In just his second season of top flight football, Davide Zappacosta is making waves on the right flank and Italy boss Giampiero Ventura has taken notice.
After just a season with Atalanta, Davide Zappacosta was snapped up by Torino, much to the confusion of many. The 24-year-old was being heavily linked with a move to Juventus among other top clubs in Italy, but he eventually signed with I Granata. However, if he keeps up his current form, it won’t be long before he’s once again on the move but this time, to a top club.
Blessed with the ability of playing anywhere down the right, Zappacosta has adjusted wonderfully to life under Sinisa Mihajlovic, becoming his mainstay right back in the tactician’s trademark 4-3-3 system. Having arrived for a mere four million euros, the Italian international is proving to be one of the bargains of the summer. Without further ado, let us introduce you to Italy’s right back of the future, Davide Zappacosta.
Meet Davide Zappacosta:
Date of birth: 11 June 1992
Position: Right back
Height: 1,83 m
International caps: Italy U-21 (17 apps), Italy senior (2 apps)
Zappacosta started his career with the A.C Isola Liri youth system, a club based in Lazio. After spending two seasons there and making his professional debut in 2010, he attracted interest from Atalanta and signed with them immediately. Deemed not yet ready for the rigours of top flight football, as it has so often been the case for young Italians, gli Orobici loaned him out to Avellino in 2011 to earn his stripes.
It was with them that Zappacosta fine tuned his game and established himself as a high-flying wing player. In his last season with the club, the defender had a dominant year in Serie B, demonstrating that he was ready to make the step up to the big leagues. In 2014, he returned to Atalanta where he remained the entire season, scoring three goals in 29 appearances.
Despite making the step up to Italy’s top flight, Zappacosta was unfazed by his new surroundings and kept marauding the right flank. After just one year with Gasperini’s side, Torino picked him up in a package deal with Daniele Baselli. It was only last year that Zappacosta made his senior debut with the national team in a World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein on November 12. Having impressed in his brief stint with gli Azzurri, he’s since been called up for the latest round of international fixtures.
Strengths and weaknesses:
What truly separates Zappacosta from his defensive counterparts is his ability to get forward from his flank. While his mandate is to defend, the Torino fullback is a constant menace on the right flank from right back. Whether he’s overlapping his winger or whipping in a dangerous cross, Zappacosta is always ready to lend his team a hand in the final third. Last season, his offensive exploits were rewarded with three goals while this year, the fullback has already registered three assists.
Outside of his offensive talents, Zappacosta is blessed with incredible pace, both in possession or out of it. This has helped him immensely when playing against some of the league’s quick wingers as he’s able to go toe-to-toe with them in the speed department. When on the ball, the Torino man is a good dribbler and could take on his man when needed to. More importantly, however, Zappacosta knows when and when not to release the ball to a teammate. As a fullback, it’s clear to see that he knows his role.
From a defensive standpoint, the Italy international, simply put, needs to improve. While his ability to read the game and intercept the opposition’s passes are a strong suit of his, Zappacosta still has ways to go in the defensive third. Having played most of his career on the wing as a right midfielder or wingback, free of most defensive duties, Zappacosta isn’t used to playing this deep. Due to this, there have been some growing pains regarding his defensive play.
At times, the young defender is caught out of position, neglecting his defensive tasks. As a result, his marking isn’t yet a strong point of his. The more he plays at right back, however, the quicker his suspect positioning will disappear from his game.
His tackling is another area that needs improving. Under Mihajlovic, he has contributed more defensively and is currently averaging 1.9 tackles a game but if he is to continue as Italy’s right back, he’s going to need to do more. Luckily for Italy, it appears he is at least making positive strides in this respect.
Considering the dearth of quality Italian fullbacks currently, Zappacosta’s rise to prominence could not have come at a better time for both the player and La Nazionale. If he is able to keep improving defensively whilst maintaining his offensive arsenal, he will quickly become a mainstay at the international level. Having begun his career as a wide midfielder only to later be converted to fullback, his career trajectory is shaping up similarly to a great Azzurri defender of the past in the form of Gianluca Zambrotta. Whether he’s able to reach the same heights as the World Cup winner remains to be seen but it’s sure looking like Zappacosta is Italy’s right back of the future.