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Valentina Giacinti, the 26-year-old Italian international, is a talented forward who played for Atalanta, Napoli, Mozzanica, Brescia and Milan, the club at which she is now actually playing for the second consecutive season.
Even though she did not receive much international recognition or credit for her talent and efforts, she is very well known in Italy, especially for her goalscoring capacities as well as her hunger and determination for contributing in winning games.
In this scout report, we will delve deeper into Giacinti’s main traits by doing a tactical analysis of her movements on and off the ball while tackling her defensive and attacking performances as well. Examples showing Giacinti’s role in making Milan’s tactics more effective will, therefore, be shown and explored.
Role at Milan
Taking a closer look at how Milan’s tactics function, it is obvious that the team relies heavily on Giacinti in many aspects. First, she is given the captain’s armband which already showcases how she is considered the leader of the team. However, being a captain also causes a lot of pressure on the player, and that player needs to have a strong mentality to handle the given responsibility.
Moreover, when exploring Milan’s style of play and formations, one can notice that Giacinti represents a vital part of the team. Whether playing in a 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-1-2, Giacinti has always had a central role in the team since she was the one who not only was responsible for scoring goals but also was asked to participate in the build-up play and in defending, especially when she moves to play at left-wing.
Maurizio Ganz, Milan’s manager, relies on the build-up play and on movement off the ball, as he believes in the principles of total football. Therefore, we see Giacinti move a lot in the final third and she also moves with and without the ball in midfield to create numerical superiority and helps the team in winning the midfield battle and starting attacking actions.
Smart pressure and defending
Giacinti is characterised by many distinguishable features. She is one of the few consistent forwards who score goals continuously since she has got excellent goalscoring abilities, whether by shooting from range or when she’s one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Yet, Giacinti is not only a poacher, but she also puts a lot of effort when the team is trying to gain back possession. Therefore, it is more adequate to consider her as an advanced forward since she has all the characteristics of this role: vision, passing, dribbling, finishing, pace and also interceptions.
Whenever the opposition start to build-up from the back, Giacinti runs in a well-thought manner knowing where exactly to position herself and choosing the right timing to put pressure. Even when her teammates do not follow her pressing in the final third at times, she is still more likely to create danger from nothing like in the example below.
Giacinti was running towards Juventus’ left-back and gave her no time to think or synchronise her body to perform an accurate and danger-free pass. The result is a weak pass to the centre-back. Given that the pace of the pass was also reduced due to heavy rain, Giacinti was a little bit closer to the ball than the defender, therefore, she ran in the same trajectory to cover the full-back and gave no room for the defender to pass her the ball.
However, once Giacinti noticed that she is very close, she gave her all and took the ball, dribbled past the defender and hit the crossbar. This act was recurrent during this season and helped Milan create some dangerous chances from scratch.
What further proves Giacinti’s effective pressure is her commitment to attacking defenders in the final third but also in midfield and defence since she often supports her teammates in ball recovery. Interestingly enough, she even becomes aggressive in some instances when trying to steal the ball, and even when she does so, she always tries to not commit fouls and win the ball in a clean manner.
It is clear in the following picture that Giacinti puts a lot of defensive effort, especially when she plays at left-wing. We can see her giving her all to take away the ball from Roma’s player to launch a counter-attack. And this underlines the fact that she participates in the defensive phase by pressuring defenders and also by retreating back to midfield in order to win the ball back from the opposition.
A complete advanced forward
Giacinti is definitely one of the most complete Italian forwards nowadays. And some of the qualities that make her so unique is her efficient speed dribbling, her physical endurance and resistance to attempts of interception when accelerating. These traits are clearly showcased in the following picture in which she dribbles and runs between two opponents who try to stop her but she resists their attempts and moves forward without falling, leaving them behind. It is an action that shows both her skills and determination.
Another important feature of Giacinti is her ability to play as a left-winger in addition to her role as a forward. In fact, Giacinti plays at left-wing so often and switches position even in the same match. This has helped Maurizio Ganz, Milan’s manager, in alleviating the pressure put on the captain and disorienting the opposition’s defensive plans since this has usually proved successful and Giacinti was able to do well and score goals when she played as a left-winger.
A “target woman” with creativity
Even though she doesn’t have the physical features of the likes of Ibrahimović, Lukaku, Giroud and others, Giacinti so often plays the role of a target woman who blocks defenders and keeps ball possession in attack and also in midfield. The Milan team relies heavily on her when it comes to ball conservation in the opponent’s half. She knows how to cover the ball with her body and usually resists the attempts of her markers before passing to a teammate, like in the following picture.
As mentioned above, one of Giacinti’s special traits is her off-the-ball movement. Apart from pressuring defenders, she also moves a lot in the final third when the ball is with one of her teammates. The movements she makes are not random; she knows exactly when to start running in order to avoid the offside foul and anticipates where she can be in a perfect position to receive the ball.
It is shown in the next example that she did not run ahead of the defenders and instead, she let them advance by one step and raised her hand for her teammate to serve her the ball, and the result is a scored goal. This was one of her nine scored goals in 15 matches in Serie A Women this season.
Moreover, when doing this analysis, one can notice that Giacinti is a player who mastered shooting with both feet. According to the situation, she coordinates her body and shoots with almost the same power and accuracy, despite mainly being a right-footed player.
On some occasions, she has also shown abilities of her “weak foot” long-range shots, including this one that hit the crossbar against Juventus.
When playing at left-wing, Giacinti has also exploited her pace and movements without the ball to prove that she can play at this position too. Her attacking and defensive positioning are highlighted in the heatmap below which reflects how energetic she is, not only in the final third but also in midfield and especially in the left-wing.
Giacinti has many years ahead of her and most of all, she has the potential to improve even further, both physically and technically, to attract the game’s best clubs and reach international recognition. Her participation with Italy in the coming competitions will certainly pave the way for her to show her skills to the world and maybe get a chance to play at a higher level.
Until then, she is able to increase her goalscoring rate per season and should make that her personal objective in order to give an extra boost to herself during matches.