Griffin O’Neill writes about AC Milan’s sensational young forward, Patrick Cutrone.
While the recent revival of AC Milan may be characterized by expensive signings and millions being thrown around with reckless abandon, there is still a core of young, Italian graduates of the vaunted AC Milan youth academy. Over the past few years youngsters such as Gianluigi Donnarumma and Manuel Locatelli have come through the AC Milan academy and established themselves as first team regulars. The player who has most recently asserted himself as a first team option is 19-year-old forward Patrick Cutrone.
Who is Patrick Cutrone?
Born in the idyllic Italian town of Como on the third of January, 1998, Cutrone has been a part of the Milan youth setup since he was recruited from amateur five-a-side team Paradiense at age eight. Since then, Cutrone has been a prolific marksman at every youth level for Milan and Italy, scoring 28 goals in 59 appearances for Italy in the U-15 to U-21 levels. For most young forwards, the step up to professional football proves a bridge too far for their goal-scoring exploits at youth levels, but for Cutrone, this was not the case.
Cutrone’s first taste of senior football for Milan came in May of the 2016/17 season, when he was brought on as an 85th minute substitute for Gerard Deulofeu in a match against Bologna, and since then, his first four starts for Milan across all competitions have yielded three goals and one assist.
One thing that has surprisingly helped Cutrone’s development is AC Milan’s aggressive summer recruitment. While it may have seemed early on that the signings of Nikola Kalinic and Andre Silva would keep Cutrone out of the side, Silva’s late return from the Confederations Cup and Kalinic’s being signed later in the window made it so that Cutrone was Milan’s only fit striker for their Europa League qualifiers. Cutrone started three out of Milan’s four qualifiers, scoring in two against CSU Craiovia and FK Shkendija. This staked Cutrone a permanent claim in the Milan first team, and manager Vincenzo Montella has duly rewarded Cutrone, starting him in Milan’s first three league games of the Serie A season. In these three games Cutrone averaged a 7.21 average rating, per WhoScored.com. In Cutrone’s first ever league start against Crotone, Cutrone bagged himself a goal to go along with assisting Frannck Kessie and Suso on their goals as well. While Cutrone’s impact has faded slightly as the season has progressed, coming on as a substitute for his past four appearances in the league, Cutrone has gained Montella’s trust. This is shown by Montella telling Bleacher Report that,”I think it is important for the club to keep a player that has come through the youth system. That convinces supporters that this project isn’t just about buying talent, it’s about nurturing it from within.”
While Cutrone’s substitute appearances may seem like a sign of his development stalling, it merely shows that Cutrone has carved out a specific place in the AC Milan squad for himself. He is a different option to Kalinic and Silva; therefore, it makes sense for Montella to use him as an impact sub who can change games with his movement and instinctive finishing.
What is his Style of Play?
While many strikers in the modern game rely primarily on their pace and quickness, this is not Cutrone’s game. He prefers to play on the shoulder of the last defender and use his football IQ and movement off the ball to gain the advantage over defenders. This will help Cutrone when his career begins to enter its twilight because while strikers who rely on pace decline greatly with age, players such as Cutrone are able to continue to perform at a high level because their game does not revolve around their pace.
Because Cutrone is not the fastest player, he has adapted his game to fit that. He has extremely good positional instincts while in the box, and he has the crucial knack of being in the right place at the right time when a cross comes in.
Cutrone also has the invaluable ability to play quickly and not get caught on the ball. He has only attempted .2 dribbles per 90 minutes in Serie A this season, while attempting 22 passes per match with a 90.9% completion rate. These stats are also a strong indicator of Cutrone’s longevity, with his ability to play quickly and hold up play adeptly giving him a very bright outlook for the future.
What are his Strengths?
Cutrone’s biggest strengths lie in the mental aspects of the game. His movement off of the ball and his ability to consistently make intelligent runs are priceless skills that few strikers as young as Cutrone have. As previously mentioned, Cutrone is also a deadly finisher in the box. In his four starts in all competitions this season, he has four goals and has averaged 1.4 shots per game inside of the box. This is a conversion rate that is rarely seen in modern football. If Cutrone is able to keep up this level of effectiveness, he will be unmatched in terms of ruthlessness inside of the eighteen.
Another place where Cutrone excels is in his physicality. This is because Cutrone consistently played above his age level as a youth, so he had to develop the physicality of his game to be able to compete with bigger and stronger opponents. This is a very important skill to have because of the physical nature of Serie A and the physical prowess of many central defenders in Italy.
What are his Weaknesses?
Cutrone’s previously mentioned lack of pace may be cause for concern, but his mental game and other physical attributes make up for his lack of foot speed. One place where Cutrone does need to significantly improve is in his lasting impact on the pitch. He has a recurring problem of fading out late in games both when starting and when coming on as a substitute. As a substitute, Cutrone has not yet recorded either an assist or goal. The easiest way for Cutrone to remedy this is to continue to get regular first team minutes. With regular game time, Cutrone will be able to fully acclimate himself to top flight football and will hopefully be able to succeed for many years as the leader of the AC Milan line.
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