Verratti is a young Italian star who currently plays at PSG. The 20-year-old, was born in Pescara, and graduated from their youth academy. He has already made his international debut, and has just the 1 cap to his name (against The Netherlands).
Verratti first broke into the team at Pescara in 2008-09, at the tender age of 16. It took him a couple of seasons to establish himself, but after he did so, he became an important part of the set up at the club, featuring regularly.
In 2012, Verratti’s impressive performances at Pescara earned him a call up to Prandelli’s preliminary 32 man Italian Euro 2012 squad. While he didn’t make the final list, the achievement is impressive when you consider that this was a 19-year-old still playing in Serie B.
Before the beginning of the new season, Carlo Ancelotti signed the youngster on a 5 year deal. He went virtually unnoticed up to this point, but some smart work by the PSG scouting team led to this astute bit of business by the otherwise glamorous club.
Verratti has proved his potential and established himself as a regular at the club.
Style, Strengths and Weaknesses
Verratti is a typical defensive midfielder cum deep-lying playmaker. His positioning is generally deeper than the other midfielders, and he chooses to play the ball to the flair players ahead of him quickly, as opposed to keep it to himself. Along with the impressive Blaise Matuidi, he has formed an enterprising midfield duo.
Firstly, his awareness of the situation around him is excellent. This in turn helps him position himself very well. Good positioning always brings good results, and in Verratti’s case, the results are impressive, with an average of 2.8 tackles, and 1.7 interceptions per game. To explain the importance of this stat, it means that Verratti ends about 4-5 opposition attacks per game. Verratti manages to get into such good positions only because of his excellent awareness. This comes from keeping his head up all the time. What you notice about Verratti is that his head is almost always looking around when he isn’t in possession of the ball. This allows him to paint a mental picture of the players around him, consequently allowing him to drop into an important position.
While on the ball, Verratti is very calm and composed. He is never rushed into playing the ball, wherever he is, whatever the situation of the match is. This often results in him picking out good passes. Out of his average of 58 passes a game, 67% are played forward. Apart from this as well, in his 18 league appearances, Verratti has directly created 11 chances (culminating in 3 assists).
While we’re on the subject of his passing, we might as well mention that his hero is Andrea Pirlo, and much like the legendary Pirlo, Verratti loves attempting long passes. This is effective because he has an excellent hold up striker in Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“Italy can relax for the next World Cup as they already have an alternative to Pirlo and his name is Marco Verratti.”
His passing is a key facet of his game and he uses it well to set up the flair players on his team. Boasting a 90% completion rate, Verratti is very much at the heart of PSG’s creativity. Even his long passes are very accurate, with about 2/3rds of them being completed. Such excellent passing is rare to see, and adds to the attack of any team.
The added benefit of this passing, especially coming from the deep areas that Verratti operates in, is that it builds attacks. This ability to play the ball from the back is useful in linking the defensive players to the attacking ones. On the counter, his long passing is crucial, because the ball needs to travel faster in such situations, and long passing increases the rate at which the ball moves to the strikers.
Defensively, Verratti is a true Italian. He isn’t afraid of getting stuck in at all; in fact, he seems to relish 50-50’s and tackles. He has attempted 41 tackles so far this season, and has emerged successful 34 times. Apart from his excellent tackling, Verratti makes a lot of interceptions. About 58.7% of all his defensive actions are interceptions. What one notices about his tackling is that it is technically very sound. The studs up challenges are absent from his game, and most of the fouls he commits are premeditated and harmless, with the intention of slowing down opposition attacks. His primary defensive job is to break up play and to shield his defence. In order to do this, Verratti needs to cover a lot of ground. The large number of attempted tackles aims at doing just this. In the course of this job, the player also has to commit a lot of fouls. The large number of fouls committed (1.6 per game) means he also accumulates a lot of yellow cards (9 in 18 appearances). While this may seem like a huge amount of indiscipline, it is only the result of persistent fouling on Verratti’s part. Such fouling is performed with the purpose of protecting the back line, and is largely successful, when you consider the incredible defensive record PSG have this season. The fact that these are harmless, tactical fouls, and not vicious ones is evidenced by the number of red cards he has seen this season-0. He is yet to receive a direct red, or even a second yellow card in a game.
However, the tactical nature of the fouls does not cover the indiscipline in his play, arising out of inexperience. In the words of Dietmar Hamann, “if you are running back to make a tackle, you have already made a mistake.” In this sense, Verratti needs to improve, so that yellow card accumulation doesn’t lead to suspension. He is going to miss the important second leg tie at home against Valencia due to yellow card accumulation.
Another weakness is his inability to ever really compete effectively for an aerial ball. This stems directly from the fact that he is only 1.65 m tall.
A preferable trait in a defensive midfielder would have to be the build to intimidate and bully opponents (See Patrick Viera and Roy Keane). Standing at 1.65 m, and weighing about 60 kg, Verratti could be described as wiry, and will definitely do well to bulk up a little, so as to aid the physical side of his game. Such an increase in mass may also help him last matches better. Currently, the young Italian is subbed off in 55.6% of his appearances.