Dario Del Fabro 2019/20 – scout report
Since Kilmarnock’s third-place finish last season, the club has lacked stability and has had a very up and down 2019/20 campaign. Killie brought in a new manager in Angelo Alessio as Steve Clarke was appointed as Scotland manager last summer. The Ayrshire club made a very good start under Alessio and after 10 games they were sitting in third. Results from that point on were disappointing, especially in the winter where Killie went on a winless run which resulted in Alessio being relieved of his duties in mid-December. Alex Dyer came in as interim manager, having mixed results and leaving them to finish the season in eighth.
The SFA came to the decision to conclude the Scottish Premiership this week which caused more problems for Killie. With players departing the club as their contracts expire and loan periods end, this leaves the club with just 11 contracted players for next season. One influential player leaving is the 25-year-old Juventus loanee Dario Del Fabro.
The defender started his career at Cagliari where he made six appearances in the Serie A. Del Fabro found it difficult to get into the team and was loaned out to three clubs over three seasons before Juventus signed the Italian in 2017. He has found it difficult in Turin where he has yet to make a first-team appearance and has continued to be loaned out. His destination this year was to Ayrshire, following his Italian counterpart Alessio out to Rugby Park.
Del Fabro has been a mainstay at the heart of the Kilmarnock defence this season and even with the departure of Alessio who signed him, he has managed to keep his place in the starting team. In this scout report, we will examine how the Italian has adapted in Scotland and explore his impact and contributions to Kilmarnock’s defensive play this season through a tactical analysis.
When evaluating Del Fabro’s performances we must first establish his favoured playing style to understand the type of defender he is and the relative fit with his teammates and overall tactics of the Kilmarnock team. The Italian has amassed 22 league appearances playing the majority of his minutes as a right-centre back (90% of his minutes), initially as part of 4-3-3 but of late that has changed to 4-4-2 under Dyer.
When analysing Del Fabro’s performances what you notice is he likes to play a more back-foot role as a defender and picks up a slightly deeper position in relation to his centre-back partner, which is evident in the image below. In this instance, Stuart Findley, his partner, has pushed onto St. Mirren’s forward to challenge for the ball. The Italian moves into a deeper position behind him to cover the space and sweep up any loose balls behind that might be flicked on from the duel.
The 25-year-old is slightly more passive than his partner at the back, which provides a good balance. He is less inclined to be aggressive and try to challenge forwards who look to drop deep to receive the ball so he doesn’t engage in many duels, as evident from his low 5.95 defensive duels p/90. His style is to defend his penalty area while also covering and sweeping the space behind so his partner can be aggressive and allows him to be more of a front-foot defender.
What also stands out about the Juventus loanee is how comfortable and good he is in the air. He uses his 189cm frame very well competing in 8.92 aerial duels p/90 with a 62.6% success rate. The defender not only wins his aerial duels but he has the awareness to nod the ball to his teammates which is very good, as you can see below.
A long ball is hit up in the air to the forward on Del Fabro’s side and he does well to win the header but also he directs the ball to his teammate which starts an attack for his team. The Killie defender is also very comfortable when defending opposition crosses and most of the time he thrives in this situation due to his ability to dominate aerially.
Del Fabro defensive intelligence is good but he is not flawless in this regard; his decision making in defensive situations is pretty good as he does well to stay in position, he doesn’t overcommit and stays on his feet and looks to force the attacker away from goal. The Italian doesn’t engage in many defensive duels, aforementioned, but because of his discipline and good decision making, he has a high success rate winning an impressive 73.85% of his duels.
When analysing the Italian’s performances, you notice that he is constantly scanning when the opposition are on the attack, sensing and anticipating where the danger is, and will act as the move advances. With the defender scanning so much he is able to position himself well to block or suppress a chance which he does so well, and is evident below.
In this move, Hibernian are attacking down the right where the ball makes its way into the box. Del Fabro has positioned himself well to block the first shot which breaks to the edge of the box and he does well a second time to not come rushing out and overcommit but instead to position himself well in the line of the strike to block the shot.
With the 25-year-old’s anticipation, awareness of the danger and slightly passive style where he does not overcommit, he is quite effective at suppressing chances as he blocks 0.78 shots p/90, the tenth best rate in the league this season.
Although quite selective in his challenges, he will make a last ditched challenge if he needs to and has great awareness and anticipation to sniff out the danger and clear the ball away, like in the game against Rangers. Here, Rangers are on the attack and the ball is crossed in from the left.
The ball breaks loose in the six-yard box and Joe Aribo looks like he will latch onto it. Del Fabro shows great awareness and anticipation to make a last ditched challenge to stop a point-blank goal scoring opportunity.
When Kilmarnock have possession of the ball, the Juventus loanee does not get involved and takes a back seat in this regard with 27.67 passes p/90, ranking him 36th amongst other defenders in the league this season. Kilmarnock tend not to hit short kick-outs and will go long to the forward players. Or the kick will sometimes be directed out to the wing for normally Stephen O’ Donnell to win in the air, thus bypassing Del Fabro.
When the defender does get on the ball he is fairly conservative, passing the ball laterally to his centre-back partner or out to the right-back, which is not a bad thing, but overall he doesn’t actively look to get on the ball. Even with his conservative nature in this regard, he does show glimpses of his impressive ability to hit long-range passes in behind.
Although he has a relative low volume of progressive passes, when he sees the opportunity to play a ball from deep he will do so and is incredibly accurate. His progressive passes that range between 30-40 metres and 40 plus metres have an accuracy rate of 89.5% and 94.1% respectively. He is able to create a chance from back to front very quickly as evident below.
The ball makes its way across to Del Fabro whose short/medium passing options have slightly been shut off by Motherwell. The Italian is in enough space to pick his head up to survey his options further forward where he spots Chris Burke out on the wing on the shoulder of the opposition defensive line. The time and space that Del Fabro has is quickly being closed down and so he plays the long ball just in time.
Burke makes a run into the half-space in behind and the long ball from the Italian is almost perfect as he goes in between the two opposition centre backs. However, Motherwell’s left-back follows the run from Burke and just nicks in and heads the ball away to stop the chance.
For such a relatively small passing volume, the 25-year-old hits 4.04 passes to the final third p/90; he is quite selective though and will only hit these passes if he feels he needs to. In some instances they open up opportunities like in the move below against Ross County, which is almost an identical opportunity to the one at Motherwell. Only this time, Del Fabro has more time and space to get his head up and execute the long pass as there is less pressure being applied onto him.
Burke makes the same run from out on the wing and in behind into the half-space, only this time the long pass from the Italian is in-between the left centre-back and left-back of Ross County and so the left-back can not follow the run. The left-back has been bypassed this time, leaving Burke free. This action causes the keeper to rush to claim the pass but the ball in behind is perfectly weighted into Burke who gets there ahead of the goalkeeper.
As a result, he gets nowhere near the ball and takes out Burke in the area – Del Fabro’s magnificent long ball in behind has set up a penalty, which Eamon Brophy duly converted.
Areas of concern
Del Fabro is a decent defender but there are a couple of issues around his game that are concerning. The first issue surrounding the defender’s game is being exposed in transition and being left isolated in a 1v1 situation with no teammates to help him. The Italian can get exposed because he is not a very good athlete and doesn’t have the pace to recover if he is beaten in an isolated 1v1.
The 25-year-old is good at defending from deep as part of a defensive unit but when the opposition expose him in transition, he either gets beaten for pace or he falls between dropping back and not engaging in a tackle at all. This is mostly for fear he will be beaten or he panics and makes a mistimed tackle. But this only really seems to happen when faced with this particular situation we’ll analyse shortly.
Livingston exploited his inability to defend in a 1v1 while isolated in transition, as shown below. Livingston are on a counter-attack through Lyndon Dykes who plays the ball out to Steven Lawless, creating a 1v1 with Del Fabro.
The Italian is afraid of beeing beaten by the winger’s pace and is extremely passive, backing off the player who is easily able to progress the ball inside the box. In this situation the 25-year-old panics and tries to make a tackle but it is mistimed, putting him off balance as Lawless dribbles inside him and scores.
Another area of concern is his defensive positioning; although it is good, which was mentioned above, he still has to work on this area in certain situations. He will mostly be defending zonally but when a player drifts into his zone, sometimes his attention is caught by that player and man-marks them too vigorously, which can often pull him out of his position, leaving space in the box.
In the move below against Hearts this issue is apparent -, as Hearts are on the attack Del Fabro is in a good position and there is good spacing between him and his centre-back partner. Naismith spins in behind the right Kilmarnock centre-back but it will need to be an inch-perfect ball to reach him in the box.
Del Fabro was attracted by Naismith’s run and rushes out in that split second to man-mark him. This is enough to create a huge space in the box for a Hearts midfielder to attack as the Italian gets caught under the ball. The ball is delievered into the space for the opposition midfielder but his free header, thankfully for the Italian, goes over the bar.
The last area of concern about the Italian’s game is short to medium progressive passes. He is extremely accurate when he plays a progressive pass long but he is very inaccurate when trying to progress the ball between 0-20 metres with a very poor pass accuracy rate of 17.5%. He is not very composed when pressure is applied around him and lacks in this area of his game.
Dario Del Fabro is a solid back-foot style defender who has relatively good defensive positioning, awareness and defensive decision making. But the 25-year-old comes with some concerning areas of his game which is probably the reason he has not settled in a team yet, as shown in this analysis. He needs to polish these areas of his game as he is still relatively young to work on these specifics of his game.
Kilmarnock’s defensive tactics suit the Juventus loanee’s game as they have a pass per defensive action (PPDA) of 11.39 which is the most in the league . Kilmarnock’s low defensive block fits in with Del Fabro’s strengths in his ability to defend his own penalty area well. At the moment this seems to be the defender’s ceiling. Reports suggest he has expressed his desire to return to Kilmarnock which would be a good fit for him. If he cannot get that deal he should look to play for a team that play with a similar style that compliments his game.