Federico Chiesa is fast establishing himself as one of the most exciting talents in Serie A not just for the league, but for the national team too. Over the course of the 2017/18 season and into the current one, the Fiorentina youngster and well-known son of Enrico has stepped out of his father’s shadow as his potential has skyrocketed, and has done so with a unique style of play.
The 20-year-old already has seven appearances for the Azzurri since making his debut in March of this year and has two goals and an assist in six Serie A games so far for Fiorentina, but he has gone somewhat under the radar with the performances of ex-Fiorentina winger, Federico Bernardeschi’s performances for Juventus. A threat on either wing or centrally, Chiesa’s work-rate, pace and dribbling is proving a nightmare for defences throughout the league and so far, it looks as though he has improved on his end-product which let him down on occasion last season.
With unquestionable heritage, the skills to back it up, as well as the league’s big boys permanently interested, Chiesa is making his way swiftly up the ladder. The question is; how high can he go?
Let’s break down the unusual style of play which has taken Serie A by surprise.
The Little Winger Who Takes on Big Defences
A ‘winger’ by trade, Federico Chiesa drifts between a player who makes an attempt to stay out on the wing, who then ends up as an inside forward and in some games, takes it upon himself to play a free role.
The above image is Chiesa’s touch map against Atalanta where he started the game (apparently) on the right-wing. You don’t need to be a football analyst to see he indeed did not stay there for long.
Far from a criticism, this is what sets Chiesa apart as a dynamic, unpredictable talent. An interesting thing to note is the distances between his touches on the wing. Rather than take small touches and stand up a defender, he uses his blistering pace to take a longer touch to let him get into his stride and power past full-backs.
Our next map is of Chiesa’s shots when Fiorentina had, shall we say, a busy day in front of goal as they beat Chievo 6-1 on the opening day of the Serie A season. This is a good example to show his shot distribution as Chiesa managed the most shots of anyone in the match (six).
As we can see, even for an inside forward, he tends to take shots from areas you would expect from a typical number nine. Chiesa has played second-striker before and seems destined to play there again in a decade’s time when his pace fades.
For now, he loves nothing more than to run at opposition defences centrally. This causes chaos as instead of one striker being marshalled by two centre-backs, they now have to split as one deals with the marauding ‘winger’ and one keeps tabs on the striker. Inevitably this is easier said than done and gaps open up for midfield runners.
This has helped Fiorentina’s midfielders to become prolific goalscorers with Marco Benassi the club’s top-scorer with three. The side are also one of the league’s high-flyers, sitting in third, as well as Sassuolo in fifth.
By No Means the Finished Article
Last season, Lorenzo Insigne was in the form of his life, and was Napoli’s best winger since the days of Diego Maradona.
No winger matched up to the heights Insigne reached in 2017/18, but it is a good reference point for the level which Federico Chiesa can perhaps one day be at.
His weakness last season was his end product, as we can see from his 78% pass completion and 1.6 key passes per 90, compared to Insigne’s 85% and 2.65 key passes, respectively.
As we know, Chiesa has never been afraid to have a pop at goal with 3.26 shots per 90 in 2017/18 and has been far more clinical already this campaign.
Where Chiesa excels is his energy and work-rate for the team. His defensive contribution is far more than his rivals with 1.26 tackles per 90, almost the same as the other three shown combined. So, while his end product is a work in progress, he has become vital to the team almost through his sheer ability of being a massive pain to opponents.
At 20-years-old, Federico Chiesa still has plenty of time on his side to refine his raw talent. However, what we can see already is that he has a one-of-a-kind style of play. He is unpredictable, unorthodox and uncompromising, especially when he is allowed to get his head down and just run at people. His tendency to drift causes nightmares for players marking him, and this season we should already see his goals and assist numbers shoot up.