Filip Đuričic is one of those players which football fans are in love with for years. But he is also that player who was not able to show his qualities due to discontinuity. We are talking about one of the brightest Serbian talents who was not capable of conquering European football (yet).
In this tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, I am going to illustrate why Đuričic is now a complete player and why he is so important for Roberto De Zerbi and his Sassuolo.
The right context makes the difference
On February 23, 2013, it was confirmed that Đuričic had passed medical tests with Benfica. A week later, the Portuguese team revealed that his contract contained a release clause which valued him 40 million. But the Serbian never demonstrated being worth so much. And therefore a long loans journey started for him.
His football career switched in Benevento. The meeting with De Zerbi was in the right place and at the right time. His attacking style of play is reminiscent of the work of both Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola. A context in which Đuričic can express his qualities and be a crucial player. The possibility given to him to move around the front line made of the 28 years old player represent a danger between the lines.
As we can see in the heatmap below, Đuričic is a time bomb in the final third. His two-footed skills help him a lot, being unpredictable for the opponents both in the dribbling situations and in key passes. When the opponent’s lines are too tight, he is able to lower his barycenter and play with Manuel Locatelli and Maxime Lopez, the central midfielders.
Former Foggia manager built his team in order to include the Serbian. He has identified an aggressive, attacking style of play for his Sassuolo side, with the aim being to dominate possession across the pitch, in order to generate goalscoring opportunities.
The Neroverdi often played short passing systems both wide and centrally, looking to build up play at pace and interchange the ball between a group of players who overload a zonal area on the pitch. In this way, the former Benfica player was determinant in order to create chances.
The 4-2-3-1 formation, tactics, and his role as “No.10” seem to have been created ad hoc for him. By now he scored three goals and made two assists, which is not bad when considering that he played only seven games in Serie A. His season record was ten goals and four assists when he was at Heerenveen.
In the image above we can see his first goal of this season, against Spezia. The nutmeg was a stroke of genius by a revitalized player. As a matter of fact, Đuričic’s specialities are his impressive dribbling ability (7/12 in that game) and chance creation from long balls and key passes (three in that game).
The numbers speak for themselves
The rebirth of Đuričic started almost one year ago when he also passed some annoying injuries. From that moment on, he began playing like he was a teenager, according to analysis. The Serbian is not known for his punt aptitude. As a matter of fact, the player’s shots in the last calendar year were only 54. 17 on the target (31.5% of accuracy) and 4.96 xG with a goal conversion of 11.1%. It is odd to read that he tries more shots between 46′-60′ (18), at least 10 more compared to other times in the game.
His ductility on the pitch had also consequences in penalty area deliveries on the left flank (11/17 passes), in the centre (18/24) and also on the right (8/10). His key passes were sent especially from the centre (eight). And his total accuracy in the final third stands at 72.5%. Furthermore, Đuričic tries 2.6 passes to penalty area/90 and his accuracy stands at 63.79%.
In the radar below we study how Đuričic creates numerical superiority. His important dribbling abilities represent a factor in Sassuolo’s attacking force. A total of 46/62 dribbles (74.2% successful). 15/22 against centre backs, 4/7 with a shot after and 0.56 of xG. Đuričic tries 4.52 dribbles per game (2.15 successful).
Đuričic is endowed with an interesting physical freshness and a good pace. Furthermore, his superb vision makes him one of the most impressive talents of Serie A. He is always determinant when Sassuolo prepares counterattacks. 91/112 progressive passes (47/47 from 20m to more than 40). One small objection concerns his decision-making because the 41.6% of the events after progressive runs are ball losses. While 7.8% are shooting cases, a piece of significant information that tells us about his personality in transition situations.
De Zerbi’s football idea is innovative, strongly oriented to ball domination and high barycenter. The forwards are vital in order to reconquer the ball as quick as possible. It was not by chance that Đuričic reconquered the ball 37 times, made 28 counter-pressing actions, and six interceptions all in the final third. 3.67 recoveries per game and 2.01 counter-pressing recoveries/90. It is also important to note his contribution in the central third: 38 recoveries, counter-pressing recoveries and three interceptions.
This can be a season break for the former Sampdoria attacking midfielder. The possibility to work with De Zerbi is manna from heaven for a thinking player like him. As we saw, his expertise is quite wide. In this way, Sassuolo can also exploit his multitasking features. De Zerbi managed to shape a team that is able to attack in many ways, with some huge talents, and with a strong disposition.
As we see in the image below, the Serbian attacks efficaciously the depth, winning also the run duel against Takehiro Tomiyasu and scoring an important goal against Bologna. This capacity of reading situations is vital in order to move up the opponent.
In conclusion, Đuričic is a key player for Sassuolo. De Zerbi extrapolated his talent by making it available for the entire team. Now Sassuolo stands at the second place in Serie A and surely it did not happen by chance. After the break, the Neroverdi will face Hellas Verona, another surprising team this season, which style of play is directed to ruining and not to constructing.
In these games, it will be important to exploit the spaces between the lines. And the Serbian can be the decisive tool.