Looking through the matches played in the top five European leagues this weekend, the 5-3 result in the Sassuolo v Genoa game cannot help but catch the eye. And while the performances of Kevin-Prince Boateng and Khouma Babacar will probably be seen as instrumental and fill up the highlight reels, the performance between both boxes of Manuel Locatelli was highly impressive from a statistical point of view.
The young defensive midfielder was signed in the summer from AC Milan on loan for €2m, with an obligation to buy for €10m on July 1st, 2019. However, if he can keep turning in performances such as this one where he manages to break up play, dominate the second balls and still chip in creating two big chances that directly result in goals for his team, that €10m will look the bargain of the summer in ten months time.
Where can he improve?
Given his size, he could be more imposing in midfield as his tackles (1.6 per 90), fouls (1.1 per 90) and aerial duels (0.8 per 90) are all in or around the bottom ten percent for midfielders in the top five European leagues last season. Although his defensive numbers this game could be a sign that as he matures, he will be more willing to battle for the ball more.
He also offers little threat in the box in his career to date, despite his size and good technique with his shots, and has just one shot in the penalty box in his career to date. Likewise, he needs to start being more creative, especially as a set piece taker, with the Genoa game representing the first big chances and assist that he has created in fifty Serie A games.
Unfortunately, you see little of the defensive work here in the official Serie A match highlights package which his stats above highlight. However, you do see his brilliant through ball in the build-up to Nicolás Spolli's own goal. Then later, his corner which picks out the unmarked Gianmarco Ferrari on the back post for his side's fifth goal.
It was a very encouraging performance from a player who was once named on a list of the fifty best young players in the world by the Guardian. Hopefully he will start living up to his potential that has seen him hailed as a future Milan captain and described as a cross between Andrea Pirlo & Riccardo Montolivo in the past.Published 05 Sep 2018, 18:03 IST