I wrote this for FootballSpeak.com
Zdenek Zeman is one of the better known managers of Italian football and after some years away from the Italian game, he returned in 2010/2011 season to manage his former club Foggia for a spell with mixed fortunes. But it is this season in Pescara where he is having an impact on the Italian game again.
His Pescara side is playing the style of football typical to a Zeman team, exhausting and all-attacking. They have scored 55 goals in 25 league games, this is 14 more than the Reggina side who has scored second most goals. This has enabled Pescara to go on top of the table despite the fact that with ultra-attacking football, the defence is leaking goals left and right (36 conceded so far).
I have seen them play on four occasions this season and during the first time their extravagant attacking style failed big-time as Torino managed to be tighter in defence than other Serie B teams and also use the defensive fragility of Pescara to win the game 4:2. In other games they managed to win and do it quite comfortably.
Whether they can keep their top spot and continue to out-score their opponents is a big question, but while having Zeman back in Serie A would be fabulous, one has to wonder how would the Pescara team look like after the summer transfer market.
Why? Because even more exciting than their attacking are some of the young players who enable for them to play in this way effectively. There are four under 21-year old players who have gotten a lot of attention while being a big part of Zeman’s side.
Two of that quartet played with Zeman already in Serie C1 in the Foggia side last season. One is 21-year old central midfielder Moussa Kone and the other 20-year old Lorenzo Insigne, a young wide player who is owned by Napoli.
It is possible that Insigne will no longer be loaned out by Napoli next season as he has had an impressive spell with Pescara, setting up many goals and also scoring 9 himself.
Insigne is of similar size to Parma’s atomic ant Sebastian Giovinco and the playing style is quite similar too. The difference is that Insigne is more of a dribbler and more comfortable out wide. But I am of belief that Insigne would struggle to make an impact in Serie A right now. Technically he is very talented, but his decision-making is not good and he has the tendency to dribble into trouble. He likes to cut inside, but it is annoying to see him try to go past 3-4 players who have closed down all the space for him to move into. And he also tries risky, unnecessary passes which are often not very well executed.
Sometimes he can dribble past many players and make a pass that would make Xavi proud, but he is exactly the player who looks world-class on YouTube but a huge downgrade from that in real life. But don’t get me wrong, he does have the potential to go places.
Another big talent in the side is Marco Verratti, this 19-year old central midfielder has played in Pescara for a long time and the Zeman-era has had both positive and negative effects on him.
He is a similar player to Fiorentina’s Riccardo Montolivo in terms of style. He is the buffer between Pescara’s defence and attack. He picks the ball from deep and his small stature enables him to change direction quick to get the ball to team-mates in good attacking positions.
His passing range and ability is good with his trademark being a chip over the top of defence. On other hand, sometimes his vision and decisions betray the age. He also struggles with the first touch on occasions.
The problems of being in a Zeman are apparent in the defensive side of his game which might not be improving fast enough. His contribution in defence is small and is often so comitted to attacking that he cannot get back to help his defence while his position should require it. As addition to lack of tactical discipline, he is also lacks a cold head when defending.
There have been rumors linking him to several clubs, including Roma. Serie A is probably waiting for him next season, but which club remains a question. I think he needs one or two years in the relegation fighting/lower mid-table level before he is ready for a more ambitious club. But then again, Roma wouldn’t be such a bad option with their Barca project, should they renew their interest in him. After all, he is one of the better young central midfielders of Italy.
The guy who is stealing all the headlines is named Ciro Immobile. The striker who is owned by Genoa and Juventus, has been a true breakthrough star this season.
He scored just 2 goals in Serie B last season and his chances at Juventus first team didn’t produce much, but under Zeman he has become a the best striker in Serie B despite being just 21 years old.
The surname of Immobile does not do him much justice as it is almost opposite to his qualities as a player. He is hard-working and sharp, causing menance within opponent ranks for whole 90 minutes.
He is very similar in style to Diego Milito, another player who scored a lot of goals in Serie B in one season where he was in Genoa. And he might enjoy a similar rise to fame too as it is probable that he will play for Genoa in Serie A next season, same club from which Milito earned his big move to Inter in 2009. Immobile has the potential to reach those levels.
He has shown incredible versatility as a striker. He has scored with either feet and head. He can get the shot away from a bundle of players in the penalty area, he often gets himself in positions to score tap-ins, he gets behind opponent defence, outsprints the defenders and scores the one on one and he is also being capable of hitting the ball well from long-range.
He has 17 goals to his name in 22 matches and looks like he could be knocking on Cesare Prandelli’s door already for the 2014 World Cup.
He has his flaws he needs to fix. Most importantly, his passing ability is not on the same level with the better strikers of the Serie A. On positive note, the signs are there that he’ll improve in that department. He is already half way there as he is linking up very well with his team-mates. If you want to know more about him, read my scouting report here.
The Pescara side looks as if it has had a great impact on Italian football already. The attacking players in that side are gaining confidence and quality very fast and it very likely that players like Insigne, Immobile and Verratti could all become part of the Italy squad within next 5-6 years. Just have to hope they will be taken care off better than the 80’s generation of Italian players have been.
If the Pescara side gets promoted, the likes of Verratti and Kone will remain and possibly Insigne’s loan will be extended, but it is hard to see Pescara keeping Immobile in the squad beyond this season. Should they not get promoted, it is still likely that we’ll see the bigger talents of the squad in Serie A next season.
For now, it is enjoying to see them play in Serie B too and hopefully none of those players get thrown into the deep part of the pool too soon.