Mattia Bani has been one of the key performers for Bologna this season under the guidance of Siniša Mihajlović. Bani is a right-footed defender and is playing in his first season for the Rossoblù after he joined the club based in Bologna, Emilia-Romagna after signing from Chievo Verona for £2.43 million.
The Italian has played a total of 1,870 minutes in Serie A this season as manager Siniša Mihajlović has often relied on Mattia’s defensive ability in his favoured 4-2-3-1, a formation which has been used in 55% of Bologna’s games in Serie A, in which Bani often lines up as the right centre-back.
This scout report will provide a data and tactical analysis on Mattia Bani, focusing on his abilities in both the defensive and attacking phases of the game. These features will be related to his contribution to Bologna’s season in Serie A.
First of all, Bani’s heat map below illustrates the defender’s behaviour on the pitch from the 2019/20 season in Serie A for Bologna. The Italian clearly is not locked to a fixed or limited position but instead, he covers a large space across the main breadth of the 18-yard box. The heat map also implies that Mattia Bani also has a tendency to play in a free role, releasing himself into the midfield area possibly with the view to intercept the ball or to generate a numerical advantage in the midfield. Moreover, Bani does not like to carry the ball into the offensive half and is most effective in his own half of the pitch.
Mattia Bani, per Siniša Mihajlović’s tactics, has featured more often than not as the right centre back of a defensive four. A natural on the right, Bani can often be found in more advanced positions when positioned in this favourable role, this can be clearly seen below when comparing his territorial coverage between right and left centre back.
The below map indicates the positions he’s taken up at different times, in course of the season on the right.
He has also played as a left centre back. Although in this case, Bani does not offer as much to Bologna, he has a reduced frequency of actions over the half-way and also doesn’t roam as much, highlighting the player’s lack of confidence in using his wrong foot.
The below map indicates the positions he’s taken up at different times, in course of the season on the left.
Bani is a centre-back who thrives in the role of a stopper; he is an aggressive defender who loves to play on the front-foot and enjoys getting involved in duels. His height stands at 1.88m tall which makes him an indirect set-piece threat, three of his four goals this season in Serie A have come from within the six-yard box.
The Italian is also in the top 10% of centre-backs in relation to interceptions, showing his superior intellect and suggests the player has two high mental capabilities in relation to anticipation and positioning.
In order to highlight Bani’s defensive performance over this season I have conducted a data analysis, looking at all Serie A centre backs who have played over 900 minutes for their clubs. This analysis looks at the key parameters which I feel are essential to defending, successful aerial and ground duels.
Bani’s aerial prowess is particularly impressive, as you can see from the above data visualisation Bani is the most successful centre-back in Serie A in relation to the amount of aerial duels he is winning per 90 minutes, a figure which stands at 4.16 per 90 minutes. The Italian also is involved in the highest amount of aerial duels per 90 minutes (6.82) this is due to the defender’s anticipation and desire to get involved in these duels, even if outside of his defensive zone.
Bani is aggressive in his aerial duels and this trait paired with his ability to read the game and his explosive jumping power are three attributes which really give him the edge when contesting for the ball.
An example of highlighting how Bani uses his aerial strength to dominate play is given in the above image, Bologna have closed down all passing lanes open to Udinese, forcing them to play a long ball upfield from the back towards Stefano Okaka and Kevin Lasagna. A tactic often employed by Udinese manager Luca Gotti due to Okaka’s strength, his aerial ability.
Bani anticipates the threat that the strikers pose and jumps out of his defensive line, allowing Takehiro Tomiyasu and Danilo to back off and potentially pick up the second ball. In this situation against Udinese, Bani was successful in winning the ball despite coming up against two opponents on this occasion.
The defender also performed above average in relation to his successful defensive duels per 90 minutes, a figure which stands at 6.82 which is shown in the above data. As you can see only José Luis Palomino (6.94 successful defensive duels per 90) of Atalanta and Marash Kumbulla (8.26 successful defensive duels per 90) of Hellas Verona are winning more defensive duels.
Above is an image showing Bani again in an advanced position against Atalanta, the Italian has followed Luis Muriel as the striker dropped deep to receive a pass in space, again highlighting his awareness of the game.
In this circumstance, Bani completes a successful challenge winning the ball high up the field and enabling Bologna to transition quickly into the attacking phase, his long pass forward finds Rodrigo Palacio as the striker then gets a shot off on goal in a high xG position. Despite Bani’s ability to play a long ball, something I will cover in a little more detail later, Bologna have only scored three goals on the counter this season.
Bani’s performance against both types of duels highlights how much Bani enjoys the defensive aspect of the game and shows his competitive edge, only 14 centre-backs are performing above average against these two variables, of which he can be considered in the top three.
The role of the centre-back has changed, there is now a greater emphasis on centre-backs to show their ability on the ball. They must not only play simple passes to their team-mates, but create goal-scoring opportunities by pushing forward to create an extra man in the midfield or by spraying passes to each flank to help spread the play.
In order to compare Bani to other centre-backs in Serie A in relation to his ability to operate as a ball-playing centre-back, I have conducted a data analysis, looking at all Serie A centre backs who have played over 900 minutes for their clubs. This analysis looks at the key parameters which I feel ball-playing centre-backs would excel, progressive runs per 90 and progressive passes per 90.
Examining the above data visualisation you will see that Bani is performing above average in relation to progressive passes per 90 minutes, he is attempting on average 9.08 per 90 minutes which has him in the top 20 in relation to centre-backs in Serie A.
This comes as no surprise, I have already highlighted Bani’s ability in relation to distributing the long-ball, a feature of his game which often helps put Bologna on the front foot in relation to transitioning from defence to attack.
Bani’s confidence in relation to playing the ball out through a pass can also be his Achilles’ heel, the Italian can sometimes default to scanning the field at distance rather than looking for a simpler pass in close proximity.
Above you can see that Bani has three simple progressive passing options available all within 15 yards, midfielder Nicolas Dominguez is demanding the ball, forward Musa Barrow has dropped deep to become an option and defender Ibrahima Mbaye is free on the touchline.
Despite the positioning of these players Bani opts for the longer pass bypassing the midfield direct to an area of space which he identified in front of Rodrigo Palacio. At 38 years-old the Argentinian striker probably isn’t the right player to be asking to make explosive accelerations to get him in behind the defence, especially when he is isolated and has three Atlanta players hot on his tail.
If we take a closer look at the second data set which I have selected, progressive runs per 90, you will see on closer analysis that Mattia Bani is performing below average. In fact his figure of 0.23 progressive runs per 90 minutes put the Bologna defender in the bottom five places in Serie A.
As worrying as this may seem, you will see that the average figure in relation to this data set for centre-backs is slightly under one progressive run per 90 minutes, although the area could be deemed as a weakness Danilo, Bani’s partner at the back for the Rossoblù is performing above average in this data set and could be receiving instructions from Siniša Mihajlović to dribble the ball out knowing that Bani’s success in defensive duels gives Bologna the added safety if he stays set on the transition.
Considering the fact that no other centre-back in Serie A is winning as many aerial duels per 90 minutes than Mattia Bani it would come as a surprise that the Italian has only scored one goal this season from a header.
Bani often can be found taking up a position on the edge of the box rather than that of a static target for the delivery. This suggests that the defender has a preference of attacking the ball dynamically, allowing him to use his awareness to judge the flight of the ball and mobility to shake off his marker.
Taking the analysis a little deeper, I opted to look into Bologna’s game with Fiorentina in January 2020, a game which Bologna managed to have no fewer than fourteen corners.
Surprisingly between Riccardo Orsolini and Nicola Sansone, Bologna only managed to beat the first man on seven occasions (50%) and were successful winning the header past the first man on only a single occasion.
The context surrounding the set-piece leads me to believe that Bani’s supply chain are struggling to deliver a consistent quality of ball into the box for the defender to attack from corners. Maybe the defender should adopt the position at the front post to contest in an area where the ball seems to be half of the time.
Mattia Bani has proven himself to be one of the most combative defenders in Serie A this season for Bologna, the guidance of Siniša Mihajlović would have certainly benefited the Italians game.
The analysis shows just how effective Bani can be playing in the role of the stopper, this is highlighted in the amount of duels he is entering per 90 minutes. This paired with his anticipation and positioning skills makes him the perfect partner for a ball-playing centre-back, which would allow Bani to focus purely on his defensive duties.
Bani certainly has time on his side, at the age of 26 he is entering his prime, a period which will certainly be pivotal in relation to how his career is judged. In my opinion if Bani continues to perform to the level he has done this season for Bologna, he will be knocking on Roberto Mancini’s door in relation to securing a call up to the Azzurri national team.