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Scout Report

Scout Report: Lorenzo Pellegrini | Sassuolo’s offensive mezzala

Simone Torricini writes a detailed scout report about Lorenzo Pellegrini, the Italy and Sassuolo midfielder.

If in Italy we’re experiencing a period of renaissance in terms of youngsters, it is due to a more ornate interest in the development of youth academies. One of the best and more productive ones is that of AS Roma, from which players like Alessandro Florenzi, Alessio Romagnoli and, at the beginning of the century, the international star Daniele De Rossi came out. The Giallorossi’s Primavera won the last championship (2015/16), their third since the beginning of the 21th century, and only Torino’s Primavera can boast a better palmarès.

One of the most talented players launched by AS Roma’s youth sector is Lorenzo Pellegrini, a 21-year-old midfielder who now plays for Sassuolo. His example is emblematic in two senses: he comes from one of the best youth academies in Italy; he plays for the club which pays most attention to Italian youngsters. After this backgroud, it’s simple enough to understand why it would be useful to study his story, his personality and obviously his features on the field.

Who is Lorenzo Pellegrini?

Born in Rome, Italy on the 19th of June 1996, Pellegrini belongs to the generation of midfielders which includes Barella, Benassi, Cataldi and Locatelli – all members of the U-21 side led by Luigi Di Biagio. He was literally born within AS Roma’s youth academy, and his father (a footballer himself) brought him there ever since he was a child: he began playing as a centre-forward, then was moved to the defensive line as a centre-back, and only when he was 14 his position became definitively that of a midfielder.

To be honest, when he played with the youth teams Pellegrini was usually deployed as a #10: he had to move behind the centre-forward, in order to assist his teammates and in particular to intercept the ball during the first build up phase of the opponents. All of these are features which he didn’t lose when his current coach – Eusebio Di Francesco – began to deploy him as a #8. Pellegrini’s debut dates back to the 2014/15 season, when he was 18: it was March, and that was his first and last presence with the first team of AS Roma.

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During the following summer he was sold to Sassuolo for only 1.25 million euros, as the Giallorossi put a clause in the contract which would allow them to re-sign the player after a year for about 10 million euros. His first season with the Neroverdi was not so brilliant: he played only 19 games (scoring 3 goals), although the club finished the season in 6th place and qualified for the Europa League for the first time in its story.

Then came the current season, during which he has become a landmark both for his coach and – slowly – for his teammates. Sassuolo are performing well below par in Serie A and were eliminated during the first phase of Europa League, but Pellegrini has defined his role within the team and  Di Francesco’s 4-3-3 system.

What is his style of play?

Born as a centre-forward, brought up as a centre-back, and developed as an offensive midfielder. The tactical past of Lorenzo Pellegrini is definitely varied, and it helps us to understand how his interpretation of the role of mezzala is unique. He has been ambidextrous ever since he was a child, and has good figures in terms of goal-scoring and providing assists, in particular if we consider that he’s only 21. He’s good at making attacking runs, and his pace is sufficient despite his great physique. His physique is one that many other midfielders like Strootman or Khedira (Pellegrini is 1.86 metres tall and weighs about 77 kg) simply don’t have.

His vision is not very well developed at the moment, but he’s improving in this sense: the role Di Francesco gave him this summer helped and is helping him with the mental aspect (movements on the field, game viewing). He plays with a pass accuracy of 75%, which ranks him in the middle of his midfield teammates, and is not so good in general even if his main task is not the buildup phase.

It’s difficult to compare this stat with the best midfielders of the Serie A, because Sassuolo’s quality is obviously lower than that of clubs like Juventus, Napoli or Lazio. And, for this reason, it would be interesting to see Pellegrini in one of those clubs.

The peculiarity of his style of playing as a #8 comes from the fact that he thinks like a #10, sometimes also like a #9. He finds difficulties in defending running backwards, and also in covering space near his shoulders, while from an offensive point of view he always plays quickly and rarely looks for the easiest solution. Pellegrini loves through balls, often with a single touch and often, with his with his back facing towards goal. One of the most representative characteristics of his game is the medium-long range ball: he uses it to break the opponent’s lines, and sometimes this passes become true assists, as you can see below.

What are his strengths?

At the age of 20, Pellegrini has already scored 8 goals in 31 matches in his second season in Serie A playing as a mezzala for a club which is currently 15th. He’s the top scorer of the team, behind Gregoire Defrel and above wingers like Politano and Berardi (who is considered to be one the most talented in the Serie A). This season, he has made 5 assists: no one has done better at Sassuolo. He also has an evident ease of shooting: he’s the third for shots in his team and the 8th midfielder in Serie A for shooting.

His qualities in reading the game’s tempo helps him find the right position from which to attack the opponent’s area. The gif below showcases this aspect, and also reveals his dribbling abilities.

Despite Pellegrini being that type of player who suffers when his team approaches the match defensively, he’s one of the main runners and usually the first midfielder who brings pressure to the opponent’s buildup, with sprints like the one below, highlighted with the red line.

What is evident after seeing him on the field is the fact that Pellegrini looks more in front of him than behind. He’s also second in his team for recovered balls (50 in 25 matches in Serie A), only behind Acerbi, who is a centre-back.

What are his weaknesses?

To become one of the best youngsters, the Italian mezzala has to improve particularly in two aspects. He’s too imprecise with his passing (because of his tendency of playing with only a touch), and he does not sufficiently exploit his physique in tackles (he wins only the 26% of them).

Another aspect in which he should change is his discipline: he has received 6 yellow cards and a red card since the beginning of the season, and he appears generally very nervous when things are not going in the right way for the team. It’s probably for this reason that his coach at Sassuolo is often forced to replace him: during the current season Pellegrini has played the full 90 minutes only nine times.

Read all our scout reports here

Simone Torricini

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