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Opinion: Mancini brings multiple strengths to the capital
Illustration by Vinnotsaurus (@vinnot86)

Our columnist takes a look at Gianluca Mancini's final season at Atalanta, and what his arrival might mean for Roma...

Signing one of the brightest young prospects in Italian football in Gianluca Mancini, this acquisition is another decisive move as sporting director Gianluca Petrachi continues the Giallorossi's recruitment drive.

Needing to bolster their defensive ranks, Mancini's arrival from Atalanta is an extremely sensible move, for he knows the league, will fit in beautifully with Paulo Fonseca's philosophy and still has so much scope for improvement.

Having come on in leaps and bounds at Atalanta under Gian Piero Gasperini's tutelage, the 23-year-old defender enjoyed a breakout campaign last term on his way to making 35 appearances in all competitions.

Predominantly operating in a back five as an outside centre back with La Dea, he displayed what a fantastic talent he is, with his athleticism, power, pace and intelligence catching the eye. Playing an integral role in Atalanta claiming a memorable fourth place finish, Mancini illustrated how influential he was on both sides of the ball within Gasperini's dynamic outfit.

While he's expected to play in the heart of defence at Roma, the fact he's so versatile and can play as a central defender in a back four or five or as a wingback/fullback, should give Fonseca plenty of tactical flexibility as to how best deploy him.

Physically imposing and a fierce competitor, Mancini's hard-nosed approach should see him quickly endear himself to the Roma faithful, as he looks to make life as tough as possible for his adversaries. Thriving in battles of strength, the towering 190 cm stopper relishes throwing his weight around in duels all over the pitch.

So quick to react to pressing triggers like when an opponent drops deep to link play, he follows them vigorously, giving them minimal time and space by getting touchtight to his man so they can't receive cleanly, turn him or execute their actions smoothly.

While this subsequently sees him commit a few fouls or sometimes get caught out, it also crucially forces turnovers, stops many counter attacks and halts more methodical moves dead in their tracks.

Moreover, this also lets his team regain possession in ideal, often advanced, locations to quickly launch attacks.

During his spell with Atalanta, their typically man-oriented pressing scheme favoured his aggressive approach beautifully, with him proving a challenging obstacle for most attackers to overcome in these instances.

Diligent in tracking his opponents' runs in behind and into the box, his awareness and handy speed ensures he regularly nullifies their threat. Importantly, if a colleague needs support or a runner from midfield pierces through, his proactivity and pace allows him to capably come to the rescue for his side.

Despite his forceful nature, the former Fiorentina prospect notably has a sound positional sense, which sees him know when to hold his post, move up or drop back in unison with his backline, plus when to shift across or slide laterally and cover behind a teammate when they push up.

From this solid base, he's demonstrated how coherently he applies his tackles and cuts out attacks with crisp interceptions, as he blends power and finesse effectively.

Being largely adept in his decision making and judgement, this transfers into his capacity to defend aerial deliveries, crosses and cutbacks, for he smartly picks up the ball's trajectory and velocity to situate himself accordingly. Long legged and acquitting himself nicely in 1v1 ground duels, the rangy defender makes himself as wide as possible to make him a difficult man to outfox.

Another bonus is how he's comfortable defending in both wide and central areas, an aspect of his game that being competent as a full back is clearly vital towards, which means if he does happen to get dragged out, he's fine dealing with such scenarios.

Completing 1.52 ball recoveries in the opposition half per game, 2.2 tackles pg at 60%, 5.02 interceptions pg, 5.3 loose ball pick ups pg, 2.51 clearances pg, 3.1 won aerial duels pg at 60% and 13 overall challenges pg at 66% (a better rate than Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaluly) underlines his disruptive value.

A real force to be reckoned with on the offensive end too, on top of being a huge set piece threat, he's excellent in build up and loves driving upfield with the ball at his feet.

Due to his aforementioned aerial prowess and how he ferociously attacks the ball, he's an intimidating and influential customer in any dead ball situation. Registering a superb five Serie A goals, he supplied Atalanta with a wonderful target inside the box. Brave and unwavering in his quest to latch onto deliveries and timing his leap effectively, he's so hard to stop for markers who persistently were overpowered by him.

Given plenty of freedom to maraud upfield from his central defensive post, he joined in attacks at every available opportunity. Whether it be through cunning underlaps, blistering overlaps or surging straight through the middle, his dynamic runs did a fantastic job of creating valuable overloads for his team in advanced areas.

Causing major marking dilemmas on who should mark him, which was only heightened by Atalanta's smooth rotations, Mancini's presence consequently destabilised backlines all over the country.

Furthermore, the fact he's so comfortable in possession when carrying the ball forward sees him competent at holding onto the ball to lure out a presser, so the inherent space left behind can be exploited by a teammate.

Timing and directing his runs thoughtfully and strategically, the way he generated superiorities in the final third certainly gave Atalanta an edge in breaking down their foes.

Boasting good ball control and a neat first touch, this gives him a top platform to embark on his journeys up the pitch, where he's exhibited how he can also beat his man 1v1 by parlaying skill and athleticism, as Fonseca will surely be keen to use his aptitude here to breathe life into Roma's attacks.

Fitting the bill for Fonseca in terms of his contribution in building out from the back too, the former Perugia man has the quality to fulfill his demands. Set to be key in connecting and constructing moves, he coherently moves the ball. Equally able to launch long through balls or diagonals, break the lines with penetrative vertical ground passes or when playing shorter passes, his range is a real asset.

Crucially, however, he recognises when to recycle possession if the progressive option is too risky. The two footed ball player accompanies the above with his composure, something that ensures he can still execute his passes despite being harried.

By the numbers, his offensive worth is depicted by his 1.14 shots per game (second among Serie A central defenders), 1.63 touches inside the box pg (second among Serie A central defenders), 1.14 shots pg, 0.8 dribbles pg, 0.52 key passes pg, 1.52 progressive runs pg, 0.18 expected goals pg, 4.83 completed final third passes pg and how he completed 49 passes pg at 85%.

For the man who's already earned two senior international caps for Italy, the future unquestionably looks bright for Mancini. Even though he'll still be seeking to fine tune his game, the fact he's already proven himself to be an accomplished Serie A defender should mean he'll be able to hit the ground running at his new club after being afforded an initial period of adjustment.

 
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