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Andrea Pinamonti: Sassuolo’s Scamacca successor – scout report

A lethal goal-scorer at youth level with Inter Milan, Andrea Pinamonti (185cm/6’1”, 72kg/158lbs) is looking to reach his full potential in Serie A away from the Nerazzurri. In his first full season in senior football, the lifelong Inter fan joined Frosinone on loan, embarking on a season-long relegation battle. Despite the challenges that Frosinone faced, Pinamonti managed five goals and three assists in 18.02 nineties, eventually becoming a starter for the second half of the season. Given the circumstances at Frosinone, the Italian striker’s performances in his first loan were impressive.

A season at Genoa followed, with more experiences near the foot of the table as Italy’s oldest football club finished 17th, one place above relegation. Pinamonti’s game time increased at Genoa, playing 26.8 nineties in all competitions, scoring seven goals and registering three assists.

After two seasons in Serie A, the 2020/21 campaign could have been the year Pinamonti really excelled. Internazionale head coach Antonio Conte decided to keep the academy graduate in the first-team squad, but a lack of game-time and an ankle injury stunted Pinamonti’s development. Playing just 172 minutes across all competitions as Inter ended Juventus’ nine-year hold on the Serie A title, another loan move was required to get back on track.

That is precisely what the striker did, scoring 13 goals and assisting a further two in 36 Serie A appearances at Empoli. In Aurelio Andreazzoli’s 4-3-1-2, the striker flourished and developed different areas of his game. His performances earned an Italian national team call-up, alongside a summer transfer to Alessio Dionisi’s Sassuolo. Joining the Neroverdi on loan with an obligation to buy for £18m, Pinamonti will be joining an attacking, possession-based side away from the bottom of Serie A.

This tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, will look to identify Andrea Pinamonti’s play as a centre-forward as he aims to replace West Ham United striker Gianluca Scamacca in this exciting move to Sassuolo.

Player profile

Andrea Pinamonti is a 23-year-old striker with a variety of movements and ambipedal finishing ability, aiming to develop as an all-around forward. During his loan spell at Empoli last season, the Italian scored 13 goals (9 non-penalty goals) from 14.24 xG. Converting seven goals with his right foot and six with his left foot, Pinamonti’s ambipedal ball-striking provides unpredictability in the final third, helping to create more shooting opportunities. His xG+A of 16.29 ranked 13th in Serie A last season, although he could only register one assist from 2.05 xA.

The figure below displays Pinamonti’s heatmap at Empoli from the 2021/22 season. Under Aurelio Andreazzoli, Empoli would modify the shape of their front three and the selected personnel, but Pinamonti’s role would remain the same. Andreazzoli would typically deploy a 4-3-1-2, with Pinamonti partnered with Leonardo Mancuso, former AC Milan youngster Patrick Cutrone or sometimes winger Federico Di Francesco. As Pinamonti’s strike partners began to falter, Andreazzoli occasionally tweaked the shape to a 4-3-2-1 that left the 23-year-old as the lone striker.

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The heatmap shows a balance between drifting into the half-spaces or wider and staying centrally to attack the box. Pinamonti’s goal-scoring instinct and determination inside the box could also improve Sassuolo. Alessio Dionisi’s side ranked 4th for possession last season with an average of 54.8% and took the 3rd most shots per 90, but the Neroverdi struggled to release high-quality shots. Sassuolo had the 4th worse xG per shot in Serie A with 0.111 and ranked 10th for touches in the opposition’s penalty box. Pinamonti’s eagerness to find space in the box should help improve these statistics.

We can also see from the heatmap that the bulk of Pinamonti actions take place in the opposition half. Out of possession, Sassuolo’s new signing presses with intensity in the final third before becoming more passive when the ball has progressed into his own half. After the opposition progress, he will act as an outlet during rest-offence. Dionisi, like Andreazzoli, looks to recover the ball high, deploying a pressing structure that counters the opposition’s build-up. However, the system can be passed with ease at times due to a reliance on the attackers pressing, meaning Pinamonti must adapt quickly.

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One of Pinamonti’s best attributes is his hold-up play. His presence and physical prowess were pivotal for Empoli to relieve pressure and build attacks. Although he’s not the tallest striker, he is bulky and able to handle the demands Serie A defenders present with his back to goal. The figure above is an example of his hold-up play against Salernitana. After regaining possession, a long ball is played up to Pinamonti’s feet. Receiving under pressure with his back to goal, he uses his body brilliantly to protect possession and prevent tackles from behind by bending his knees for stability whilst shielding with his arms. His hold-up play can also attract multiple opponents, especially as a lone striker, helping to create spaces for teammates to exploit.

Andreazzoli’s Empoli were vertical with their passing, looking to counterattack at a chaotic pace, which tested but developed Pinamonti’s hold-up play. Despite Sassuolo’s possession-dominant playing style, their new striker’s hold-up play quality could be extremely helpful. Under Dionisi, Sassuolo like to invite pressure into their own half during the build-up. By playing quick, short passes they can be prone to losing possession in dangerous areas. With Pinamonti’s hold-up play, Sassuolo could play a more direct pass when under intense pressure in high-risk areas. Conversely, Dionisi’s side have a tendency to concede control and territory, especially against top teams, so Pinamonti’s quality could also help Sassuolo gain territory.

Empoli’s focal point

Andrea Pinamonti’s all-around centre-forward play was essential to Empoli’s success in their first season back in the Serie A, finishing 14th. Aurelio Andreazzoli’s chaos-ball provided some phenomenal results against big sides, including a win at Juventus and collecting six points against Napoli. The vertical and forward passing tendencies of Empoli last season would regularly see them play early passes in behind the opposition defence, with the strikers also required to drop off and link-play as target men.

These passes in behind the defensive line are often into the channels. With Empoli’s primary formation of a 4-3-1-2, the opposition’s full-backs never have a direct opponent to mark. As a result, the full-backs often look caught between sitting deep or detaching from the defence to press Empoli’s deeper full-backs, leaving them slow to react to the space in behind.

Andreazzoli employs dynamic width occupation, having no static presence in wide areas with players only moving wide when necessary. Empoli’s width mainly comes from their two full-backs, although they stay back in deeper phases of possession, but the central midfielders and strikers can move wide as dynamic width. The long balls over opposition defences are typically when Pinamonti will provide dynamic width.

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The figure above is an example of this, late in the game against Napoli. Immediately after regaining possession, centre-back Mattia Viti clears the ball into the left channel for Pinamonti to chase down and collect behind Napoli right-back Kévin Malcuit. The Italian striker is better when drifting to the left wing rather than the right, but his game is much more effective centrally.

Receiving in wide channels, he has issues with his passing accuracy and ball retention generally, although his strength and hold-up play is a useful outlet. Pinamonti attempts 1.32 crosses per 90 with a poor accuracy of 22.22%, signalling his final third influence is better suited to inside the box. Out of the 81 strikers to play 500 minutes in Serie A last season, Pinamonti ranked 70th for dribbles per 90 with 1.81, although his success rate of 61.29% ranked 3rd. Aesthetically, he may not look like the best dribbler, but his physicality and ambipedal ability make him an effective dribbler.

Positionally, Sassuolo are well-suited for Pinamonti’s game. He will be occupying central spaces and won’t be required to drift wide as frequently as at Empoli, with the Neroverdi typically lining up in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. Alessio Dionisi looks to overload the final third, so Pinamonti will be expected to remain central and get into goal-scoring positions.

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Andreazzoli deployed a ball-side press at Empoli with a short distance between the attacking triangle of the two strikers and the attacking midfielder to cut passing lanes. After regaining possession, the attackers would look to quickly combine and penetrate to create shooting opportunities. In the figure above, Empoli’s central compactness has resulted in a turnover with Filippo Bandinelli recovering possession. The central midfielder finds Pinamonti, who plays a first-time through ball ahead of strike partner Cutrone into the space behind the defensive line for attacking midfielder Valerio Verre to run onto.

Statistically, Pinamonti is not a great passer, although his role and the quality/style of Empoli must be considered. Out of the 81 Serie A strikers, his 3.63 forward passes per 90 ranked 52nd but his accuracy of 51.61% ranked a poor 79th. He ranked 60th for passes into the final third with 1.46, but his role at Empoli centred around him receiving in the final third rather than being the progressor. Sassuolo’s new striker ranks better for passes into the penalty box, ranking 46th with 1.4, and key passes with 0.32.

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The figure above shows Pinamonti in and around the penalty box, dropping away from the Salernitana defence to receive Verre’s penetrative pass. The 23-year-old plays a controlled, first-time pass into Szymon Żurkowski’s path after some good movement from the Fiorentina loanee. With Dionisi wanting final third overloads, Pinamonti should have lots of options around him in these situations at Sassuolo to create and improve their touches in the box and xG per shot.

Goal-scoring movement

Last season on loan at Empoli, Andrea Pinamonti displayed a variety of effective movements to get into goal-scoring positions. He showed diversity in his responsibilities as an outlet under Aurelio Andreazzoli but his goal-scoring was a standout quality to solidify Empoli’s Serie A status. As mentioned earlier, his ambipedal ball-striking provides unpredictability for opposition goalkeepers and defenders, but it also helped Pinamonti convert chances from different angles. He also scored four goals from his four penalties.

However, Sassuolo’s new striker has areas to improve in the finishing department. He underperformed his xG last season by 1.24. From 81 shots (2.37 shots per 90), 34.57% were on target. In deeper phases of possession, Pinamonti is decent in aerial duels, engaging in 7.25 duels per 90 and winning 36.29% of them. However, he struggles to convert them inside the box, having 12 shots from headers with no goals. Meanwhile, his movement for low crosses is brilliant.

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In the figure above, Empoli have drawn Inter Milan in from the build-up phase and bypassed their press with a long ball to Szymon Żurkowski. Żurkowski carried the ball forwards and deliver an excellent low cross with pace for Pinamonti to attack. The striker managed to get across and burst in front of Milan Škriniar to just poke the ball past Samir Handanović with his left foot to score against his parent club. Pinamonti often makes runs to get in front of the centre-backs from wide deliveries.

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Against full-backs, on the other hand, Pinamonti takes up a wider position on their blindside. From there, the striker can either stay behind the full-back and run towards the back post or execute a double movement to come inside. To score the winner at home against Napoli, Pinamonti remained on right-back Kévin Malcuit’s blindside to slide in at the back post from a great delivery from attacking midfielder Nedim Bajrami.

However, in the two figures above and below displaying his goal against Udinese, Pinamonti started wide before coming inside. On the blindside of Nehuén Pérez, the Italian starts moving towards the back post before quickly deviating towards the penalty spot. Getting on the end of Bajrami’s cut-back, he powerfully side-foots the ball into the bottom left corner with his right-foot past goalkeeper Marco Silvestri.

A fair few of Pinamonti’s goals at Empoli came from attacking transitions. With elements of Dionisi’s predecessor Roberto De Zerbi still present at Sassuolo, the Neroverdi have a tendency to slow the pace down to regain attacking shape. This is another area where Pinamonti will have to adapt to his new club.

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Conclusion

After a few loan spells at lower Serie A clubs, lifelong Inter Milan fan Andrea Pinamonti has left the Nerazzurri for an £18m obligation to Sassuolo. Coming off the back of a 13-goal campaign at Aurelio Andreazzoli’s Empoli which earned him his first senior call-up for the Italian national team, Pinamonti was selected by the Neroverdi manager Alessio Dionisi to replace departing striker Gianluca Scamacca.

Playing in an attacking side determined to retain possession, the 23-year-old striker will be experiencing a possession-dominant team for the first time in his senior career. Andreazzoli’s system at Empoli developed his all-around game but Dionisi’s Sassuolo looks to be more refined with Pinamonti remaining in central areas. With his physical prowess in hold-up play and ambipedal ball-striking, he will continue to torment Serie A defences as he looks to reach his potential and possibly spearhead the next generation of Italian football after another World Cup qualification failure.

In this tactical analysis, we have looked at Andrea Pinamonti’s style of play, discussing how his role and development as Empoli’s focal point could translate into Dionisi’s Sassuolo tactics.