In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Reggina’s 19-year-old dynamic ‘mezzala’ Giovanni Fabbian
Serie B is always a good league to keep an eye on when looking for some of the most interesting talents in Italian football. Not all positions are equally well-stocked on talent, though. Right now, it looks like a very prosperous moment for midfielders: if the National team is struggling to produce talents that are good enough for their ambitions in defense and attack, there are plenty of interesting and talented midfielders that are rising through the ranks year after year. The last Serie B campaign saw the breakthrough of Niccolò Fagioli, who showcased his full range of technical skills with Cremonese. In this first part of the season, another young Italian midfielder was able to draw an equal amount of attention. His name is Giovanni Fabbian, he’s 19, and he plays for Reggina.
After just a few months of Fabbian’s first season as a professional, he already managed to appear bigger than the league is playing in. He played 17 games, scoring five goals and providing one assist. A decent offensive contribution, especially for a midfielder that is not even that offensive, who helped Reggina in the great campaign they have played so far. The Calabrian side ranks second in Serie B, only three points behind Fabio Grosso’s Frosinone (who can be considered the breakthrough team for the quality of their football).
In Filippo Inzaghi’s 4-3-3, Fabbian plays as the right mezzala, with a vertical and dynamic interpretation of the role. He plays alongside a ‘tidy’ central midfielder such as Zan Majer, and another mezzala such as Hernani, that plays more statically than him, mostly trying to influence the game with his playmaking.
Fabbian, on the other hand, only plays with a few touches, in a simple way, without too much playmaking. His most obvious quality from these past few months has been his talent to play without the ball. His defensive intensity, but also his savvy and intensity in movements without the ball. He is a midfielder that is great at cutting behind the lines, as highlighted by his manager Filippo Inzaghi. “He’s a 19-year-old that scored five goals as mezzala”, said Inzaghi. “Our football is a bit atypical and is perfect for him as it allows him to cut into the penalty box. I didn’t know him and the club was great but also his agent, he wore me out to sign him. Knowing how my teams play – with the midfielders cutting into the box – he knew he was going to be a great signing for me”.
Four out of the five goals he scored were headers, a skill on which Fabbian takes advantage of his remarkable timing but also a great technique. In this goal against Brescia, for example, he does a movement and countermovement to gain an advantage over the defender. A striker-like play. Fabbian fakes the movement to the far post and then runs toward the other side.
If goals are the most obvious part of his game without the ball, defensively Fabbian already is a very impactful player in Serie B. For the intensity with which he tackles opponents, the strength of his 1v1 duels, but also the intelligence of his interceptions- a very useful skill in Italian football. In this case, again in the game against Brescia, he noticed that the opponent in front of him created a dangerous 1v1 situation. He then runs to double cover with the defender that was running back toward the goal. He misses the kick – too central – but he’s quick of mind and legs to run immediately towards the opponent, anticipate him and pass to a teammate to start the play over.
With the ball, Fabbian’s game is rather minimal. He prefers to leave playmaking to other teammates, avoiding both long and through balls. In the 1v1 duels, though, he’s strong and technical. If he covers the ball, it’s hard to move or unbalance him. He has great maturity in his reading of the game, especially given his age. In the situation below, he doesn’t settle for a simple pass, gaining space with a dribble instead and giving the fullback time to overlap and being served with a through ball. Hence, while having more obvious skills when playing without the ball, technically Fabbian is a clean and tidy midfielder, capable of stepping up when necessary.
In a recent Reggina game in Serie B, Inter’s manager Simone Inzaghi was in the stands. Surely to support his brother Filippo, but who knows, maybe also to keep an eye on Fabbian’s performance, as his ownership belongs to Inter. Rumors have it he could return to Milan already this January, as soon as it may appear. When asked about it, Filippo Inzaghi asked his brother to be patient: “Giovanni needs to grow slowly and calmly. We’ll take good care of him”.