In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Sassuolo’s promising striker Giacomo Raspadori.

Giacomo Raspadori debuted in Serie A with Sassuolo by playing one single minute at the end of the last season. During this season, though, people started talking about him on a regular basis. He played almost 300 minutes, with two starts in the initial XI, and he scored two rather important goals in Serie A.

Against Lazio, before scoring his first-ever Serie A goal, he managed to beat the goalkeeper after just 7 minutes, but the goal was disallowed. On other occasions, he started from the bench, bringing an unpredictable and extremely reactive style of football onto the pitch. Against Cagliari, a few days after the game at Lazio, he scored a beautiful and eye-catching goal. He got the ball just behind the midfield, then running at a rather impressive pace. Masiello, behind him, wasn’t able to cope with his speed. Raspadori then shot the ball with a slow and accurate strike, scoring.

Raspadori only became part of De Zerbi’s rotations later this season when the congested schedule and Defrel’s absence forced him to find an alternative for ‘Ciccio’ Caputo in the youth team. Raspadori had an interesting impact because he seems born to play as a center-forward in a system like Sassuolo’swhich is strongly structured around the principles of positional football.

We’re talking about an anomalous technical profile in modern football because he has the body of a playmaker, but the playing style of a finisher. In fact, he’s been compared to another nimble striker like Antonio Di Natale. Even if he says he gets inspiration from “El Kun” Agüero, saying:“His playing style is incredible, I was also compared to Di Natale and Tevez but I want to stay grounded”. Actually, he also played as a wing-forward, or in one of the advanced forward spots in a 4-2-3-1 lineup.

His peculiar physique is what makes him so versatile. At 172 cm tall, with enormous quads and low barycenter, Raspadori has a reactivity that allows him to play in much less time and space than other players. This skill is enhanced by his great first control and a neat and sensible sensitivity with both feet when carrying the ball.

Regardless of these physical and technical skills, that apparently belong to a dribble-oriented winger, Raspadori has the mentality and the instinct of a finisher. Which poses the question: can one play as a striker if he’s 170cm tall? From the very first years with the academy teams, he played almost every offensive position, but it was him who said he is a center-forward, last year, after the Coppa Italia game against Perugia. Of course, his movements are more varied than a regular striker’s movements. Not only does Raspadori attack space, but he often runs towards the ball to play in the channel, where he has a great technical sensitivity when playing short passes. He also has great vision and passing accuracy when given the change to move freely.

He also knows how to move forward between the two center-backs to create space for his teammates. On the occasion below, he runs between the two Lazio defenders to leave the space open for Djuricic that was carrying the ball. The play ends with the Serbian’s shot hitting the bar.

When he receives the ball in space, Raspadori is quick, intense, and hard to contain. His quickness in tight spaces makes him formidable in setting up shots in the box, especially because his ability to use both feet makes it hard for defenders to guess what he’ll do.

Even when his opponent manages to make body contact in 1v1s, his strong legs allow him to turn around defenders, even when they are stronger and taller than he is. For example, against Lazio, Acerbi had a hard time stopping his nimbleness in physical duels. Of course, Raspadori’s height makes him irrelevant in aerial duels, both in the box and when trying to flank play for a teammate. Luckily for him, that’s an unexplored game situation for Sassuolo: statistically, they are the team with the least long passes in Serie A.

With positional football and a quick, complex passing game between offensive players, De Zerbi’s Sassuolo team seems built to enhance Raspadori’s skills, allowing him to grow in a protected environment. He can also learn from a true master of the game without the ball like Caputo: “I learned something from everyone in the last months,” said Raspadori. “From Caputo, Boga, and Berardi. It’s been enriching to train with them and I feel very confident on the pitch. I also need to thank De Zerbi and all the youth team managers who have always trusted me. The team helped me a lot in becoming a better player”.

Raspadori’s limits are all merely physical. In order to play as number 9 at high levels without matching the center backs’ strength, he will have to specialize and improve the quality of his game, with and without the ball. Particularly, he will need to learn how to make his shooting more efficient, as it’s now good but not enough to stand among others. He needs to improve both power and precision. In the next Serie A season, we will understand more about his talent, which is luckily protected by a team that, at the moment, seems the perfect place for him to develop.

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