Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Analyzing New Lazio Midfielder Mattia Zaccagni With Hellas Verona Expert Rick Hough

On the final day of the Summer Transfer Window, Lazio made a significant move as they managed to sign Mattia Zaccagni from Hellas Verona.

It was the last signing made for new Lazio manager Maurizio Sarri and received a player that he had requested from management after the club failed to sign Filip Kostic from Eintracht Frankfurt.

The Laziali’s Jerry Mancini spoke to Rich Hough, the author of Notes from Verona and Rita’s War, to get a breakdown of Lazio’s latest attacker.

What does Mattia Zaccagni bring to Lazio? What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Zaccagni has been one of Verona’s standout players in the last couple of seasons. Offensively, he’s fast, direct and skillful – the kind of player who defenders hate to play against. Crossing, dribbling and assists, he will earn you plenty of freekicks and even the odd penalty, as defenders struggle to cope with his pace and guile. His goal scoring record is quite modest, but when he scores, they tend to be pretty spectacular. He’s also generous and hardworking, in defense, transition and attack. Although he’s still young, he’s a leader on the pitch and, as one of Verona’s longest serving players, has worn the captain’s armband on a number of occassions. With just 15 goals 146 appearances (plus 22 assists), he’ll be hoping to improve on that record, and you could argue that he lacks experience at the highest level, having spent his entire senior career at Hellas. Nor does he have European or international experience, but that is obviously something he’s looking for at Lazio.

How will Zaccagni be remembered during his time with Hellas Verona? What does his departure mean for the Gialloblu and how will it impact them?

Zaccagni will be remembered very fondly in Verona. As he said himself recently, he arrived a boy and left a man! Although he’s from Emilia-Romagna, he’s been at Hellas Verona since 2013, and made his Serie A debut in 2015. His raw talent has always been obvious, but it’s only really been in the last couple of seasons under Juric that he’s really stood out as one of our most important offensive players. His form dipped a wee bit at the tail end of last season as his future (and that of coach Ivan Juric) was the subject of intense speculation, but he’s started this season very brightly. His performance in the season opener against Sassuolo typified the player he has become. Although we lost the game, he scored both our goals, earning a penalty, which he then converted, and then scoring a wonderful solo effort. In the final minutes of the game, it was Zaccagni who was urging on home crowd as Hellas battled for an equalizer. He’ll leave a massive hole, but that’s how I’ll remember him.

How do you see Zaccagni fitting into Maurizio Sarri’s system? How do you see his 2021/22 season playing out?

Zaccagni should fit in very well to a style of played based around verticality in possession and high-tempo passing. He’ll also be great at exploiting space and getting in behind defenders once a defensive press has been triggered. Such a technically gifted player, Zaccagni should have no problems adapting to Sarriball! Obviously, his new coach has a very particular footballing philosophy and a different temperament to Ivan Juric, who brought out the very best in Zaccagni. Let’s see if Sarri can take him to the next level.

Were you shocked to see Zaccagni leave Hellas Verona for such a relatively low price?

To be honest, no. There had been a lot of speculation about Zaccagni’s future for at least the last two or three transfer windows and his contract was up in 2022. He’s a talented and ambitious guy, so it was no surprise that he wanted to move on to a ‘bigger’ club. Sadly, Verona have sold on most of their best young players in the last couple of seasons (Sofyan Amrabat, Marash Kumbulla, Matteo Lovato, etc.), so that’s become a bit of a trend as of late… It’s a shame that Zaccagni has been added to that list, but that’s football! I understand the deal was worth about €10 million, which for a young player with his ability, approaching his peak, seems to be a great piece of business for Lazio. As ever, Verona fans are left scratching their heads and wondering what if!

What position do you see Zaccagni playing under Sarri? What do you think is best suited for him?
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