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£30 Million Rated Italian Striker Could Emerge as a Potential Target for Manchester United

Gianluca Scamacca, Manchester United, Arsenal

Is Manchester United keeping an eye on Gianluca Scamacca? Six-foot-five, tattooed up to his neck and possessing a graceful touch – while incongruent to the characterisation of a modern-day striker, Sassuolo’s 23-year-old Gianluca Scamacca has caught the eye of many clubs across Europe including Manchester United after the Italian registered a career-best 16 goal contributions in the recently concluded Serie A campaign (Stats via Transfermarkt).

Having emerged on the radar of numerous European clubs after his gradual rise in reputation and promise over the last two seasons in the Serie A, the Italian striker is all but set to make an ambitious move in the upcoming summer transfer window.

He is an imposing figure in the central attacking areas, but with a penchant to link up with his teammates. He also possesses the ability to serve as a target-man and a runner. The promising talent presents himself as a versatile figure capable of instantly improving a side’s attacking output over the immediate future. Moreover, valued at a moderate and tempting £30-35m, the Italian remains amongst the underrated strikers likely to move crop on the radar of Europe’s top clubs over the summer.

Gianluca Scamacca, Manchester United
Image Obtained via Transfermarkt

A Distinct Versatility

Often compared to a young Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Scamaccas’s underlying statistics certainly provide the promise and nuance to support the claim. While the youngster flourished at the youth level, a lack of opportunities combined with an underdeveloped physique saw him struggle to gain meaningful game-time during his transition from youth to senior level football.

Although he didn’t get the privilege a young Zlatan got by playing for Europe’s biggest clubs, an excellent loan move to Serie B side Ascoli for the 20/21 campaign saw the Italian finish with a promising 13 goals at the end of the season. A promising season with Sassuolo soon followed with the talented striker now being on the radar of several clubs across the continent.

While tall and agile, Scamacca lacks the raw pace and ability to take on defenders with blistering momentum. However, owing to an enviable grasp of movement surrounding himself along with a willingness to serve as a ‘False 9’ or a traditional out-and-out striker prowling across the attacking third, the Italian provides something distinct from the generic modern striker.

As evident in the heatmap below (Fig. 1), Scamacca thrives in a role requiring the striker to contribute to the build-up play in the opposition’s half. Showcasing his willingness to receive the ball in the central areas of the field and across the flanks, his 18.93 touches per ninety (49th percentile) support the striker’s rather natural ability to create and exploit attacking spaces in the final third.

Gianluca Scamacca
Gianluca Scamacca, 2021/22: Heatmap [Image Courtesy: SofaScore (Fig.1)]
In comparison, United’s Cristiano Ronaldo boasts a marginally superior number of touches (20.19 – 84th percentile) but the Portuguese has been the victim of the team’s failure to create consistent goal-scoring opportunities throughout the campaign.

Additionally, boasting an ability to serve as an effective target-man or a willing runner off the opposition’s backline, Scamacca’s days playing for middle to the bottom end of the table sides has significantly contributed to his overall attributes as a well-rounded striker. Having developed his physique over recent seasons, the 23-year-old has proven to be a reliable target man, with the ability to strategically hold-off defenders alongside possessing an enviable first touch to combine with his teammates.

An exquisite reading of attacking movement combined with the ability to retain possession and being able to exploit avenues towards the penalty box when serving as a target-man has established Scamacca as a figure underpinned by the ability to gracefully manoeuvre himself in challenging situations in possession. Additionally, with promising potential to improve his goal-scoring form alongside weeding out existent flaws within his game, the Italian is likely to add a positive dynamism to any team he is part of in the immediate future.

A Promising Goal-Scorer

At times, he has been criticized for his lack of goals and poor attempts at finding the back of the net. After reaching double-digits (16 goals) with Sassuolo last season, Scamacca appears to have significantly improved in front of goal when compared to his previous outings.

While his expected goals (0.50xG) per game has remained the same from his 20/21 season, the Italian ended the campaign with an improved tally of goals, ranking in the 86th percentile for non-penalty expected goals (0.50npxG) per game. In comparison, Ronaldo ended the campaign with a marginally lower number of non-penalty expected goals (0.49npxG), although finishing in the 89th percentile for the metric.

Furthermore, he has the ability to strike the ball with brute force and utilizes his dominant features in scoring conventional goals – using his head (2.13xG) and serving as a poacher – Scamacca is likely to punish opposition sides when presented with even an inch of space in front of goal.

Additionally, with the ability to seek through-balls, deliver and feed off crosses whilst keeping the ball rolling towards the opposition’s penalty box, the Italian’s influence in multiple phases of the build-process is likely to benefit numerous top-level sides keen on securing the intelligent striker’s service in maximising the team’s potential on the pitch. A tendency to score from whistling volleys, long shots, and ambitious attempts remains on the cards, with the Italian having also emerged as a game-changer in recent seasons.

Areas To Improve

Although having shown immense potential across various areas on the pitch, Scamacca’s frustrations lie in his inconsistency and ambitious attempts at goal. For instance, as shown in the figure below (Fig 1.1), the Italian possesses an excruciating tendency to strike the ball from several yards off target, with only two having found the back of the net last season. However, with the possibility of the habit being regulated by coaching, the Italian is more than capable of managing ambitious attempts at goal, eventually likely to benefit him and his team(s) in the long run.

Gianluca Scamacca
Gianluca Scamacca: Shot Map, 2021/22

[Gianluca Scamacca: Shot Map, 2021/22, Courtesy: Understat, (Fig 1.1)]

Shaped by his experience in playing for mid-lower end sides across the Serie A and the second division, Scamacca registers decent defensive numbers for his position. Although ranking in the 84th percentile for tackles won (0.67) per ninety, the Italian’s numbers fall short in successful pressures (3.93 – 55th Percentile) and pressures in the attacking third (6.60 – 60th Percentile) per ninety.

However, his ability to read the game is reflected in his numbers when seeking out turnovers in possession, with the striker ranking in the 75th percentile for interceptions (0.59), 84th percentile for dribblers tackled (50%), and accounting for 14.90 pressures (62nd Percentile) per ninety, during the 21/22 campaign. Having shown a willingness to carry out his defensive duties, Scamacca is likely to improve a team’s tenacity on the pitch across the attacking third.

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Final Verdict

While Manchester United remain in the race to sign either Darwin Nunez, Christopher Nkunku or Richarlison in a bid to boost their attacking options for next season, an underrated player in Gianluca Scamacca is likely to benefit from Erik ten Hag’s supposed preferability of a target-man capable of contributing to the build-up play in a possession-based side.

Although lacking the clinical nature favoured by the Dutchman, the all-around attributes of Gianluca Scamacca in contributing across various phases of play could prove vital to the potential to establish a distinct footballing philosophy under new Manchester United manager Ten Hag. Moreover, with the Italian’s prime years ahead of him and United are in need of a versatile attacker, the Italian emerges as a player likely to flourish under the new beginning at Old Trafford.

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