Elia Petrelli has been regularly involved for Juventus U19’s since the now 18-year-old signed a five-year contract with the side based in Turin. Playing his football under the guidance of Lamberto Zauli, Petrelli has featured in over 67 percent of games, adding 27 goal contributions (19 goals, 8 assists) in 53 appearances.
At six foot one inch tall and weighing 82kg Petrelli has a significant physical presence on the pitch. The Italian has operated as a centre-forward in every game for Juventus U19 in which he is averaging a goal or assist every 129 minutes.
Petrelli has also represented the Italian national side across a range of age groups (U16, U18 and U19). He made his debut for the Azzurri U19’s under Federico Guidi aged 17 years and one month, an indicator of his ability to play at a higher level.
In this scout report, we explore the important role which Elia Petrelli plays for Juventus U19s, examining the Italian’s contributions across the defensive, middle and attacking thirds of the pitch through a tactical analysis.
Style of play
This season Juventus’ U19s have generally favoured a 4-3-1-2 formation under Lamberto Zauli, the shape being utilised in 75% of matches in the Campionato Primavera, in which Petrelli lined up as a centre-forward. Despite being labelled in this role, the Italian often can be found dropping deeper as the youngster is adept at playing with his back to goal, using his physical attributes to help progress his side up the field.
This tendency can clearly be seen when carrying out an analysis of Elia Petrelli’s heat map, the striker has a significant presence across the whole of the opposition’s half, particularly in the middle three vertical channels. It is from this area of the pitch that Petrelli can look to utilise strength and ability on the ball to either relieve pressure from the Juventus defence by adopting the role of a target-man or win offensive duels to get himself goal-side of defenders.
The above data visualisation highlights Petrelli’s importance within the Juventus U19 side, it compares individuals goal contributions across the regular starting eleven. As you can see Petrelli has added a significant amount of goals and assists this season, which highlights his importance for the team, Kaly Sene is leading the group with seven goals and one assist.
Elia Petrelli has helped himself to five goals this season in the Campionato Primavera, a figure which is above his expected goals (xG) value of 2.83, which would lead you to assume that Elia has been slightly fortunate in front of goal. In order to compare Petrelli’s finishing ability to other centre-forwards within the league, we have conducted a data analysis against a sample of individuals who have played more than 500 minutes for their team in 2019/20. The analysis covers two metrics, shots per 90 and goals scored, this will help us to identify what type of striker Elia falls into.
Studying the above data visualisation you will see that Elia is performing below average in relation to his shots per 90, his figure of 2.48 rules him out of falling into the volume shooting goal-scorer category. His five goals are above average, this labels the Juventus forward as being a clinical finisher, possessing a high conversion rate when comparing goals-against total shots.
A deeper analysis into his shooting ability shows that a significant amount of his shots come from central areas within 12 yards of the goal, this area has a very high xG figure, the likelihood of these shots going in is 15% or higher, highlighting Petrelli’s awareness and poaching ability. As you can see from the above image which looks at Petrelli’s shooting positions across the last year, the Italian is outsourcing his xG value from every position/situation.
An example of Elia Petrelli’s poaching ability can be seen in the above image against Lokomotiv Moscow, Petrelli receives the ball from Daniel Leo who has recovered the ball Juventus, winning the ball with Lokomotiv set up in their attacking shape with no defensive block. Elia, receiving the ball with his back to goal shows his ability at identifying space, note the two-man overload in the left-sided half-space and outside vertical channel.
After playing the ball out to his team-mates in space out wide, Petrelli accelerates hard to support the counter-attack. The threat of Frank Teher’s run beyond Lokomotiv’s defensive line is enough to occupy the defensive unit who are frantically scrambling to attempt to establish a defensive shape.
Despite Lokomotiv enabling to get seven players back into their box, Petrelli’s late run towards the penalty spot is enough for the centre-forward to burst past the static defenders onto the edge of the six-yard box where he connects with a header to give his team the lead. This passage of play highlights not only Elia’s instinct of anticipating where the ball will be but the work-rate and desire which he possesses.
Juventus’ focal point
Since the rise in popularity of tiki-taka football, there has been a significant reduction of centre-forwards who operate in the role as a target man, managers favouring roles such as the false nine.
Despite the current trend, Elia Petrelli has shown that powerful strikers deserve to keep their place in modern football. The Italian’s physical presence helps Juventus to negate the opposition’s press, providing Juventus with a focal point to aid progressing the team up the pitch. Petrilli operating as a target man is excellent at holding the ball up and possesses the quality and awareness to bring his team-mates into play. His strength and body-positioning often attracts the interest of multiple defenders which in turn creates space or an overload in other areas of the pitch.
The above image shows Petrelli’s dribbles in the league, as you can see these are mainly in three areas of the pitch, out wide in the vertical channel, centrally in the middle third and in the attacking third. In the wide vertical channels, the Italian is often used to receive a throw-in, using his strength to control the ball Petrelli is often utilised to help relieve pressure from Juventus’s defensive unit. In the middle third, Petrelli can often be found dropping deep to receive a pass, helping Juventus in the transitional phase. Finally, in the attacking third Petrelli often backs his strength and dribbling ability to win offensive duels and set up shooting opportunities for himself.
An example of Elia Petrelli’s ability to play with his back to his opponent can be seen in the above image against Sporting Lisbon. Petrilli gets himself in front of his marker in the penalty area to make himself available to receive the throw-in.
Using his body effectively to shield the ball from the defender, Petrelli is able to use his strength to hold off the opposition. The Italian also has the audacity to look for a pass whilst engaged in the attacking duel, finding space towards the edge of the box which has been vacated as the Sporting defence is focused on dealing with the immediate threat of Petrelli.
The above image shows us how Petrelli operates in the attacking third of the pitch, bringing to our attention the Italians preference in relation to penalty area deliveries. I would like to draw your attention to Petrelli’s carries with a particular focus on his entries from the left. Notice the angle at which he enters the penalty area? the 45-degree angle gives the Italian a much better chance of scoring should he take a shot across the goalkeeper.
Taking our analysis a little deeper by looking at Petrelli’s passing in key areas (advanced middle third and the attacking third) of the pitch, will give us an insight into how Elia can impact a game in attack.
Firstly, looking at all the radars it is clear that Petrelli is more effective playing with his back to goal. The centre-forward has a high accuracy for most passes which are lateral or backwards, again highlighting his effectiveness in building attacks from the back, offering Juventus the option to progress the ball. The worrying point for Petrelli is his ability to progress the ball in central areas, this is certainly an area which he will need to develop if he is to fit into Maurizio Sarri’s tactics/philosophy. Sarriball is essentially a fast-paced, possession-based style of attacking football which is often linked to vertical tiki-taka.
Examples of Petrelli demonstrating his quality in progressing the ball into the attacking third can be seen below, firstly against Atletico Madrid.
In the above image, Atletico Madrid are set up in a compact mid-block within their 4-1-4-1 formation opting to sit back and allow Juventus time on the ball. Pivot Oscar Castro is screening the space between the defensive lines, blocking the passing lane to Pablo Moreno. Reacting to Castro’s decision, Petrelli drops between the lines into a pocket of space, enabling Franco Tongya to progress the ball, packing multiple Atletico players.
Elia again uses his body position when receiving the pass to shield the ball from German Valera, he then plays a perfectly weighted through-ball beyond the defensive line into space for Nicolo Fagioli to attack.
Below against Milan is an example of Elia carrying the ball into the penalty area, Juventus are on the counter-attack and looking to exploit a large amount of space in behind the defence. Petrelli drops off the Milan central defenders, who are breaking their necks to avoid a ball being played in behind them. This again highlights the intelligence of Elia, his quick thinking creates an easy pass into the large area of space in the centre of the pitch.
This is where Petrelli comes to life, despite being outnumbered the powerful centre-forward accelerates through the gap and uses his superior upper-body strength to brush off both defenders, creating himself a clear cut chance to score.
Juventus U19’s are relatively aggressive in the defensive phase, the Bianconeri have the sixth-highest passes per defensive action value within the league, replicating the approach of the first-team.
Petrelli plays an effective role in Juventus’ press, looking at Petrelli’s defensive actions, recoveries, in particular, you can see that the Italian has regained possession for his side the most through counter-pressing, favouring the left side of the pitch.
Elia is also in the top five centre-forward in the Campionato Primavera in respect to his high value of interceptions made, Elia’s per 90 figure currently sits at 2.48.
This again highlights Petrelli’s work-rate, a fundamental attribute which is needed to succeed in today’s modern game.
Elia Petrelli is certainly a player that is worth keeping a close eye on, especially considering the re-emergence of big powerful strikers (Romelu Lukaku, Andrea Petagna & Andreas Cornelius) who are managing to muscle their way back into manager’s plan in Serie A.
The centre-forward has shown he possesses a great deal of star quality playing for the U19’s, it will be interesting to see how the Italian continues to develop and perform, especially when playing for Juventus U23 where the differences in players physical development are less diverse.
Petrelli certainly has the credentials to become one of the household names in Italian football, at Juventus he has the ideal progression pathway, giving that the U23 side play in the third tear of Italian football, Serie C.
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