As one of the best Italian young talents in the deep-lying position, let’s see how Rovella takes advantage of his unique set of skills

Nicolò Rovella signed for Monza on the last day of the summer transfer market, when Juventus loaned him out to give more space to Fagioli and Miretti, both younger and with less Serie A experience than him. To many, that looked like a failure for Rovella, a midfielder with two full seasons as a professional behind him, always seen as a future investment for Juventus. As soon as he arrived at Monza, Stroppa immediately played him as a deep-lying midfielder in his 3-5-2 system. This wasn’t really a new position for Rovella. He indeed played mainly as a Mezzala at Genoa, but he grew up playing as a deep-lying playmaker in the academy years.

He immediately did well in that position. In the first game against Atalanta, he was the Monza player with the most passes (83, with a 90% success rate) and most recoveries, 10. Stroppa’s stint with Monza only lasted one more game, though. Raffaele Palladino took his place on the bench, and the new manager was able to give the team a precise identity pretty quickly, ultimately putting Rovella in a position that glorified his skills. Statistically speaking, Monza’s midfielder is now one of the most productive in Serie A, not only for his defensive skills and dynamism but mostly for his playmaking.

In his 3-4-3, Palladino plays him on the center-left side, usually beside a teammate that is more inclined to play without the ball like Pessina (or Sensi). Regardless of his young age (21-years-old), Rovella is not afraid to take on all the responsibilities that come with the role. As of now, he is the Serie A midfielder with more passes (65.02 p/90, with nearly a 90% success rate), and the midfielder with the second-most long passes, behind Amrabat. It’s not a surprise, then, if even Manchester City’s scouts visited Monza to see Rovella play before the November break.

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To his playmaking skills, Rovella adds universal defensive abilities. He doesn’t have a strong physique to win many duels or take the ball off opponents’ feet with the length of his legs, but his defensive readings are very refined for a player his age. His 4.16 interceptions P/90 makes him one of the best in Serie A in winning back balls. Against Salernitana he added 10 more. Rovella’s interceptions are very clean and are executed by anticipating the opponent’s intentions. His light and dynamic physique help him cover big chunks of the pitch but it wouldn’t be enough without Rovella’s tactical acumen and craftiness in positioning. For Palladino, having a player with these defensive skills is a great advantage, allowing him to make the team a bit more unbalanced.

In fact, his manager defined him as a “fundamental” player, complaining about his absence when he was unavailable (he had a couple of small injuries throughout the season) and defending him when he made mistakes, like the one against Bologna that ended up with a conceded goal to Ferguson. Rovella still makes many mistakes – maybe even “too many” – but it’s normal for a player that is so heavily involved in the build-up, that touches the ball so many times while playing for a non-elite team. As of now, he loses 7.43 balls p/90, a number that has to decrease if he wants to become a starter in an elite team.

This season, though, is showing Rovella’s personality in one of the most delicate roles in modern football. If he is able to keep this level up throughout the second part of the season, there will be more than one team keeping their eyes on him.

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