Opinion: How will Bryan Cristante slot in at Roma?

Our columnist takes a look at where Bryan Cristante, Roma's third signing of the summer, might slot in among the Giallorossi's midfield options...

Bryan Cristante's fascinating career path has now taken him to AS Roma. From AC Milan youth sensatio, where he debuted as a 16-year-old in the Champions League and went on to show plenty of promise, to then being strangely sold to Benfica - a move that never really worked out - a loan move to Atalanta finally offered him the platform to rejuvenate his promising career.

And that's precisely what the man who also spent loan spells at Palermo and Pescara did under the guidance of Gian Piero Gasperini in Bergamo last season, as he developed into one of the finest young central midfielders in Italy.

The 23-year-old impressed enormously, with his physical presence, intelligence, tactical acuity and technique, thus seeing him wow on a consistent basis, both domestically and in Europe.

Indeed, courtesy of his wonderful return of nine league goals in his 36 Serie A appearances, this saw him even finish the campaign as the highest scoring Italian central midfielder in the division.

Having clearly done their due diligence analysing the youngster this term, Monchi and the Giallorossi's recruitment department have once again signed a player who will fit in beautifully under Eusebio Di Francesco.

To start with, his excellent pressing game, that he honed so well working with Gasperini, will ensure he'll require minimal adaptation to Di Francesco's demands here. With Atalanta being very accomplished at high pressing, using man orientations and intense counterpressers, all aspects Di Francesco implements, expect him to be a key asset in this phase.

Applying himself wholeheartedly in this aspect extends over when he's performing his defensive actions, for he tackles with gusto and isn't afraid to use his hulking 188 cm frame to win battles, both in the air and on the ground.

Defending in a deeper mid block is also something he's sound at, where he responds sharply to pressing triggers, when to hold his post or when to support a colleague.

While he's very competent defensively, his attacking contribution is unquestionably the area of his game where he stands out most. The versatile midfielder passes the ball with clarity, precision and creativity, as he strokes the ball around with conviction. Whether hitting short or long deliveries, the two-footed Italian can combine deftly in close proximity to his teammates, switch the angle of attacks with sweeping diagonals, add incision to build up play or play defence splitting through balls, with all of the afore set to be vital for Roma.

When receiving possession, the man capped five times at international level does a sterling job of altering his body position to inherit in ideal postures to shield, hold up or turn in one motion. Using his awareness and regular head scans, so he knows exactly where his opponents are in relation to him, Cristante's judgement is fantastic.

His knowledge of how to contort his body is especially crucial when he obtains possession in the 10 spaces, where he regularly receives in a forward facing orientation so he can control the ball and keep his momentum going, rather than with his back to goal, which is far less favourable and easier to defend.

Arguably the most influential aspect of his offensive skill set comes through his intelligent movement, however, which sees his spatial recognition and clever exploitation of vacant zones come to the fore.

Always on the lookout and alert for potential weak spots within opposition defences, Cristante targets, curves and directs his runs exceptionally to penetrate stopping structures.

His runs are so difficult to track too, for he usually instigates his movements from cunning zones, usually on the blindside of his marker, and mixes things up really well. He'll pop up in between the lines, make in-to-out runs, out-to-in runs, surge upfield from central midfield and push onto the last line to add depth. It all depends on where any unoccupied gaps and pockets arise. So if and when said openings appear, Cristante will duly utilise them.

Other vital elements to his success can be found from his slick rotations with his centre forward, often Andrea Petagna with Atalanta, that cause plenty of indecision for his markers in regard to who to mark, while vitally destabilising opposing defences.

Moreover, his supporting movements out wide, which help form triangles and diamonds to assist his teammates to bypass the opposition, something that also ensures numerical superiority can be achieved, serve as another fruitful method to assist progression.

In addition to his strategic, dynamic runs that unsettle backlines tremendously, his set piece threat, tidy ball control and sharp maneuverability in tight spaces offer further upsides.

His strong statistics from last campaign provide a fine testament to the effectiveness of his multifaceted skill set, with him averaging 7.7 won aerial duels per 90, 2.71 successful dribbles p90, 3.05 interceptions p90, 1.86 shots on target p90 and completing 8.91 successful passes into the final third p90.

Now a fully fledged class act in his own right, Cristante will be a terrific asset to Roma's already talented squad, as there's no reason to suggest the next chapter in his fascinating journey won't be a successful one in the Eternal City.

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