In his first season as a Serie A regular, Gianluca Scamacca is proving to be one of the most exciting young Italian strikers of his generation. Let’s see why.
Gianluca Scamacca’s professional career can be compared to one of those untimely boxers that, especially in the past century, started to fight when they were 14, and then reached their prime with over a hundred fights behind them. People have been talking about Scamacca since when - at 16 years of age - he left Roma’s academy to tempt fate in the Netherlands, at PSV Eindhoven. It didn’t go well as he hoped but it’s only from last year - when he spent the season on loan at Genoa - that he gave the impression of being a reliable player at a high level.
This season, in Dionisi’s Sassuolo, he became a constant part of the starting XI only in October, convincing the manager to play him up front alongside Giacomo Raspadori. In February, his goal count already reached double digits, as he scored with continuity, even against big teams.
In his most beautiful goals, you can clearly see all of those skills that looked like ‘potential’ only a few years ago and that today are helping him make a difference in one of the most challenging leagues for a striker.
Goal vs Inter
At the end of February, Sassuolo played a fantastic match against Inter in San Siro, winning 2-0 during a difficult moment for the Nerazzurri that cost them the top of the table. In Sassuolo’s fluid attack, the four strikers (Berardi on the right, Traoré on the left, Scamacca and Raspadori in the center) swap positions quite often and they alternate with each other in running toward the ball or cutting behind the lines, creating quick transitions full of beauty and effectiveness.
In the header scored by Scamacca, the second of the game, the play starts from his movement towards the ball, on the right flank, to help a teammate avoid the opponents’ pressure. Marked closely by de Vrij, Scamacca waits for Barella and Perisic to close on him too, and - when it seems there’s no space left, he manages to nutmeg an opponent to find a teammate. With a couple more amazing features (a one-touch control by Raspadori and a nice dribble by Maxim Lopez) the play allows Scamacca to jump all by himself on the far post, giving him all the time to score another beautiful goal.
Goal vs Milan
Scamacca has now scored 13 goals (1 from penalty kick) from a base of 10.47 Expected Goals, proving his ability to make something happen out of low-potential opportunities. Basically, by shooting from complicated positions and situations, just like he did against Milan when - even if he had the time to coordinate and aim properly - he preferred to try a long shot instead of getting closer to the goal. It must be noted how Scamacca was able to give the ball massive power and precision - which petrified Maignan - even by shooting with the inside of the foot.
Interviewed by Inside Serie A, he said that he doesn’t have any rational explanation for his shooting style, that it depends on “somebody putting a hand on my head”. He also admitted to always being obsessed with shooting to the goal, which was “the only thing I loved to do as a kid”. Nowadays, he shoots to the goal an average of 3.29 times p/90 (he is the seventh player in Serie A for the number of shots but he only gets the goal less than half of the time: 42.5%), and he often tries from distant positions with absurd angles. Sometimes he shoots almost from behind, or without any rhythm, maybe hitting the ball badly by trying to give it more power than precision. After the goal he scored against Milan, knowing exactly how hard these shots are, he said: “I wanted to shoot like this: it was either going to be a goal or a shot in the stands”.
Goal vs Napoli
In this season, Scamacca played more than a game giving the impression of being in an extraordinary shape. Against Empoli, in the second half of the season, he was subbed for the last 30 mins and he was able to score a brace and assist for another one after his shot hit the woodwork and allowed Raspadori to easily score in the undefended goal. But maybe the goal that better represents his talent is the one he scored against Napoli in early December. When Kiryakoupulos crosses from the left, the ball is slightly behind Scamacca’s run. Unable to head the ball, he chooses to stop it with his chest.
Scamacca had listlessly attacked the area just before, as Napoli’s lined-up defense apparently wasn’t leaving any open space. Chesting the ball may have looked like an ‘emergency move’, but Scamacca, by rotating on his right and orientating the ball with his chest to his right foot, was already coordinating for the volley. Koulibaly and Mario Rui are taken by surprise; Scamacca hits the ball on the fly and the shot is so violent that when Ospina makes his move the ball has already touched the back of the net.
There aren’t many players who are 1.96m tall and have his agility and technique. Even if Scamacca - from time to time - still does things with the frivolity of those who are used to dominating without any effort, on his first proper season as a Serie A regular in an offensive team, he improved a lot and he looks like someone who could become even better. For a 23-year old striker with most of his career ahead of him, it couldn’t look much better than this.