Roma supporters love nothing more than a home-grown talent making the step up to the first-team; with the likes of Alessio Cerci, Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti all coming through the club’s youth system. It would now appear that the Giallorossi have one more to add to that list, in the form of midfielder Alessandro Florenzi; who has been a shining light in what has been a fantastic campaign for Roma thus far.
Who is Alessandro Florenzi?
Born in 1991, the Roma-supporting midfielder came through the ranks at Roma; making his debut against Sampdoria – where he replaced the eternal Francesco Totti. Anyone who replaces a player of Totti’s calibre is almost destined for greatness. In the summer of 2011, Florenzi was sent on loan to Serie B outfit Crotone, scoring on his debut in a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Livorno. The Italian impressed in his stint with the second division minnows; with the club taking up the opportunity of buying half of his registration rights for a fee believed to be around €250,000; however Roma then bought back that half of his registration rights for €1,250,000 in the summer of 2012.
In a Roma shirt, Alessandro Florenzi scored his first goal in Giallorossi colours in a win over Inter Milan; following that with goals in two separate games against Bologna. In the 2012-13 season, Florenzi had been used commonly by Zdenek Zeman, and then by Aurelio Andreazzoli, but perhaps didn’t get the plaudits he wanted because of the number of goals Roma were conceding and the inconsistent displays from the Giallorossi.
With the departure of Roma talisman Erik Lamela in the summer, Florenzi established himself as a regular in a new-look Roma side put together by French coach Rudi Garcia. Although in his earlier years he has played most of his football in central midfield, Florenzi has been utilised as a right-winger in Roma’s 4-3-3 system, and has produced a host of sterling displays. The 22-year-old played a starring role in Roma’s 3-0 victory over Inter at the San Siro early in the season; the Italian grabbing the final goal of the game – a precise finish to cap off a slick counter-attacking move.
Going further into the campaign, ‘Flo’ conjured up one of the goals of the season; an exceptional over-head kick to open the scoring against Genoa; this will forever be etched in the memory of the Giallorossi faithful. Florenzi has also managed to weave his way into the first-team picture at the Italian national team, and is certain to be a permanent fixture for Roma and the Azzuri for years to come.
Style, strengths and weaknesses
Florenzi is quite a unique player, in all honesty. It is something of a rarity in football to find a player who is so talented in terms of technical ability, yet combines this with a great engine and work ethic; this is a brief outline of the way Florenzi plays. Usually playing on the right-hand side of an attacking trio, Alessandro Florenzi has licence to interchange with the likes of Totti and Gervinho; often tucking inside to make up an extra man in midfield. He provides pace and energy in attacking areas; which is a primary factor as to why he has been selected ahead of Adem Ljajic in certain games this season. In addition to this, Florenzi is in fact a very intelligent footballer, with good positional sense and reading of the game, he has a brilliant understanding with Maicon on Roma’s right flank; frequently drifting infield to allow his full-back space on the outside. Below is an example of this
In addition to this, Florenzi contributes positively defensively; often dropping in and covering whenever anyone (namely Maicon) goes venturing forward. This therefore leaves Roma less exposed should play break down in the attacking phase; with Florenzi having this quality, it means there is total freedom for players to attack, knowing that players like Florenzi and even De Rossi will be there to cover and close down space. You can read more on De Rossi’s role in Roma’s side in this piece here. Immense work-rate is perhaps his greatest characteristic, yet you can neglect the technique and skill which Florenzi boasts. Florenzi is a player with great technical quality, capable of producing some incredible moments in a instance; that formidable over-head kick vs Genoa being a prime example. Another example would be Gervinho’s winning goal in the Coppa Italia first leg win over Napoli; a quite stunning goal – which Florenzi played a key part in.
Firstly, De Rossi clears the ball and it falls right at the feet of Florenzi, who even before the ball arrives has an impeccable inclination of what he is going to do. With his first touch, the Roma man (circled) flicks the ball beautifully onto the path of Destro; immediately moving into the space (which the arrow symbolises). The Napoli defender is dragged out of position and Florenzi takes advantage of the space, receives the ball from Destro and finds the onrushing Gervinho with a perfectly-weighted pass – The Ivorian dispatches the winning goal. Not only does Alessandro Florenzi have the intelligence to know how he will orchestrate this attack, but he is able to execute both the flick and pass remarkably well; it really highlights his superb technical ability.
Moreover, Florenzi is a relatively accomplished passer of the ball; his passes are fairly accurate, with him having a pass accuracy of 80% in the 24 games he has featured in this season for Roma. This may not seem overly impressive, nevertheless is reasonably good for a player who prefers to play the more risky and adventurous passes as opposed to the cautious passes which do not enhance the move any further, and merely recycle possession.
What is striking about Alessandro Florenzi is that he is comfortable playing on either flank and is able to affect the game in the same way. Along with Totti and Gervinho, Florenzi makes up a highly rotational trio where the three are able to move about freely and interchange. Because of the qualities of Gervinho and Totti, they are able to drift into different roles and find a different route to goal. For instance, Gervinho is able to come out to the right wing, attack the space and get in behind, while Totti may take up a role on the left where he floats inside to link up with Pjanic and play that all-important pass which will create an opening. Prior to his injury in the meeting between Roma and Napoli in Serie A at the Olimpico, Totti had been in fantastic form; Florenzi was a major factor in that. It seems apparent that the team functions better with Florenzi in the side. Below is an image showing Florenzi’s ability to move into different positions/roles, here he is on the left:
Inevitably, all players have their down-sides and weaknesses, and that is no different to Florenzi. If I am being critical, he does not score enough goals for a player who operates as part of front-three. However the five goals he has netted this season become fairly impressive when you consider the way in which Roma have shared their goals this campaign. As well as this, he is clearly not as competent or effective with his left-foot than he is with his right; his superior foot. This may be something he needs to work on intensely should he have aspirations to become a regular in the Italian national team, though he faces stern competition.
Florenzi is a massive talent and arguably the biggest thing to come out of the Roma academy since Alessio Cerci, so the hype around him with Giallorossi fans is understandable. This campaign would be what I would perceive as his break-through season with Roma; seventeen starts from a possible twenty-four tell the story. At 22, he is still developing and learning. However, based on what he have seen thus far from him, and on what he has in his locker; we wouldn’t be wrong to tip him to go very far in his career.
“Ask me who I think won Italy the World Cup in 2006 and I will tell you time and time again it’s Simone Perrotta. He ran and ran and ran. Florenzi is his heir, a player who offers balance and does the hard work to allow the technical ability of those around him flourish. That’s not to say Florenzi’s not a technical player but it’s his tactical intelligence that thrills me the most. Understanding space and how to time his runs, he’s the driven and intelligent player every team wishes they had.”
— Mina Rzouki (@Minarzouki on twitter), Writer, Presenter & football pundit for the Mirror, BBC 5live, BBC Sportsworld, BT Sports, CNN, ESPN & Football Espana
“Reliable, hard working and full of determination, Florenzi contributes both in attack and defence, partly thanks to his versatility. He can play across the midfield (though is more comfortable on the wing than in the centre), as a right sided forward, and also played at full back occasionally at Crotone. He looks to beat players with directness and pace rather than skill, but he does have a flair for overhead kicks (see Crotone-Alessandria and Roma-Genoa). Florenzi is actually the only player to have played in every single game under Rudi Garcia, and the responsibility this has brought has at times appeared to be overbearing. But Florenzi is very intelligent tactically and more often than not knows what he needs to be doing in whichever role he is given, and with experience he is becoming an increasingly important player for Roma.”
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