box from the pending free-kick.
It is an accumulation of mistakes like this which has led to Petriccione picking up seven yellow cards in his twenty games this season for Lecce.
There is no doubting Petriccione’s ability with the ball at his feet, his impact in the Lecce side has been exceptional, delivering in his debut season in Italy’s top league. Yes, there are sides of his game which he can further develop, giving his personality I have no doubt that he will be the first one to admit this. Despite his weaknesses, his performances have drawn the attention of a host of Serie A clubs (Sampdoria, Udinese and Genoa) who potentially will come in for the midfielder this summer.
This scout report has shown how Petriccione has performed under Liverani and the Italian’s tactics at Lecce, hopefully giving you a flavour for the midfielder who may have gone under your radar. The rule of logic would point to Petriccione building on his performances in Serie A, if this is the case and Lecce can hold onto him for another season they most certainly will secure a significant return on their investment. From the analysis of his performances for the Giallorossi this season few would argue that Petriccione doesn’t deserve the opportunity to test himself at a higher level.