Full Back Metric Analysis

Welcome to the first blog piece using Football Manager’s available statistics to assess Reggina squad players following their 2031-32 Serie A and Champions League wins. First up, the full backs:

Right backs, Bongiorno and Speri, have both come through the Reggina academy. Bongiorno was identified straight away as a hot prospect and someone likely to start in the first team within a relatively short time frame. Speri too was acknowledge as a clear prospect for the first team going forwards, but to ensure his chance of progression, he was sent out on a series of loans designed to give him playing time at a good level. With the dedicated aim of furthering his progress, which was broader in its required range of attributes and skill sets compared to Bongiorno, these loans allowed him to have a chance at Reggina where there were already two players for his position – with Bongiorno acting as the second/cover for that spot. It’s rare that youth academy prospects ever find a chance to make it through into the first team with the plethora of attractive scout reports that come through with alternative options from other clubs and countries, but given their clear upside/potential, they were given a path for progression, albeit different to one another. To have had both capped for the national side at such relatively young ages underlines their importance for the Azzurri.

Kevin Bongiorno
Andrea Speri

The right-sided full back is a pivotal role within the 4-2-3-1 formation for Reggina. Set to ‘attack’, the team’s tactic looks to create an overload down the right. If the opponents play with a winger, then this either forces them back and nullifies their attacking threat, or it can create a two-versus-one overload if the opposition left winger remains further upfield. If, as is often the case in Serie A, the opposition choose to play a tactic without wingers and opt for one player in the left-sided wingback slot, then the Reggina manager looks to tweak the tactic to switch play down either flanks.

Being set to attack, it is no surprise that both Bongiorno and Speri have covered an incredible amount of ground over the season – 13.9km/90mins and 13.7km/90mins respectively. Going forwards, often to the bi-line of the opposition and then having to track back to prevent counters is tiring work. Whilst they have good stamina and natural fitness to recover from running over a large distance and after games, both have been rotated heavily, with Bongiorno the preferred option of the two, playing in the ‘bigger’ games against stronger opposition. Given their pace and acceleration, both have been trained with the player preferred moves of ‘knocks ball past opponent’ and ‘runs with ball down the right’. This challenges and stretches defences, when matched with the winger on a ‘support’ role down the same flank. If the winger cuts inside, as they often seem to do, then this leaves the right back free to deliver a cross, or if closed down, to look to play the ball back to the deep lying playmaker.

The role demands that they cross the ball regularly into the box. Whilst both have low cross completion statistics, 17% and 16% respectively, these are often challenging crosses for the defending team to deal with. Frequently balls are whipped into the back post for the left-sided winger (set on attack) to arrive at the back post or driven in for the centre forward/attacking midfielder to pounce on in the middle of the six-yard box. Despite neither player having particularly high crossing attributes, both have contributed a number of assists over the season – 13 for Bongiorno and 8 for Speri, with Bongiorno averaging 0.46 Assists/90m and Speri not far behind with 0.37 A/90.

Their high levels of anticipation, concentration and decision-making allow for these players to be attacking in their nature, as they quickly spot potential danger and react accordingly. Playing in a flat back four, their defensive position and reading of the game is just as important as their attacking threat. This ability to read the game is supported by their reasonable positioning attributes, with Bongiorno coming out the stronger of the two in this area. Both have the same attribute rating for their work rate (13), which underlines their willingness and desire to both trackback and to push forwards to assist the attacking players. It’s Bongiorno’s teamwork that really makes him stand out from Speri (19 and 13 respectively). When up against strong opposition in the Serie A and the Champions League, Bongiorno’s work rate really comes to the fore. Six of his thirteen assists came in the Champions League winning campaign, from a total of nine starts.

The fact Bongiorno’s metrics largely outperform Speri’s, given he is first choice for the more difficult fixtures for Reggina, clearly outlines his ability. Perhaps it is to be expected that he will have more complete more tackles in a game (3.70/90min compared to 3.19/90min), given the lower average possession percentages, but to match this with a higher level of assists/90mins and to have very similar pass completion percentage to Speri (82% and 86% respectively) shows the true quality of the player. His Assists/90min metric is beaten only by players who play true playmaking roles (Cabrera) and those in the attacking fulcrum of tactic – putting him seventh on the list. Speri, by comparison, ranks twelfth, perhaps underlying the key duty of this role within the team.

On the other flank, the left full back is set to have a more supporting duty, getting forwards when they see an opportunity to get involved with play, but only when safe to do so. Given the attacking nature of the right hand-sided full back, this is far less frequent, perhaps best highlighted by the lower distance/90mins figures that both Werner and Pasquale post compared to their teammates (12.7km and 12.5km/90mins respectively). Both are world-class left-backs, with the Swede Werner repeatedly rumoured to be leaving for the Premier League.

Werner and Pasquale were identified early on in their careers by the Reggina scouting network. Werner started out at AIK and made a series of league appearances in the Swedish Allsvenskan before being picked up for £1.3m some ten years ago. It is perhaps no surprise that Reggina won their first Serie A the year that Werner arrived and have won the title every year since. The fact that Reggina have been able to hold on to such a player is testament to their ability to keep the player happy through repeatedly winning Serie A and competing in the final stages of the Champions League on a regular basis. Considered a team leader in the squad, Werner has been a stalwart for the first-team since arrival.

Dennis Werner

Pasquale is probably unlucky not have made more starts in his professional career. The 29-year old Argentinian began his career at Racing Club, but going out on loan to Sevilla, Sao Paulo and Atalanta. It was at Atalanta that scouts picked up on Pasquale’s ability and he was quickly acquired by Reggina for £9.25m following his successful season in Serie A at the Bergamo-based club. Pasquale has also had significant interest in his services from Premier League giants, but as yet he has chosen not to leave for pastures new, despite the likely lure of guaranteed first team football.

Victor Pasquale

The left back role is notably far less creative than the right-back in the Reggina set-up. With only three assists between the two players, their role is far more defensive-minded. The lack of key passes and chances created per 90mins is indicative of this in the metrics. This is largely explained by not just their role but also the overall tactical approach. On the right wing, the winger is set to support, so will not constantly push to arrive late in the box when the play is developing unlike his left-sided compatriot, who operates on a more attacking role, or even as a raumdeuter.

The role of the player in front of them also helps to explain the volume of tackles that the left full-back has to put in. With the left-back finding themselves without someone immediately in front of them to act as a shield, opponents can often look to take advantage of the space down the left-hand side. Werner and Pasquale’s abilities in the tackle (15 and 17 respectively) and their concentration and decision-making attributes (17 and 17, 14 and 15 respectively) help to make up for the fact that they are so frequently isolated. Werner averages 4.76 tackles/game with Pasquale not far short of this statistic, on 4.70 tackles/game. This puts them first and second at the club for this metric. However, Werner does have a relatively high number of mistakes/90mins, coming out on 1.82 mistakes/90mins, compared to 0.96 mistakes/90mins for Pasquale – yet neither player made any mistakes which led to a goal over the course of the season. Again, Werner is often the preferred option for the ‘tougher’ fixtures having made eleven Champions League starts during the 2031/32 season, so this can perhaps be explained away, especially given that stronger teams will look to take advantage of the aforementioned space in front of him. His positioning, tackling and marking attributes make him stand out from Pasquale to start these games, and his stamina and work rate helps him to maintain this late on into matches. Both have pass accuracy figures of 85% within Serie A, indicative that they look to play relatively simple passes to play-making opponents ahead of them but will clear the ball away when required.

The balance across these two roles give balance to the side, helping to provide both an overload to the attack and to support to the defence, preventing the two centre backs from being overrun by marauding attackers. Before looking forwards to explain the large number of goals this Reggina side create, it is important to understand why they concede so few and how their defence can be flipped into an attacking threat whilst maintain a stable base from which to work. Supplementing home-grown talent with two of the strongest, most complete full-backs in world football has taken Reggina forwards in European football, resulting in two Champions League titles in three years, and a Serie A ‘la decimo’.

Below you can see the full metric analysis for these players to draw your own comparisons and conclusions from the provided data:

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