The Italian second division has never been in short supply of talent. In fact, the players coming through are growing year in, year out.
There have been some legendary teams that have well-founded legacies in the Serie B.
Zdenek Zeman’s famous Pescara team of 2011/12 or the Giuseppe Iachini Palermo side of 2014/15 were all full of exciting young players.
The likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Paulo Dybala, Ciro Immobile, Marco Verratti amongst others have taken the very first steps of their glittering careers in the campeonato cadetto.
Current seniors in the Italian national team setup such as Leonardo Bonucci and Francesco Acerbi also cut their teeth in professional football in Serie B.
Now, there is a new generation of talents coming through from the division who are catching the eye of teams in the top flight as well as beyond.
FTF looks at five such individuals who could be set for a bright future –
Club: Venezia CF
A January arrival in the beautiful city of Venice, Sebastiano Esposito is gradually making a positive impression at Venezia FC.
A graduate of Inter Milan’s academy after moving there from Brescia, the 18 year old made seven appearances for the Nerazzurri before being shipped out on loan to SPAL first and now Venezia.
When given his first-team debut, Esposito lined-up against Genoa alongside Romelu Lukaku and marked the occasion with a goal from the penalty spot. A truly special moment for the youngster as the fans seated in the San Siro echoed his name all over the stadium.
He is Inter’s youngest ever to feature in European competition and was also nominated for last year’s golden-boy award.
Awards and milestones aside, Esposito’s career has taken a while to get started. After struggling at SPAL, Inter transferred him to Venezia in January.
It has taken a while, but Esposito finally opened his account for Venezia with a well-taken goal against AC Monza in a 4-1 victory for I Łagunari.
In a small sample size thus far, Esposito’s numbers have been encouraging. Especially when you compare them with players in the U23 age bracket and with sufficient minutes played.
He leads the Serie B in Expected Assists per90 with 0.17, which is the measure of the quality of chance that a player creates for their team-mates.
Standing at 6’1”, Esposito is capable of being that link-up presence in the final third and has shows a willingness to drive the ball forward and progress it with his carries. On more than one occasion, he has penetrated the penalty area with his progressive carrying in an attempt to create cutbacks for his team-mates.
In terms of shots attempted per90 and touches in the opp. box per90, Esposito’s numbers are quite healthy. Attempting about 1.7 shots per90 with a 36% accuracy whilst averaging 4.43 touches in the opp. box per90.
The coaches at Inter will be happy to see that he’s off the mark at Venezia with the goal against Monza. The celebration that followed was really telling of a player waiting for that goal to boost his confidence. Still only 18, Esposito’s future at club level is very much in his own hands.
He has been capped at all youth levels of the Italian national team and it feels as though it’s only a matter of time before the boy from Naples shines in the blue of the Nerazzuri.
Club: AC Monza (on loan from Atalanta)
The first of three AC Monza players in this piece is the young center back Davide Bettella, on loan from Atalanta.
This is Bettella’s second spell on loan away from the Serie A outfit and the signs are, that he is benefitting from all the regular game-time in Serie B.
He featured on loan at Pescara in the previous campaign and has so far looked very impressive for Monza. This is a very interesting team with the backing of Adriano Galliani and former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
Their story has been well documented in recent months and Bettella is certainly one of the better players in the side.
Once at Monza, the Atalanta loanee did not waste any time in showing his former side what they were missing when facing off against them on matchday four of the league.
Although his team ultimately lost the game 3-2, Battella scored two well-taken headers thanks to some clever movement and a little sparkle of luck as well.
The stats behind the youngster’s performances paint a very good picture of his skills and strengths.
In his age group of U23 players with at least 900 minutes played, Bettella’s numbers stand out in a positive light.
He has the most possession-adjusted interceptions per90 of any center-back in the league with 9.8 per90. Which points to his proactive-ness as a defender and also his ability to track-back.
It is his evident from his heatmap above that Bettella is a defender who likes to step into midfield and play higher up the pitch, which is where most of his actions are concentrated.
In terms of his aerial ability, Bettella has an aerial duel success rate of 61%, which coupled with his interceptions makes him a very positive outlier.
As for his ability to progress the ball, Bettella is very good at switching play to either side of the pitch to his full-backs who are adventurous on and off the ball to varying extents.
The numbers back this up, Bettella attempts more progressive passes than any of his peers at 9.1 per90 with a highly respectable success rate of 72.5%.
Given that Monza have an option to make Bettella’s deal permanent in the summer, they might just do that to reward the defender’s silent but solid contributions to a potential promotion campaign.
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Position: Central midfielder
Club: AC Monza (on loan from Sassuolo)
If there is one midfielder whose performances at the U21 Euros have only bolstered his fine reputation, it’s Monza’s Davide Frattesi.
Frattesi is a dream for any manager to coach, because of how much he gives to his team at both ends of the pitch.
“After the championship with Empoli I said that if I ever had to return to Serie B I would only do it for Monza, because it is a destination you cannot say no to.” said Frattesi to Monza-News.it
Monza will be glad he said yes. With five goals and one assist so far in the league, Frattesi’s contributions have proven vital.
The former Roma youth player’s impact on the team, however, is far more pertinent in the qualities he brings apart from his impressive goals.
He is a dream partner for a full-back and a striker because of his tireless work rate, shuttling in and out of offensive or defensive duties.
Frattesi’s movement challenges opposition defences in more ways than one. He is happy to advance forward to assist his striker or make runs out wide to overload wide areas and pressure opposition defenders into mistakes.
He averages the third highest no. of touches in the opp. box per90 as compared to his peers in similar positions, averaging 3.32 touches per match.
This intense offensive work-rate also means that he is able to take a high volume of shots per90, averaging about 2.1 shots per90 with 33% accuracy.
In terms of deep completions, which are passes that are completed within dangerous areas in the opposition box, Frattesi ranks highly. Averaging about 1.2 deep completed passes per90 and 0.93 deep completed crosses per90.
No midfielder in Serie B ranks higher than Frattesi for %s of offensive/defensive duels won overall. Frattesi has so far won 64% of his defensive duels whilst winning 47% of his offensive duels.
In terms of ball-progression, Frattesi attempts about six progressive passes per90 with a success rate of 70%, whilst also progressing the ball with his energetic pressing and running style, with 2.2 progressive runs per90.
With all of the impressive qualities that he brings to the table in unspectacular fashion, there is no doubt that Frattesi’s ceiling is quite high and he would certainly thrive in a system that would get the best out of his abilities, possibly at his parent club Sassuolo.
Club: AC Monza
Dany Mota is popularly known as il CR7 di Chiavari in Italy, which translates to the CR7 of Chiavari and that comparison is not made lightly.
Born in Luxembourg to Portuguese parents, Dany Mota’s professional career has been moulded in Serie B. Firstly with Virtus Entella, and now with AC Monza, where he is truly flourishing.
Mota usually operates on the left of a front three at Monza and is very much an inside forward.
He enjoys dribbling past defenders and thanks to his impressive physique, he is also competent in the air. While he is a thoroughly exciting player to watch on the pitch, his numbers make for an exciting search as well.
As compared to players in his position in Serie B, Mota has the third highest combined tally for Expected Goals and Expected Assists of 0.46.
He has scored five goals so far from an expected goals tally of 8.4, which suggests that he is underperforming at the moment. Nonetheless, that is to be expected from a young forward who is still learning to hone his all-round play.
Mota is a high volume dribbler and progressor of the ball. He attempts almost eight dribbles per90, which places him at third place for this metric. Those dribbles come with a success rate of 60%, which makes a handful for opposition defenders.
In terms of ball progression, Mota makes about 4 progressive runs per90, for which he is fourth best in the league.
Clearly, this is a very intelligent player and a prospect to keep an eye on. With five languages [Portuguese, Italian, German, French, and Luxembourgish] in his spoken arsenal, he should have little problems settling in anywhere across Europe’s top five leagues should he choose to move on from Monza after a year or so.
Empoli are the league leaders and perhaps the team with the most evenly balanced squad as well, in terms of talents. Some really fantastic players across all departments, however, for our last pick, we are focusing on Fabiano Parisi.
Perhaps the most defining facet of Parisi’s game is his ability to recover the ball with intensity.
It is that very intensity that has resulted in him ranking number one for recoveries per90 at 11.18 and fifth for counter-pressing recoveries as well [4.8 per90].
Parisi’s offensive proclivity is something to admire as well. Much like the modern-day fullback he is happy to shuttle up and down the left flank as and when necessary.
In terms of his defensive work, amongst his peers in the U23 age bracket, Parisi ranks 3rd for Possession-adjusted interceptions per90 [8.47].
As referenced earlier, Parisi is very much a modern full-back which means that he is quite active in engaging in offensive as well as defensive duels. In fact, the numbers tell us that nobody engages in more offensive and defensive duels combined than Parisi per90 [ 19.8 per90 ].
Aleksa Terzić shares minutes with Parisi at left-back and while he is one of the league’s best crossers from left-back, Parisi isn’t too far behind. Attempting to cross the ball about five times per90 [ third-best in the league] with a success rate of 29%.
As for ball progression, Parisi’s numbers stand out thanks to his ability to pick out passes for runners in behind or passes into the penalty area. When compared to U23 fullbacks, Parisi ranks number one for progressive passes attempted per90 [ 13.48 ] with a very encouraging success rate of 84%. Not only helpful with his passing, Parisi also averages about 2.5 progressive runs per90.
Parisi’s slender frame and intense work-rate means he is a nuisance for opposition wide players as well as full-backs, who have to deal with him while he overlaps.
There is reported interest from the likes of Napoli and Fiorentina themselves in Parisi’s talents and it will be interesting to see if they test Empoli’s waters with an offer this summer.
All stats from Wyscout, accurate upto matchweek 29.
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