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Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report

Nicolo Rovella: The Monza metronome who has the potential to be a key midfielder for Italy – scout report

Italy and midfielder are two words that have been linked well over the years. The greatest example of this has been Andrea Pirlo, the midfield boss for the national team and the teams where he played for more than a decade. If we want to look for some recent examples, we can find Marco Verratti, Nicolo Barella or Sandro Tonalli, surely many grew up with Pirlo being their football idol.

Nicolo Rovella is one of the many talented players to emerge from Juventus‘ youth system. Over the years, many footballers that developed there have not been able to debut with the Turin team and win a starting spot. So far, the case of Rovella, currently on loan at Monza, has been the same. However, it seems that, given his quality and potential, he may be one of those who can take a place in the ‘Vecchia Signora’ starting eleven.

He has already been out on loan at different Serie A teams. Last season at Genoa and the current one at Monza, Rovella at 21 years old has shown a profile of a player of extremely high quality, with plenty of room to continue growing. His technique with the ball and intensity to defend makes him a player who will be in a great one in Europe, or at least in one in Italy quite soon.

He is a very special player early in his career, therefore we are going to carry out a tactical analysis in the form of a scout report, analysing how Rovella has fitted into the Monza tactics as well as offering an analysis of his game in both phases.

Nicolo: A defensive specialist

It’s not normal to see such complete players at Nicolo’s age, but he certainly is. He has an extremely positive profile in both phases, but first, we are going to focus on defence, where he shows inexhaustible effort, tactical understanding, commitment to go to the coverage of his teammates and excellent timing as well as his ball-stealing technique.

He characterises himself by using his body very well, which is quite strong and helps him win balls with his tackles as well as placing his body in front of his rivals and thus winning the ball. He has good shielding so recoveries end up being successful almost every time and not just attempts at it. The Monza player also opens his body very well to cover passing angles or possible spaces to which the player could move to.

He has great intelligence and reading to recognize the opponent’s movements. This is usually seen in his defensive actions near the box where he is not impulsive to stretch his leg and make an excessive tackle that generates a penalty, but he waits for the right moment and chooses well the strong side of the player to look for to tackle to win the ball. Many of the clearances in that zone are done with great elegance, something always positive and fun to see in a player.

His positioning is really good as well. He serves many roles that have provided him in the team’s defensive phase. He has gone to man-mark the #6, as well as outside with one of the full-backs, or activating triggers with the rival midfielders whom he does not let turn or if they can, then he responds with his insatiable pressure at great speed and incredible stamina that allows him to be on all sides of the field. He’s tactically intelligent and also physically ready to get the work done.

Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report
Here, Nicolo Rovella has just comeback from pressing the goalkeeper to mark the ball-holder. Before, he was marking the pivot as well. An intense runner.

The really good thing defensively about Rovella is that he never gets tired. He can go first with the midfielder, then the defender and finish pressing the goalkeeper. But then if he created space with his moves that didn’t end in a defensive action, he runs back at high speed to try to win the ball back or annoy executions by simply being near the opponent.

He is extremely smart when he must come back in transition. He knows where to take his position, usually left half-space, but he doesn’t just stay there and it’s quite common to see him make pretty good return moves chasing down the free man to eliminate that pass, covering his teammates. He knows when he should enter the penalty box to defend like one more. He’s not shy about going to get the ball out in that dangerous zone or clearing a cross.

He is a high-concentration defender. He always has his eyes on the ball and tries to predict what the opponent is going to do. You are rarely going to see a player dribbling by him or a pass that goes in front of him. He is always wary of intercepting or cutting up a pass, as well as winning the ball and winning defensive duels, his speciality in particular with the timing of his tackle.

Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report
Nicolo runs down, covers the space a teammate has left, looks for the free man, avoids that passing option and turns down the possibility of a threatening pass into the box.

It is clear that his defensive level is very high, however, he has something to improve that in reality, he is not that poor at it. Nicolo seeks to be aggressive at times and makes slide tackles. In the more Gattuso way, many of them are with very good timing and without fouls, but others are avoidable and have cost him yellow cards in matches.

It is a resource that is very good to adapt to your game, and even more as a midfielder, as long as it is in the most cautious and well-timed way possible. For example, Nicolo is a hard worker in this aspect of the game as we have said, and he never gives up. If sometimes he’s lay down on the ground, he will continue to try to tackle from there, as well as if he sees someone pass him at speed, he will try to stop him in some way. He doesn’t negotiate one lost duel.

It’s something that’s 50/50 in his career at the moment. He should improve it but he’s not the worst at it either. There are moments when he executes them in a great way, and in others not so much. With his level of concentration, surely it’s going to be a thing to see improving through his career.

The defensive coverings that he performs throughout the field are of a top level. He recognizes when there are 2v1 situations or dangerous jumps from his full-backs, especially when they leave a lot of space for the defensive line. He knows where to position himself: If he must go outside to do a 2v2, he does it correctly and if he must enter as a central defender, even in that case he can do it and does it well.

The movements to cover the last line are always very rotating in a match. One can go out to defend and the other goes to that space left behind, while the midfielder, in this case, Rovella must see where his positioning is directed, something that always understands to perfection and stays in the place it should be.

Also, like everything in his defensive game, he does it at great speed and with a tremendous physical effort to get to cut and stop a possible cross, dribble or pass. His ability to reach every part of the pitch is great.

Nicolo Rovella has the tools, the present development and a lot to improve, both the good to make it -almost- perfect and the bad to turn it into something positive, to be one of the midfielders with the best defensive profile in the world if he is not already one of them in Serie A. The way his intense pressing wins most of his duels and interceptions because of his excellent positioning takes markings in transitions, and covers and the timing to make tackles is impressive. Football is not only played when you have the ball.

Refined technique

Sometimes it is extremely easy to choose in which facet you like a player the most, whether when he has the ball and seeks to contribute offensively or how he defends. Nicolo Rovella is a separate case, and quite special. It’s hard to pick a better part of his game because we just saw how strong he is defensively, but on the ball, he’s even better, and it’s hard to top that.

In just one or two touches that he gives the ball, Rovella shows that he is a player with a gifted and special talent. At just 21 years old, she has a truly giant ease and maturity. He has a pre-control scan that makes him aware of the situation around him. He’s scanning every time, making sure he knows the time and space he has, as well as his best passing options. He is intelligent, he always wants to be progressive but recognizes that this is not always the best case, so he quickly resolves situations like this by moving from side to side or in cases of pressure, with a back-pass to the goalkeeper.

Nicolo is a player with more short-play than long. He likes to make 1-2 combinations, receive in small spaces and play out, touching with his teammates to advance meters, but he is an excellent through-passer, as well as executing long passes which are not that regular in his game, but when he does, they are really good.

He acts as a distributor in his team. He performs highly dynamic off-the-ball moves where he often rotates through the spaces of the pitch or positions. He occasionally drops as a #6, then elevates his positioning as a #8. He is a deep-lying-playmaker who has evolved to be more aggressive in the final third. He likes to have the ball for a few seconds, especially when looking to generate triangles or move the team faster. If the chance arises, he tries to move the ball quickly and this is accompanied by one-touch passes that he releases with an extremely elegant and fine technique.

Many of his progressive actions are through passes. It’s not much dribbling and carrying the ball forward, it’s more about holding possession with his teammates and when the right moment is done and draws the exact pressure, Rovella seeks to throw passes into the spaces between the lines.

One of the most frequent executions where he looks to move his team is from the inside to out. He normally receives in these inner channels of the field and moves the ball to the sides with the wider players. However, it is not a simple movement from side to side, but rather he launches passes to the highest point of his attacking lines so that his teammates can generate on the outside. Statically or running behind the backs of opponents.

His executions carry with them the perfect tension, direction, curve if necessary and the expected time before the pass as well. The attraction of rival lines to hit behind them is something vital in which Rovella stands out above many. That pause and intelligence to make these types of plays are really interesting for his age.

Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report

One tool that he adds to his game, beyond what a game organiser on your team can normally offer you, is that he is a great crosser.

His inswinging crosses from left half-space are a near assist every time he chooses to send them into the penalty box. He receives with his right foot, being his far-side foot in that spot. He opens his body rapidly and sends the cross into the box.

They go with quite dangerous speed and force, which constantly reaches the receiver on the penalty spot or the teammate attacking the far post. His technique in this type of delivery can be seen in different set-pieces as well, where he has been able to stand out with his crosses from corners-kicks or free-kicks.

Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report

He is a rather unpredictable player in his decisions. He can open his body to feint to send crosses into the box as we just saw, but he decides to throw passes into space if a teammate makes runs in that direction. His quality to choose a receiver and to launch these passes is what makes him a midfielder with top potential, both deep to create play in his own third, and to make his team step on the rival area.

Rovella has grown from a deep-lying-playmaker as we said to someone who likes to attack the area more. These types of through-passes between the lines are often seen, and almost always from the same position, in the left half-space, not looking to be the assist but rather the pre-assist, finding a teammate running to the outside to perform a cut-back or cross.

All of this is clearly accompanied by constant scanning beforehand. Good players know all the options before giving a touch to the ball. Rovella is a quick thinker but he doesn’t rush it. The ball travels very fast from his foot, so his executions are constantly quick pass which has a good weight to them.

Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report

But without a doubt, he is still an unpredictable player not only in that he attacks the penalty box in different ways, but not just with his pass. He clearly understands when his striker tends to make dropping moves, dragging his mark around for someone to activate with a run into spawn space. This is quickly detected by Rovella who, if his team starts to add that last pass for him, we could see him in another facet of arriving in the area, adding another good attribute in scoring goals.

These off-the-ball moves are just a preview of what happens when his team is in possession. Mobile, nothing static. He always wants to receive and is not reckless to receive in a pocket of space. If the play dictates there, he will decide to go there with all the attitude to receive the ball. His controls carry a high sensibility with which he keeps the ball glued to his foot, so opponents are unable to dispossess him.

Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report

This is because he is a player who easily beats pressure. He knows how to use his body and he’s strong for it. He opens his arms, he is determined to fight physically and his lower body blocks the players that he may have behind him trying to take the ball from him. Nicolo has quite positive shielding of the ball in which many of his actions in which he intervenes end up keeping the ball.

But the interesting thing is that he is proactive even in this. The 21-year-old player seeks to anticipate players and put the body on them. He uses his arms well, which opens them completely to have more balance, without necessarily hitting the opponent and making fouls, which can occur in this type of play. He tries to do everything with great finesse and cleanness.

He is not a midfielder with a lot of dribbling. When he wants to take care of the ball he activates some body feints but little beyond that, apart from what is mentioned with his lower body and strength for it. When he wants to beat pressure he does it in this way that we say, he rarely uses a skill or a creative dribble that allows him to get out of spaces. His technical quality is seen in his passes, oriented touches and throws into space. As well as in their crosses or first-time executions.

Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report

An underrated part of his playstyle is the long pass, as Monza don’t look for him to constantly activate it, but when he does, the pass is almost like candy to his teammates. They are taken to the place they wanted, with the perfect strength and direction. He adds curve effects to them that can surprise the opponent in how they come out to defend the ball.

He normally looks to launch diagonal balls with his right foot and avoids long passes through his own lane which tends to be a bit predictable. Nicolo’s idea to play is always to surprise his opponent, even if he is a distributor, but with many cards up his sleeve to solve situations for his team.

Nicolo Rovella at Monza 22/23 - scout report

The Italian is really a complete package when it comes to his technique on the ball. He has added from short and fast passes, oriented touches, body feints, body shielding, and dynamic off-the-ball movements to reaching the last third, executing through-passes, pre-assists, and crosses and becoming the metronome of the team in which he plays.

Everyone is looking for him and the ball is also looking for Nicolo, he is a magnet for possessions from his team. Everything must go through him because when a team has someone as detailed, observant and good at what he does as Rovella, things are easier.

Conclusion

Nicolo Rovella has the intelligence, technique, passion and intensity to be the next midfielder to take a place at Juventus, without a doubt. Knowing the history of ‘Vecchia Signora’, it may be something we won’t see. As long as he is playing and seeing minutes in a good context, his development will continue to grow and it will be ideal for his career.

A big team from Italy, like AS Roma, AC Milan or Inter, is more than clear that they will be on his footsteps. He is one of those charged with dominating Italy’s midfield for years to come.