One of the initiatives promoted by the Serie A teams, which is certainly promoting the development and growth of its youth sector, has been carried out during the current season by Juventus. Also, thanks to the huge financial availability of the Turin club, Agnelli’s club was the first in Italy to enrol its own “satellite” team in Serie C, with the name of Juventus Under 23. In this way, to numerous products of the nursery Juventus are given the opportunity to compete against professional and expert opponents, sometimes guaranteeing a shuttle between this squad and the Primavera team.
This is the case of Nicolo Fagioli, Juventus’ offensive midfielder who, until the stop caused by the coronavirus, was dividing successfully between the Primavera team and the Juventus Under 23 squad, plus with some training and first-team appearances to testify his exponential growth.
The most significant turning point in his young career came in 2015 when Juventus, bewitched by its characteristics, bought the playmaker and for him, the way of experiencing football changed completely. In recent years, in fact, he has been called up for Italy Under 17 and Under 19 and takes part in some great competitions such as the 2018 European Under 17. In the meanwhile, Fagioli is 19 years old and might be a very interesting player for Juventus´first team next season.
This tactical analysis will provide you with Fagioli’s role in the tactics of Juventus´ U23 and U19 team. Furthermore, this scout report will show you why Fagioli is an interesting prospect for Juve’s first team.
Role in the system
For Juve’s U23, Fagioli played five times this season. In each of these matches, he played as a central midfielder in front of the defensive line within a double pivot as the team is lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
In his regular squad, the U19 in Primavera, Fagioli played 14 out of 17 possible matches. Head coach Lamberto Zauli lines up his team in a 4-3-1-2 formation. Therefore, Fagioli is used as a holding midfielder or as central offensive midfielder behind two out-and-out strikers. As you will see in this analysis, he likes to play in a free attacking role granted the freedom to roam the pitch and find space.
So, the young Italian is an offensive allrounder capable of playing in various positions in midfield. Regardless as he plays in a more defensive or offensive role, he can be found everywhere on the pitch as he covers lots of space within the midfield area and the half-spaces. As he is used to playing more on the left side in the U23´s 4-2-3-1 he is more active within the left half-space. The heatmap below indicates that movement.
Especially playing as a central defensive midfielder, Fagioli has to help with the build-up play. To do so, he drops deep between the opposition´s defensive and midfield line. His vision for free pockets of space is extraordinarily good as you will see in the following sections of this scout report. In the build-up play, he uses this vision to get out of already blocked passing lanes. When he receives the ball, he has lots of space to turn and lots of time to find an efficient passing option. So, his great vision and his passing ability help him orchestrating or providing dynamism to the team’s build-up process with ease and effectiveness.
In the following image, Fagioli drops deep between the Inter’s defensive and midfield line. He can use lots of free space once he received the ball. Adding to that, he only has to beat the opposition’s defensive line as their midfield line is already outplayed.
Another example from the match against Inter. Again, Fagioli finds a pocket of space behind the opposition´s midfield line. By passing the ball into this space, Juve´s centre-back can break Inter´s offensive and midfield line.
The same procedure is used by Fagioli in the next image. This time, he is in an even more advanced position on the pitch and can directly set up one of Juventus´ forwards after receiving the ball. Therefore, he can use lots of space and time to find the perfect solution.
One of Fagioli’s key movement concerning his playing style is one-two passes. After receiving the ball from the defence, he is responsible to find an excellent passing option to continue with the attack. That is why he often uses one-two passes. By doing so, he can save time and he can look for a free space in an advanced position on the pitch to receive the ball there. Furthermore, he and his teammate can outplay several opponents with two short passes. These short passes might be a reason for his high rate (81,7%) of successful passes.
Most of the time, Fagioli plays these passes with one of the fullbacks as you can see in the following examples. In the first situation, Fagioli plays out wide to Juventus´ right-back and immediately starts a run into a more advanced position. That is why his teammate can pass the ball back to Fagioli with just one touch. The opponent has no chance to recover possession.
In the next situation, Fagioli plays the ball out wide to the left-back once again. But, this time he has to run through two opponents.
However, Juventus´ full-back has lots of time and space to find the perfect moment to play a pass back to Fagioli.
Fagioli demonstrates his intelligence and cleverness at his off-the-ball movements. Similar to his movement during the build-up play and the one-two-passes with his teammates, Fagioli is always looking for a free pocket of space. He moves smart and often delivers perfect-timed surging runs into free space in dangerous areas.
In the image below, Juve´s left-back is in possession looking for a teammate to pass the ball to. At the same time, Fagioli is starting a run into the opposition´s box providing an excellent passing option. By receiving the pass, Fagioli can use lots of free space in a dangerous area having a goal-scoring opportunity.
In the image below, Juventus have possession in a more central area on the pitch. Fagioli makes a run in behind the defensive line to receive a through ball free in front of the goal. It is no real challenge for him to score another goal from that position.
Of course, Fagioli is practising his off-the-ball movement in the own half as well. By doing so, he can provide a passing option helping his teammates to break the opponents´ pressing. In the image below, Juventus´ left-back gets pressed by the opponents. Fagioli recognizes this situation, reacts quickly, and starts another run into free space to provide a passing option.
Helping with the build-up play and being a passing option during the whole match, the creative playmaker initiates nearly every attack for his team. In fact, he plays the most passes in the Primavera team. Down below you can see a map of his progressive passes which is also including progressive runs. The number of progressive passes is remarkably high.
The midfielder, who sees the game differently from most revealing creativity, uses the long-range pass very often. This type of passes requires an exceptionally good touch as well as particularly good timing. Because of his brilliant technique, it seems to be not that difficult to play these long-range passes on regularly base. Most of these passes, Fagioli creates from the half-spaces as this is the area he is used playing in most.
The following pass from the match against Genoa provides an example. Fagioli recognizes a smart movement by one of his teammates. Because of his passing ability, he is able to set up his teammate in a very dangerous area in front of the opposition´s goal.
In the last example above, Fagioli was playing a long-range pass which not only led to a dangerous goal-scoring opportunity but also switched the point of the attack onto the other side of the pitch. Even if this is the most used method by the young Italian, he is also able to play these passes from a central position in behind the back of the opposition´s defensive line.
The two images below provide you with examples of those long balls from the match against Cagliari. Here, Fagioli is positioned in the centre at the midfield-line. Juventus´ forward starts a run in behind the opposition´s defence waiting for a well-timed pass of Fagioli.
In the next image, Fagioli is in a more advanced position on the pitch. Nevertheless, he is still at the centre looking for a long-range pass in behind the defence. He waits until one forward starts the usual movement so that he can play that pass.
This method of quickly played and perfect-timed long balls can be very efficient against both high-standing and deep-lying teams. In fact, most of his deliveries into dangerous areas are made with those long balls as you can see in the map down below.
But, he cannot use this method during the whole match. Especially in counterattacks, Fagioli prefers to play short and flat interface passes in behind the opposition´s defensive line. In general, the youngster is extremely dangerous on the counter thanks to his pace and accelerations. These attributes combined with his vision and passing ability make it even more difficult to defend a counterattack of the Juve team.
In the following image, Fagioli plays an interface ball between the opposition´s centre-back and full-back to set up Juventus´ right-wing.
The image below is a blueprint for this kind of interface pass as Fagioli is breaking the midfield line at the same time. This pass is even more difficult as he is within the same vertical channel as Juventus´ forward.
The next image provides you with an example of a through ball between the opposition´s centre-backs during a counter-attack. This shows that even in high speed, Fagioli still has a good overview and an extremely good touch to set up a better-positioned teammate.
Furthermore, Fagioli has a brilliant technique and composure in tight spaces. This leads to the fact that he does not fear the individual duels. He usually creates danger or suffers a foul because it is not easy to tackle the ball away from him.
In the next image, the midfielder uses this ability to attract three defenders and he goes into dribbling with his good ball control.
After that, he has the vision and the passing ability to play another perfect-timed through pass to his teammate who starts a run into a dangerous area within the penalty box.
A prove for the fact that lots of these passes from outside the penalty box are key passes providing a goal-scoring opportunity is the following map of his penalty area deliveries. In general, Fagioli contributes a goal in nearly every second match with 0,2 goals per 90 minutes and 0,2 assists per 90 minutes (0,4 goal contributions per 90 minutes). Here, it is important to mention that he uses his goal-scoring opportunities cold-blooded as his xG is 0.2.
Lack of consistency
As every other young player Fagioli has an area to improve as well. Even if he is a nearly perfect player, his constancy issues could cost him a place in Juventus´ first-team squad. In the pictures below, you can see some concentration difficulties losing the ball because of bad ball control or a bad pass.
In the following image, Fagioli receives a pass from his teammate. Due to concentration difficulties, he cannot trap the ball. Genoa´s forward can pick up the ball and is already in a good position to create a goal-scoring opportunity.
In the image below, Fagioli tries to set up Juve´s right-wing. However, his pass is to slightly and the defender has no problem to intercept the counterattack. Losing the ball in a progressive movement during a counterattack can get very expansive if the opponents can react quickly enough.
Even worst is the next failed pass by Fagioli as Juve has possession near their own penalty box. Fagioli tries to play a pass through two opponents which failed. If Cagliari´s forwards react good enough it should be an easy way to score a goal.
This inattentiveness leads to lots of ball losses. These could have an opponent´s goal as a consequence, especially if Fagioli loses the ball in a dangerous area within Juve´s own half. The map of Fagioli´s ball losses indicates that most of his inaccurate passes or lost duels are made in the opponent´s half. Nevertheless, there are still too many losses in Juventus´ own half.
Especially on such a high level in Serie A and in a team like Juventus, where no mistakes should be done, this lack of consistency could cost him a place in the first-team squad next season. That is why he still has a margin for improvements. But, this is a process which will improve with increased experience and playing time in matches on a high level.
Playing against professionals in Serie C gives Fagioli the chance to compete with more experienced opponents, even if the quality is higher in youth tournaments. Surely, the playmaker from Piacenza grows exponentially dividing himself between two teams and thanks also to the appearances with the first team. In addition to training with champions such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Dybala, Giorgio Chiellini and many others, Fagioli took part in the 2-0 International Champions Cup game against Bayern Munich, a great experience that gave him the opportunity to compete against world-class players.
The career of this youngster is certainly proceeding in an excellent way, with a series of events that have helped to make him popular at a young level and that, above all, are making him grow on a human and technical level. The health emergency has stopped an incredibly positive season for him and his Primavera team, currently fourth in the standings, and we all hope that we can soon return to normal.