This season in Serie A, Gaetano Castrovilli has been able to establish himself as an important first-team player for Fiorentina. The 23-year old has been able to clearly show his class by demonstrating exceptional attacking attributes and professionalism throughout this season.
For instance, he is the second-most fouled player in Serie A this season, with only Jérémie Boga having been fouled more times. The Italian has also been able to make more progressive runs than any other under-23 central midfielder within Europe’s top five leagues this season. This indicates to us just how talented Castrovilli is, especially when the ball is at his feet.
Throughout this tactical analysis in the form of a scout report, I will provide an in-depth analysis of Castrovilli’s role for Fiorentina both in and out of possession. I will also be highlighting his key attacking and defensive attributes and how these attributes help to provide greater tactical flexibility and security to Fiorentina.
Role for Fiorentina
Castrovilli has predominantly played as a left-sided central midfielder this season within Fiorentina’s 3-5-2 formation and tactics. When progressing play within this formation, Fiorentina often look to play the ball towards the central defensive midfielder Milan Badelj who often drops deep from his position to receive the ball. While this is happening Castrovilli will drift wide, causing the opponent’s midfield line to be stretched, and this opens up the space in the middle of the pitch for penetrative passes to be played into Fiorentina’s front two. Below we can see Castrovilli’s heatmap, which illuminates his positioning on the left side of the pitch.
However, when the pass towards the front two is not on for Fiorentina, they have a solid alternative option in which they pass the ball towards either the wing-backs or the central midfielders who are now in more advanced positions. This is important because the alternative passing option enables Castrovilli to execute a one-two with the wing-back where an overload can be created on the left flank providing an opportunity for play to be progressed towards the final third.
We can see Castrovilli in his usual match position below. As highlighted earlier, his positioning out wide is an integral part of Fiorentina’s build-up phase. For instance, by being out wide and isolated the opponents feel more inclined to press him as his passing options seem minimal, and in the case below he can only realistically pass to either Erick Pulgar or Badelj. However, as soon as the press is applied, space opens up for a pass to be played in between the lines towards Federico Chiesa who is now through on goal.
Passing and receiving the ball
Above we can see Castrovilli’s passing radar, and this highlights to us the directions of his passes as well as how accurate these passes are. As we can see from the radar, the majority of the Italian’s passes are going forwards meaning that they are helping to progress Fiorentina’s attacks. More importantly, however, most of his passes are made in the final third which outlines to us his attacking tendencies, as well as illustrating his desire to use positional play for the benefit of his team when in possession.
In the image above we can see Castrovilli dropping deep to receive the ball, during this the Italian remains on constant alert of the potential pressure coming from behind him.
As we can see above, once this press is applied, Castrovilli is able to use his awareness and composure to play a pass down the line towards the run of the wing-back (Dalbert Henrique). By doing this, Henrique is now able to drag the full-back from Atalanta down the line, which consequently creates more space in the centre of the pitch. While this is happening Castrovilli can now run into this space between the lines which has now been created, and prepare to receive the ball from a cut-back as seen below.
Interestingly, the area that Castrovilli would receive the ball here as highlighted by the blue circle, is the position which was outlined by the passing radar in which the majority of his passes were executed.
Moving on from this, we can see Castrovilli’s excellent ability to receive the ball under pressure again in the image below. With the example, Castrovilli can assess the area that he is in, by becoming exactly aware of where he is being pressed, as well as where his teammates are providing him with support. This enables Castrovilli to plan his next move ahead of time and work his way out of danger from his first touch.
In the image above, Castrovilli has three opponents that he has to try and manoeuvre around. Yet because he is aware of the pressure coming, he can quickly dart into another direction so that he only has to deal with one defender.
Castrovilli currently makes 6.47 dribbles per 90 at a success rate of 56.49%, illustrating his reputation of being an accomplished ball carrier. Because of this, the opposition tends to allocate more players than usual to stop his progression on the ball. Even so, by doing this whenever Castrovilli is able to beat his opponents on the ball, there is now going to be more space for his teammates to run into due to the overcommitment of players within Castrovilli’s position.
For instance, in the example above Castrovilli’s ball-carrying has caused three players from Atalanta to apply pressure to him. Yet, as we can see above, because so many players have committed to Castrovilli’s run, Franck Ribery is able to break free from any marking and advance towards the open space ahead. Following on from this, Castrovilli can now attempt to work some space between him and the pressers so that an accurate pass can be made towards Ribery, who is now in plenty of space to receive the ball.
Furthermore, alongside Castrovilli being able to create space for his teammates through his dribbling technique, he is also able to produce this space for himself thanks to his dynamic and agile movements on the ball. This is perfectly demonstrated below. In this image, the Italian is under pressure from an opponent who is attempting to steal the ball from his feet and as a response, he decides to quickly spin away from his opponent by using his agility and balance, and from this point, he can now drive into the unoccupied space that he has created for himself.
More specifically for Castrovilli to create this space for himself, he has to utilise his quick feet and exceptional close control skills when dribbling, to deceive his opponent. To do this he uses clever movement and ball trickery in order to force the opponent to go one way before he then moves in the opposite direction where the space has been created. After which he can then progress the play for his side by either carrying on with possession of the ball or alternatively choosing to make a pass or have a shot on goal.
When defending Castrovilli tends to adopt an aggressive approach, by being on constant alert for any opportunities in which he will be able to win the ball back for his team. As a result of this, he has been able to average 5.92 recoveries per 90 as well as being able to achieve a 57.61% success rate in defensive duels, making him one of the most efficient midfielders when defending in Serie A.
In the example above, we can see Castrovilli tracking back to prevent his opponent from causing a real threat to his side. The action of following his opponent here has a duel benefit for his side, not only will it help to suffocate the attacker of any space, but it will also ensure that the attacker has no possible passing angles or alternative options to escape the press. It is interesting to note that Castrovilli’s extra support in defence is not that crucial towards his side in this phase of play, yet his desire to provide additional coverage for his team helps to perfectly portray why he has been so crucial for Fiorentina this season.
For all the defensive work that Castrovilli has done in his half, he is also more than capable of winning the ball back further upfield. In the example below, we can see Castrovilli working to close down the ball carrier as quickly as possible. By doing this, the Italian has the chance to steal the ball from his opponent and get his side on the front foot again, in a more favourable position.
For anyone who watches Liverpool regularly, they will know that the further upfield you can win the ball back the more likely you are to score. This is exactly what Castrovilli is trying to implement here and despite it not working, it did help to temporarily disrupt SPAL’s build-up play.
To conclude this tactical analysis piece in the form of a scout report, Castrovilli has shown a great array of traits which has helped to make him a very versatile player for Fiorentina. With great composure along with a strong mentality and work rate, Castrovilli has been a consistent performer for his side this season, helping to provide a real return from his performances through a variety of in-game situations.
If Castrovilli wishes to improve, he has to develop his weakest areas such as his final ball, and only then will he be able to reach the heights of his fellow internationals such as Marco Verratti and Inter‘s Nicolò Barella.