Euro 2020 Players to Watch: Matteo Pessina Analysis from The Scouting App

Four years ago he was a Serie C player after three seasons between Monza, two unsuccessful experiences between Catania and Lecce, and the relaunch at Como. Four years ago Pessina left the Lario area and dreamed of Serie B. Which came as a surprise through Atalanta: He was not ready and so he was sent to Spezia, finally in B. Then his return to Bergamo in the summer of 2018.

Just three years ago the new hero of the Italian national team dreamed of making his debut in Serie A. With the Goddess, he actually realized another double dream because Gian Piero Gasperini launched him in the Europa League Qualifiers against Sarajevo. He scored his first Serie A goal at the Stadio Olimpico against Roma, in a scorching 3-3 on 27 August 2018.

Stefano Sensi’s injury has (re) opened the doors of the national team to Matteo Pessina. Despite the initial exclusion from the list of 26 drawn up by the coach Roberto Mancini, the Atalanta midfielder was still attached to the group.

His stay in the group under the heading “reserves,” if it can be defined as such, lasted just under twenty-four hours. The umpteenth knockout of Sensi pushed him into the tricolor group that is cruising towards the Euro 2020 Semi Finals.

For Matteo Pessina, this is the culmination of a high-profile season, embellished with such important performances that highlighted the exponential growth of the 1997-born in Monza. Returning to Bergamo after a more than positive season on loan at Verona, the half-winger from Brianza showed up at the starting line of the last championship with the degrees of “alternative” within the middle department supplied to Gian Piero Gasperini.

Positioning and adapting to the Gasperini System (3-4-2-1)

As for the position, Pessina is able to play anywhere in midfield, although he excels above all by playing in a no. 10 position behind the tips. Last season on loan at Verona, Pessina played in a similar formation, with Ivan Jurić fielding a 3-4-2-1 similar to Gasperini’s 3-4-1-2 (the former Verona coach is a pupil of the Atalanta coach).

Since returning to Atalanta, Pessina has been deployed in that number 10 position just behind the two forwards, usually Duvan Zapata and Josip Iličič. This positioning allows Pessina the freedom to roam from one band to another to receive the ball. However, Pessina does well in his position to drop deep between the opposing defensive lines to receive the ball into space. This then allows him the time and space to turn around and find a teammate for a ride.

While Pessina is deployed as a no. 10 in Gasperini’s system, this positioning is fluid. Aside from his free-roaming tendencies, Atalanta’s top three will constantly swap positions to get the best possible offensive scenarios. Pessina often moves up for a short time in a more advanced role, with one of the forwards (usually Iličić), falling into Pessina’s position and building the game. Tactically, Pessina fits in perfectly with Gasperini’s high octane attack system and could be the apparent natural heir in that position of Papu Gomez.

Out of the Movement of the Ball

As a creative and attacking midfielder, a lot is expected of you when moving without the ball during a given game. Under Gian Piero Gasperini, this expectation skyrockets. As already mentioned, Pessina will often exchange with the first two, and will also move between the lines to find space to receive a pass. This section will describe these movements in more detail.

As for moving often between the lines, whenever Atalanta is in possession of the ball with their three-man defense, Pessina enjoys going deep into midfield and usually positions himself between the opposing lines. This allows him to receive the ball with all the time and space to turn around and find a teammate with his great range of passing, which we will discuss later. As the ball moves forward without Pessina’s involvement, he will move wide to the left or right, depending on the position of the ball, and will also move centrally. This is if Atalanta are taking the field in a more methodical way. In counter-attack situations on the break, Pessina likes to stay on the edge of the 18-yard area for a possible cutting opportunity.

When it comes to his involvement in Atalanta’s anterior three fluid, Pessina fits into the system like a glove on a hand. No matter who gets placed in the three ahead of Gasperini, they are always expected to constantly swap positions and confuse opposing defenders. Pessina will often alternate positions with Josip Iličić or will form a three-way front with Iličić and Zapata. Pessina has the moves of a much more experienced player, not one who has had multiple loan periods and is now entering his first full season with a parent company.

Range of Steps and Creativity

Another thing that stands out in Matteo Pessina’s game is his range of passes. He also has an innate ability to be able to pass the ball in tight spaces and enjoys playing one-two with his teammates. When Pessina goes deeper into space to receive the ball, he constantly looks over his shoulder to make sure he has room to make a turn. Once he is able to turn around, he scans and looks for the correct passage to play with a teammate. Whether it’s a 5-yard pass to his left, a 15-yard pass forward, or a game pass to a teammate on the opposite wing, Pessina has everything in his arsenal. With 86% passing accuracy so far even this season, Pessina’s passing range has been a valuable addition to this Atalanta side.

A Megaphone in the Pitch

Another trait that Pessina possesses consists of his communication skills on the pitch. Just watching any Atalanta match he played Pessina in will help this sound true. In moments when Pessina has found space between the lines to receive a pass, he will point out where he wants the ball and will occasionally shout if he is not noticed. Furthermore, he is not afraid to call teammates who are in the wrong position.

This was seen on an opponent’s lineout in Atalanta’s match against Sassuolo. One of Pessina’s teammates was not marking the right man, and Pessina pointed him out and told him where to go. These qualities could make him a good choice of captain for Atalanta in the future.

Defensive Work Rate

When it comes to work rate, Pessina is a player who constantly moves up and down the pitch to defend or press the opposing player in possession of the ball. Among the top three, Pessina is the player who will give up the most to try to regain possession. He only presses occasionally, and that’s only when he sees an opportunity that requires a press. When it comes to defending in the offensive third, Pessina will nip the ball away from the opposing player if possible, but still lack some polish in the defensive part of her game. With a dueling success rate of only 36% this season and a dogfighting success rate of only 47%, these are two areas of his game that could improve.

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