This scout report does a tactical analysis of Daniele Rugani and his contribution to Juventus. We will analyse his style of play and his role in the tactics deployed by Juventus. It further aims to understand his importance, if any, in the Juventus line-up for the coming season.
Daniele Rugani arrived at Juventus from Empoli in 2015. He helped Empoli gain promotion to the Serie A in the 2014-15 season, off the back of a strong 2013-2014 season which saw him win Serie B Footballer of the Year. It must be noted that Rugani has played only three games for Juventus this season. The scout report therefore is a tactical analysis based on all of the games he played for Juventus in the 2018/19 season.
Rugani has played as the right of two centre-backs in most of the games he’s played for Juventus. However, he is almost as competent playing on the left as he has often played both positions in the same game. Take for instance the below starting line-up from the game Juventus vs Verona.
The below heat-map indicates the ground covered by Rugani for Juventus in the 2018/19 season. His preference to stay on the right side of the pitch is also evident from his season heat-map so far. Equally evident is his presence as the left of two centre-backs.
Daniele Rugani – A deep dive
As previously noted, it would be insignificant to compare his numbers with the other Juve defenders who’ve played for Juventus this season. While the scout report cannot conclusively state who’s better than whom, it can certainly give an indication of Rugani’s style of play compared to the other defenders. The analysis considers 2019/20 stats for all of Juventus’ remaining centre-back options – Matthijs de Ligt, Merih Demiral & Leonardo Bonucci. Since Giorgio Chiellini is out with a long-standing injury, we do not consider his stats for the analysis.
From a purely defensive skill stand-point, the analysis considers numbers for duels, interceptions per 90 and shots blocked per 90.
Per number of defensive duels per 90, there’s nobody statistically better than Demiral. A defensive duel is when the player was involved in a duel with an opponent player who was in possession of the ball at the time of the duel. The chart indicates that although Rugani has been involved in the second most number of defensive duels per 90 (5.23), his ability to win duels puts him down. He wins only 57.96% of the duels that he is involved in. In other words, while he does show the intent to get involved in duels, he lacks the ability to win the duel and steal the ball from the opposing player.
A similar trend is observed in the aerial duels per 90 as well.
Demiral has been involved in the most aerial duels per 90 (5.78) and also the most effective in winning the ball in that duel (76.2%). Rugani is the least involved in aerial duels, with 3.42 duels per 90 at a winning rate of 67.4%. Both Rugani and Demiral stand at 190 m tall. Given his tall frame, you’d expect Rugani to be more involved in aerial duels.
The above analysis indicates the fact that Rugani is maybe not as good as a Demiral, de Ligt or Bonucci. It its a maybe, because both sets of data belong to different seasons. However, it can definitely indicate a style of play for Rugani. And the style of play highlights his inability to match the fellow centre-backs defensively.
For the next bit of defensive analysis, we will try to understand the positional awareness of the players. For this analysis, we consider interceptions per 90, and the shots blocked per 90. Interceptions are useful in determining how good a player is at reading the game and anticipating the next move. Cutting off a passing lane by good positional awareness and intercepting a pass helps breakdown play and start a counter-attack. Shots blocked requires a combination of fine positional awareness and a willingness to put their body in the line for sake of their team.
De Ligt records the highest number of interceptions at 5.2 per 90. Rugani records similar number of interceptions per 90 as Bonucci at 4.31. Demiral, in comparison makes 3.3 per 90. However, Rugani blocks the most shots per 90 along with De Ligt at 0.76. His numbers for both interceptions and shots blocked are a consequence of his ability to read the game well, his anticipatory skills, and superior positional awareness.
From a purely defensive stand-point, what Rugani lacks in duels, he makes up with his good positional sense. A stark contrast to Demiral, who aces the duels but lacks Rugani’s positional awareness. De Ligt is more than competitive on all fronts, while Bonucci is seemingly weak in defensive stats apart from interceptions. Can Rugani start games over his fellow centre-backs based purely on defensive output? Maybe not. Demiral and De Ligt are arguably better defensively. Can he be a good defensive back-up? Possibly, yes. An analysis of other facets of his game can help answer this better.
Modern day tactics expect a centre-back to be able to play the ball out of trouble, initiate counter-attacks, and drive the distribution from the back. As such, the scout report now looks at Daniele Rugani’s ability with the ball at his feet. The tactical analysis looks at the stats for his passing ability and dribbling ability.
Centre-backs hardly engage in dribbles when compared to full-backs and wing-backs. The same holds true in this case as well. However, it is worth noting that among the four centre-backs in question, Rugani makes the second most dribbles per 90 (0.31) behind Bonucci (0.34). He enjoys a far greater success rate of 83.33% compared to Bonucci’s 66.67%. While that may not seem much in the larger scheme of things, it is an indicator of his comfort on the ball when compared to De Ligt and Demiral.
The above chart shows that among the four defenders in this analysis, Rugani made the least number of passes per 90 (45.48). However, he has the second best passing accuracy of the lot (91.71%). Below are the numbers for all the Juventus centre-backs.
While this indicates his ability to not be wayward with passes and keep possession with the team, it doesn’t tell us the type of the passes played. It is important to understand the type of passes a defender makes, and the impact the pass has on the build-up play. For this, we further split Rugani’s passes into three – forward passes, backward passes and lateral passes.
Rugani makes the second most forward passes per 90, among the centre-backs, after Bonucci. 43% of the 45.48 passes that Rugani plays per 90, i.e. 18.06, are forward passes. These passes indicate the intent of the player to move the ball forward, instead of making a lateral pass which is less risky but doesn’t add much to the attacking build-up. This could be due to one of two reasons – either it is a part of the tactics, and he is played alongside a player who is more conservative with his passes. Alternatively, it could also be his natural style of play, to move the ball forward and attack. In either case, the fact remains that he is more likely to move the ball forward, much like Bonucci; while De Ligt & Demiral prefer to play lateral, less risky passes.
Progressive passes can be defined as a considerably long forward pass with – a pass length of 30m if both starting and ending points are in the same half, 15m is both points are different halves, and 10m if both points are in the opponents half. The above image tries to bring out how attack minded the players are, when playing out from the back. Bonucci leads the pack by a mile. He makes the most forward passes per 90 (25.7) and the most progressive passes per 90 (12.51). Rugani comes in second on both with 18.06 forward passes and 7.54 progressive passes. Rugani is closely followed by De Ligt and Demiral.
Below is an instance from the game Sampdoria vs Juventus from 2018/19 season. Rugani had an option to play a short pass but instead went for a forward long ball. This indicates his willingness to play an attacking ball forward instead of playing a more conservative lateral pass.
Another instance of similar play is from the game Juventus vs Fiorentina from the 2018/19 season. Yet again, Rugani had at least three options to play a short pass, but instead chose to play a quick forward ball to Cristiano Ronaldo in the other half. Ronaldo used the pace of the ball and pivoted it into the path of the oncoming Blaise Matuidi.
The play transitioned from defence to attack in 5 seconds! An attack that was kick-started by Rugani’s smart long pass.
Even in the above analysis, Bonucci leads the pack. He makes the most passes into the final third per 90 (9.53). Rugani follows with 5.11, followed by De Ligt and Demiral. This further indicates Rugani’s intent of getting the ball forward. So far from the analysis, we have learnt that Rugani prefers to play progressive forward attack minded passes, over the short lateral possession minded passes. His numbers for final third passes also indicate that he doesn’t hold back from putting the long ball in either. And all of this at a healthy accuracy rate of 91%.
Below is an instance from the Ajax vs Juventus game. Despite being under pressure, Rugani chooses to pay the ball higher up the pitch in order to unlock the defence. The intent was to put the ball over the midfield and defence, straight into the path of Ronaldo who would break the off-side trap and get in behind the defence. Unfortunately though, Ronaldo overruns the ball. However, the intent was spot on.
Another such instance was from the game Genoa vs Juventus. Rugani has three options to play a conservative short pass, but instead opts to play a long aerial pass to Mario Mandžukić. Again, the intent being to put the ball over the midfield and defence, into the final third, and start an attack.
To further understand the kind of passes played by Rugani, we look at the average length of the pass made.
Rugani’s average pass length stands at 20.21 meters, which is lower than both the fellow centre-backs – Bonucci (22.69m) and De Ligt (20.95m). But when this data is looked at alongside numbers for final third passes per 90, it shows that despite making marginally shorter passes than De Ligt, Rugani makes more deep completions. All of the stats put together i.e. average length of pass, coupled with his high percentage of forward passes, ball comfort, and high progressive passes & final third passes indicate that he is an attack minded passer who prefers to move the ball forward rather than laterally. It indicates that he prefers making riskier, forward, progressive attacking passes rather than less risky, short, lateral, possession-keeping passes.
In all of the ball playing ability charts, one observation is constant – Rugani is second on the list for attack contributions among centre-backs. Rugani has the second most number of progressive passes per 90 (7.54) at an accuracy of 79.34%. He is only led by Bonucci who makes 12.51 progressive passes per 90 at an accuracy of 84%. Bonucci also has the highest number of passes to the final third per 90 (9.53) followed by Rugani who makes 5.11. Rugani is second on the list of forward passes with 18.06 per 90, and has the least number of lateral passes per 90 (21.24).
The tactical analysis has established that Rugani is a capable defender, owing to his good positional awareness. He’s a good passer of the ball and a good contributor to the attacking build-up play. The analysis so far, has also indicated that he isn’t afraid to take make risky passes, and plays attacking forward passes in the game. In today’s game, newer tactics have often had centre-backs play the long balls into the attacking third, to catch the opponent off-guard or to simply execute a quick counter-attack. Rugani, has been more than capable on that front as well.
The scout report brings out the style of play Rugani adopts, his strengths and his areas of improvement. The tactical analysis highlights his competitive defensive ability owing to his positional awareness. However, he does lack the ability to win duels defensively, which puts his ability in question compared to De Ligt, Demiral and Bonucci. In transition, he prefers to play attacking forward passes, to contribute to the team attacks and move the ball forward. His passing accuracy also highlights his ability to successfully execute a pass. As is evident in the number of final third passes and progressive passes, he is a skilled contributor to the attack play. While his ball playing ability is to be hailed, his defensive attributes don’t quite guarantee a starting spot over De Ligt & Demiral. Sure, he could be a good back-up option for the ageing Bonucci, but with sub-par defensive stats, it does seem like Juventus would go for somebody else in the transfer window to replace Bonucci. As for Rugani, he could choose to remain a substitute in the squad, or look for more play time to better his skill.
Juventus have won titles on the back of a strong showing from their defence. Although, they have looked leaky defensively this season, something that is completely out of character for them. For the first time in five years, they are led by a team (Lazio) on the list of fewest goals conceded. They have already conceded more goals per game 0.92 than in any of their previous four seasons: 2018/19 – 0.82, 2017/18 – 0.72, 2016/17 – 0.74 and 2015/16 – 0.62. Given Juventus’ philosophy of a solid defence, they need Merih Demiral & De Ligt, both have top stats defensively. Bonucci’s superior attacking contribution mean he is also above Rugani in the pecking order. Rugani either has to get closer to Bonucci in terms of attacking contributions, or closer to Demiral and De Ligt in terms of defensive contributions. Currently, he’s in the middle of them both, meaning he doesn’t necessarily bring in a specialised skill. He can fill in for both, or in other words – he can play a good substitute for both roles.
While the scout report cannot conclusively say who’s better of the Juventus centre-backs, it has provided an insight into the style of play adopted by Rugani. Defensively, Rugani is a good back-up option for Juventus to have. His positional awareness, reading of the game and ability to break-down the path of a pass, is commendable. His numbers for interceptions and shots blocked are of the same high standard. The tactical analysis reveals that Rugani prefers to play attacking passes with the intent moving the ball forward. He is somewhere between the attacking mindedness of Bonucci, and the defensive solidarity of Demiral and De Ligt. He’s going to have to get closer to either side of the spectrum to truly start challenging for a starting role. At 25, you’d expect him to start playing regularly given the potential he has shown in his early years. He can either fight for this at Juventus, or elsewhere given a host of clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United and A.S Roma were linked with him just last summer.