One to Watch: Riccardo Sottil

With the international break upon us and plenty of U-21 football on deck, it gives us time to reflect on some of Italy’s budding talents. Chief among them is Fiorentina winger Riccardo Sottil. Since Rocco Commisso has taken over, la Viola have been committed to producing Italian players and are keen on giving these players a platform to express themselves. Federico Chiesa and Gaetano Castrovilli are but two examples of Fiorentina’s success with youth and represent a clear direction in place in Tuscany. Sottil appears to be the next Azzurrini in line to take Fiorentina by storm. 

The 20-year-old is a natural winger by trade and joined Fiorentina’s youth ranks from Torino in 2016. He first featured for Montella’s men as a sub in 2018 against Sampdoria, coming on for Chiesa. This season, Sottil has featured with more regularity and has demonstrated signs that he’s ready to take the next step in his career. Montella, a manager notorious for his handling of youth, has entrusted the young winger this season, as evidenced by his seven appearances this season.

His most impressive outing was undoubtedly against Napoli in the first match-day of the season, where Sottil got deployed from the start. The 20-year-old was a constant menace and terrorized Mario Rui until the Portuguese fullback was inevitably subbed off. Using his incredible turn of pace, Sottil took on his man every opportunity he got and earned six fouls, the most of anyone on the pitch. This performance was a glimpse of what Sottil is capable of.

Beyond his directness, Sottil is a versatile winger. Whether Montella instructs him to increase the depth of the side or stretch the opposition wide, Sottil is eager to listen to his manager’s instructions. However, the Fiorentina man is at his best when hitting the opponent on the counter and thrives when there’s space to run into. Moving forward in his career, Sottil will need to diversify his game and develop the qualities needed to break down low blocks. Currently, the 20-year-old is largely used off the bench but could feature with more regularity with a bit more consistency.

Sottil also represents the Italy U-21 sides and has thrived on the wide right of their front-three. Most recently, the 20-year-old found the back of the net against Ireland in a 3-0 win. Despite his goal, Sottil is yet to regularly contribute in the final third and will need to add end-product to his game. The Fiorentina man is one of the league’s paciest customers and is able to get himself in dangerous areas, but needs to be better at finding the final ball. Once that happens, both Italy and Fiorentina will add yet another mercurial winger to their ranks.

Alongside Chiesa and Castrovilli, Sottil has the opportunity to take Fiorentina forward into a new era. An era that predicates the importance of Italian youth and an era that, hopefully, will bring more silverware than the last. Despite his clear talent, he remains one to watch as there are areas of improvement for the young winger. Regardless, it appears that Sottil is ready to take Serie A by storm.

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Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round 12

Inter-Verona: while Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku continue to be very reliable, the Beneamata are getting additional pieces back, as Matias Vecino scored in Champions League and Stefano Sensi looked pretty good in his stint off the bench. The two are certainly better fantasy options than Roberto Gagliardini, who filled in while they were sidelined, and the ex Sassuolo player, in particular, was fantastic at the beginning of the season. Valentino Lazaro was okay against Brescia and his skill-set is interesting, especially against the minnows where he would not need to defend a lot. Matteo Politano got hurt in Dortmund, so the first man up off the bench in the attack would be Salvatore Esposito. Verona have scored just nine times so far, so their back-line is certainly in play despite the ongoing clean sheet-less run. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Ten

Standings implications: it took them 96 minutes, but Juventus downed Genoa therefore replied to Inter, which looked tired but withstood Brescia’s assault. Napoli and Atalanta shared the spoiled in the most anticipated match of the round. The Roma teams dominated, with the Giallorossi trashing Udinese away and Lazio doing the same to Torino at the Olimpico Stadium. Cagliari continue to march on and upended Bologna. Fiorentina staged a comeback to defeat Sassuolo. Verona blitzed Parma on the road, while Sampdoria and Lecce tied one-one. Milan have a pulse and squeaked by SPAL. Continue reading

On the Rise: Gaetano Castrovilli

Every Serie A season a new wave of talents break onto the scene and steal the headlines. This season has been no different as countless youngsters have staked their claim to make a name for themselves. Fiorentina’s Gaetano Castrovilli is one of these players. Making the most of his regular minutes under Vincenzo Montella, the 22-year-old has now established himself as a key member of la Viola’s eleven.

Typically fielded as a mezz’ala (outside of the midfield three), Castrovilli is able to make the most of his enterprise and drive his team forward. Currently, the midfielder’s 2.6 dribbles per game is the fourth most in Serie A and is a clear sign Montella turns to him to progress the ball in the midfield. 
When he’s not driving with the ball at his feet, Castrovilli has proven to be a willing runner without it. In many ways, his game is eerily similar to that of Juventus legend Claudio Marchisio. He’s at his most dangerous making late, unmarked runs into the box and has proven to have a knack for being at the right place at the right time.
In possession, the Fiorentina man is equally as impressive and plays positively whenever given the chance. Castrovilli is currently averaging 1.4 key passes per game and is becoming a creative threat in the middle of the park. Alongside Milan Badelj and Erick Pulgar, the 22-year-old has carved out a role for himself as the ‘runner’ of the midfield trio, offering industry both in and out of possession. In Badelj, Castrovilli and Pulgar, la Viola currently possess one of the league’s most technical midfield units, capable of covering ground and protecting their defence in the process. 
Most recently, the young midfielder notched his first goal in Serie A in Fiorentina’s 3-1 win over Milan. Castrovilli was excellent against the rossoneri and gave the viola faithful a glimpse of what’s hopefully to come from him.
Considering newly-appointed Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso wants to usher in a new era in Tuscany, predicating the importance of quality and youthful Italians, expect Castrovilli to become a center-piece of his vision. Alongside Federico Chiesa, the 22-year-old can help his side put last season’s woes behind them and kick off a new era. 
Montella has had success with young players in the past and we’re already starting to see his impact on the side. Currently, Fiorentina sit two points out of fourth place having already played Napoli, Juventus, Atalanta and Milan. Moreover, despite the results not always going their way, Montella’s men have looked the better side in most, if not in all, of these games. As their schedule gets easier, expect la Viola to keep climbing up the table with Castrovilli emerging as a key man.
If the 22-year-old is able to maintain this level, a national team call-up shouldn’t be too far away. While Italy’s midfield ranks are currently congested with the likes of Stefano Sensi, Marco Verratti and Jorginho, gli Azzurri lack a true mezz’ala beyond Inter’s Nicolo Barella. Having already qualified to Euro 2020, expect Mancini to experiment and Castrovilli to get a chance with the senior setup.
After all, he’s earned it. 
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Serie A Fantasy Recap – Round Six

Standings implications: the top three teams in the standings were all successful on Saturday. The one that had to combat the most was Inter, which run into some trouble against Sampdoria but still prevailed, while Juventus and Atalanta easily disposed of SPAL and Sassuolo. The Roman sides kept up as La Lupa nipped Lecce on the road, while Lazio trucked Genoa. Fiorentina earned their second W in a row with a splendid display against a dwindling Milan. Cagliari came back to earth with a draw versus Verona. Udinese returned to winning days after four rounds by defeating Bologna. Parma outlasted Torino on Monday night.  Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Six

Juventus-SPAL: the Bianconeri have not been very spectacular in the last two matches against minnows, but they got the job done with the contribution of few different players. Cristiano Ronaldo has shaken off his injury and will be back in this one, Paulo Dybala has outperformed Gonzalo Higuain in the last couple of outings, but the latter is usually closer to the goal. Aaron Ramsey has been pretty good and they could carry on with the tactics where he is heavily featured, but it remains to be seen whether he can play thrice in a row, otherwise Adrien Rabiot or Federico Bernardeschi could get the nod there and reap the benefits of a very offensive role. They have gotten goals from Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi, even though Sami Khedira is generally the midfielder who is most involved in the offense. Juan Cuadrado loses some steam because he is forced to play as right back for the time being. Continue reading

Gaetano Castrovilli – Fiorentina’s Next Big Thing

One of the standout performers from Fiorentina’s superb display during their 0-0 draw with Juventus last weekend isn’t exactly a household name in Italian football circles. At just 22 years old, Gaetano Castrovilli had spent time in the youth ranks of Cagliari and Bari before making the move to Tuscany in 2017.

Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four

Juventus-Verona: the Old Lady had a subpar performance in Florence but obviously will be in a much better spot this week at home against a relegation struggler. Cristiano Ronaldo usually does not go scoreless for long and Gonzalo Higuain is not a bad pick either, as for now the coach has refrained from using Paulo Dybala there. Douglas Costa, who was their go-to-guy so far, will miss time, so Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado will return to prominence. Until the coach entrusts one of the newcomers, Aaron Ramsey in particular, Sami Khedira remains the most appealing midfielder for his offensive dexterity. Their defenders are surely worth consideration. Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Three

Fiorentina-Juventus: despite the two tough losses, la Viola showed some intriguing stuff up front against both Napoli and Genoa. The potential is there, but the whole team needs to tighten up and build up some chemistry. Franck Ribery is primed to get more minutes after the break and they should finally counter-balance a line-up that is always too reliant on Federico Chiesa. The ones that will benefit the most are the centre-forwards and for the time being Kevin-Prince Boateng will likely be the top option until Dusan Vlahovic and Pedro find their footing. Gaetano Castrovilli has already shown that he can be dangerous with his cuts, while Erick Pulgar hit the net twice on penalties and will have more opportunities to put his shooting prowess to good use in a slightly modified role. Continue reading

Serie A Match of the Round – Fiorentina vs Napoli

Straight up fireworks on Friday night as Napoli paid a visit to Fiorentina. Vincenzo Montella unleashed the youth movement, fielding Gaetano Castrovilli, Riccardo Sottil and Dusan Vlahovic together from the get-go, while Carlo Ancelotti, who could not use Arkadiuz Milik and Hirving Lozano, deployed Dries Mertens as false-nine, supported by Fabian Ruiz, José Callejon and Lorenzo Insigne, while Mario Rui was picked over Faouzi Ghoulam on the left flank. Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Kostas Manolas, Pol Lirola and Erick Pulgar debuted with their respective teams. Continue reading