By, Navaneeth Ravichandran (Twitter: @navrav28)
Antonio Conte made it crystal clear to the Chelsea board that wing back depth is a priority for him, and the board responded by providing him with Italian Davide Zappacosta, as the 25-year old joins Chelsea from Torino in a 25 million pound switch. This move bears many a resemblance to the Marcos Alonso transfer from last years summer transfer windown. It was a deadline day deal, a wingback coming in from Serie A, and almost no one saw it coming. Of course, Alonso is now an integral member of the Chelsea squad, so here’s to hoping that Zappacosta can follow in his footsteps. Here’s the lowdown on the Italian international.
The Prototypical Wing Back
It’s becoming almost a cliche at this point, the modern wing back is excellent attacking wise, but leaves a lot to be desired at the defensive end. Zappacosta fits this mold perfectly. There’s a reason Andrea Belotti succeeded at a high level at Torino last season, he had Zappacosta feeding him crosses with pinpoint crosses. In fact, all reports show that crosses are the number one strength for the Italian
Davide Zappacosta: Only A. Sandro (48) has made more accurate crosses from open play of Serie A defenders than Zappacosta (47) since Jan '16 pic.twitter.com/FQV632hIiz
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) August 31, 2017
Similar to Moses, Zappacosta began his professional career as a winger, before switching to wing back. He’s got an extremely high work ethic, a decent shot, and his ability to read the offensive game is excellent. Take a look at the following chart for example:
More like Zappacrosta, rite? pic.twitter.com/iTqYDq2lr5
— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) August 31, 2017
We can clearly see his skill when it comes to crossing, and when it comes to key passes, his numbers are literally off the chart. He averages above 1.5 key passes per 90 minutes, which for a full back is very good.
On the defensive side, he will need to work on reading the game quicker and committing fewer errors. The Premier League is one of the fastest leagues in the world, and the transition for Zappacosta will not be easy. Even putting speed aside, physicality will also be a tough factor for him. Looking at the same chart above, Zappacosta is not an expert at winning aerial duels, and Premier league forwards tend to be bigger and stronger than their counterparts in Italy. Thankfully for him, Conte is a master at making good defenders great (Alonso, Luiz, Bonucci, Azpi, etc.). When it comes to improving his defensive side, Zappacosta could not have asked for a better coach
Familiarity with Conte
Back in 2016, when Conte was manager of Italy heading into the Euros, he named Zappacosta to the 30 man provisional squad. Although Zappacosta did not end up making the final squad, he was clearly good enough for Conte to give him a serious look with a major tournament looming ahead. Since Conte left Italy, Zappacosta has had 4 caps.
Make no mistake about it, Zappacosta is not a Dave. Right wing back is his spot, and has been for many years. If Alonso were to ever get injured, Zappacosta will likely not be able to adequately cover on the left side. Of course, we have already mentioned Conte’s skill at transforming defenders. If there’s a man that can increase a player’s versatility, it’s Antonio.
Competition with Moses
Although many Chelsea fans aren’t as familiar with Zappacosta as they would like to be, the reality is that this is a very capable player who will challenge Moses for the right back spot. Competition is never a bad thing, it’s what motivates players to improve themselves. As the chart below shows, these two are similar in many ways, with Zappacosta claiming the slight edge in many categories. The battle for the spot in Conte’s starting XI will be a hard fought one, and fascinating for us to watch.
— Absolute Chelsea (@AbsoluteChelsea) September 1, 2017
In summary, Davide Zappacosta is a young wingback who excels at moving the ball, but could use some work on his own end. He provides the depth that Conte so desperately wanted, and has all the tools to challenge Victor Moses for a starting spot.
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Chelsea FC
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