Every weekend we pick out one under-23 player from around Europe and analyse their performance to provide you with an in-depth scouting report.
This week, we head to Italy to focus on Fiorentia’s emphatic 5-0 victory away to Hellas Verona in Serie A and the man we analyse is 19-year-old Federico Chiesa – the son of former Sampdoria and Parma striker Enrico.
Goals – 0
Shots – 4 (2nd)
Shots on target – 1 (tied 3rd)
Touches – 36 (10th)
Passes – 21 (10th
Key passes – 1 (tied 4th)
Dribbles – 3 (1st)
Suspended for Fiorentina’s opening game of the season, Chiesa has struggled to make much of an impact in 2017/18 after a tumultuous summer that saw no fewer than nine players leave the club. New boss Stefano Pioli insisted that the recent international break would allow his side to grow as a unit following heavy losses to Inter and Sampdoria in the first two rounds of action, and fortunately for fans of La Viola, the coach was proven correct.
He deployed his side in his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation, Chiesa switching roles in that trio behind striker Giovanni Simeone. That freedom to move around the pitch saw him cause no end of problems for the Hellas Verona defence, the newly promoted hosts ruthlessly picked apart by a rampant Fiorentina.
The lively attacking midfielder ran at their overwhelmed backline at every opportunity and – despite not registering a goal or an assist – was directly responsible for at least three of the Viola’s successful efforts.
Chiesa made the most of the space afforded to him and linked well with those around him, showing particularly good understanding with left-back Cristiano Biraghi and midfielder Marco Benassi. His performance here certainly warranted a goal, but after netting only four times last term he clearly needs to work on his finishing.
8th min – With his side already one goal ahead, the teenager was picked out by Benassi’s smart through-ball as he ran from the left, forcing Hellas goalkeeper Nicolas to bring him down. The referee had no choice but to award a penalty, which was duly despatched by Cyril Théréau to put the visitors 2-0 up.
14th min – Bursting in from the right, Chiesa won the ball against two defenders before bypassing four Hellas players with a neat reverse pass to Simeone, the striker dragging a shot narrowly wide.
25th min – Makes a superb run behind the defence and collects a perfectly-timed ball from Simeone. Chiesa’s low, left-footed shot is tipped wide for a corner
45th min – Narrowly fails to get on the end of a cross from Biraghi who is freed on the left flank after a smart team move, Chiesa sliding in at the far post but unable to connect just before the referee blows for half-time.
53rd min – Biraghi plays the ball down the left touchline, his team-mate shimmying his way past Romulo who eventually grabs his shirt and hauls down the teenager before receiving a yellow card.
56th min – Sprints away down the right flank, spinning past one would-be tackler before dummying his way beyond another. Shoots from a narrow angle with his effort turned behind for yet another corner.
60th min – Picked out in a central area, Chiesa is fouled by Bruno Zuculini. Former Aston Villa midfielder Jordan Veretout scores directly from the resulting free kick to put Fiorentina 4-0 ahead.
67th min – Cuts in from the left and fires a wayward effort wide when better options were available. One minute later he collects the ball in a similar position and drives a lazy cross straight to Verona defender Martin Caceres when a simple pass to Veretout was available.
70th min – Substituted for Gil Dias, he is given a warm round of applause by both Hellas and Fiorentina supporters before receiving a long hug from Coach Pioli who was clearly pleased with his contribution.
While he may have gotten sloppy when he tired just before being replaced, the first 70 minutes saw Chiesa cause Hellas no end of problems, the Gialloblu having no answers for his constant running and direct style.
If he can get his shooting to the same standard as his dribbling and creativity while adding increased consistency, Fiorentina will have yet another wonderfully complete attacking player on their hands, the ability of the 19-year-old clearly evident over the last twelve months.
Lionel Messi’s hat-trick saw Barcelona move four points clear of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga as Ousmane Dembele marked his debut with an assist in a 5-0 rout of local rivals Espanyol.
Here are three things learned from the win…
He might have just become the second-most expensive footballer in history, but Ousmane Dembele will have to wait a while to become the main attraction at Camp Nou.
In this thrashing of Espanyol, one man alone took centre stage. And it was the same man who always takes centre stage – and whose firm occupation of that position probably played a part in Neymar’s departure: Lionel Messi.
After a frustrating week on international duty with Argentina, Messi was back in more comfortable surroundings and produced yet another brilliant performance to register his 42nd career hat-trick, emphasising once again that Dembele’s task is to fit into Messi’s team, not to become the star.
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde has already learned that lesson, accommodating Messi by reshaping his team into a strange formation which had Gerard Deulofeu on the right wing but nobody on the opposite flank as Luis Suarez occupied the inside left position and Messi roamed free.
It looked odd and imbalanced, but with Messi in such magnificent form there can be no complaints about its effectiveness.
The first 65 minutes of the game showed that Dembele has competition for his place in the team, with Gerard Deulofeu producing a strong performance which culminated in a nice assist for Messi’s hat-trick goal just before his substitution for Dembele.
Tellingly, Deulofeu looked particularly comfortable with the team’s patient passing approach, knowing when he should keep it simple and when was the right time to be more adventurous.
That’s no surprise because Deulofeu grew up in the club’s youth system and his intimate familiarity with the playing methods of key men like Messi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets gives him a natural advantage over Dembele, who is arriving with no prior experience of the ‘Barca way’.
Of course, it’s difficult to imagine the club’s record signing occupying a place on the bench and Dembele will surely become a starter very soon. But if he doesn’t perform or needs a rest, Valverde has another ready-made option in the form of Deulofeu.
What, though, of Dembele’s debut?
On the whole, he didn’t have much of a chance to shine during his 25 minutes on the pitch, being introduced with his team already three-up and only getting 11 touches as the game wound down towards its inevitable climax.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the final minute, we would now be talking about a gentle Camp Nou introduction for the French youngster.
But in those final ticks of the referee’s watch Dembele succeeded in delivering a rousing finale by bursting free down the right wing and rolling a perfect pass into the path of Luis Suarez, who couldn’t miss.
The goal was rapturously received by the 70,000 home fans in attendance, and it was obvious their joy was for the maker rather than the taker.
Following Neymar’s sour exit, Barca fans are desperate for Dembele to succeed with flying colours. He received one huge ovation when he came out to warm up, another when he was introduced as a substitute, and a third after teeing up Suarez to score.
Clearly, Dembele already has the fans on his side, and he couldn’t have asked for much more from his debut.
Record signing Ousmane Dembele made his debut but Lionel Messi again made the difference as Barcelona maintained their 100 percent start to the season and opened up an early four-point advantage over Real Madrid.
Visiting Espanyol never looked like claiming anything from this local derby, with Barca in full control throughout as they totally outclassed their cross-town rivals.
Messi netted twice before the break and later completed his hat-trick, allowing manager Ernesto Valverde to introduce Dembele when the game was already won, and the young French winger wasted no time in making his mark by providing a perfect assist for Luis Suarez to complete the scoring.
Lionel Messi has now scored 42 career hat-tricks:
Barcelona (38) 🔵🔴
Argentina (4) 🇦🇷
Quite simply brilliant. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/1KUsddzFjV
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 9, 2017
Barca were dominant from the opening whistle, probing patiently and leaving Espanyol to chase shadows in their attempts to maintain the deadlock.
The visitors were initially successful in that aim, with their disciplined defending preventing the hosts from creating any chances in the opening 20 minutes other than a free-kick from Suarez which Pau Lopez safely got behind.
But then the visitors were sliced open by Ivan Rakitic, with his clever reverse pass to Messi – who should have been flagged offside – creating the kind of chance the Argentine rarely misses as he duly swept home with his trusty left foot.
The same two players combined again almost immediately as Rakitic slalomed through the defence and played a sharp one-two with Messi before forcing a good low save from Lopez.
But Messi didn’t need long to strike again, turning home from close range after Jordi Alba reacted quickest to a loose ball in the box and delivered a well-placed low cross.
Espanyol nearly gave themselves hope when Pablo Piatti smashed a snapshot against the post, but that was a rare attacking foray and the second half started with Suarez – who was enduring a frustrating night – denied a close-range goal by Lopez’s smart save.
Piatti scooped a great chance wide after a mistake by Alba, but Barca were always threatening and went close through Messi and Suarez as the chances continued to flow.
Samuel Umtiti did well to block Leo Baptistao’s shot, but Messi extinguished any doubts by completing his hat-trick with a crisp low finish from the bright Gerard Deulofeu’s smart pass.
Gerard Pique made it four with a powerful header from Rakitic’s inswinging corner, and in the last minute Dembele rounded off a perfect night for Barca with a pinpoint assist for Suarez to convert.