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CANADA-TORONTO-SOCCER-MLS-TORONTO FC-PRESS CONFERENCE-FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images

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Federico Bernardeschi Scouting Report: What can Toronto FC expect?

Despite his struggles at Juventus, Bernardeschi should still be a resounding success in MLS.

Federico Bernardeschi is expected to debut in this Saturday’s match against Charlotte FC. In this article, I will break down his playing style and what Toronto FC fans can potentially expect from him. I will provide some background info on his time at Fiorentina and Juventus and will analyze his statistical profile across three separate seasons at Juventus.

Before getting into the scouting report, it bears mentioning that I am not a Serie A expert, nor have I watched every Juventus game. This scouting report is based on the Juventus games I have seen, as well as any data, scouting reports, individual game film and analysis that I was able to find online.


2016-17: Bernardeschi’s breakout at Fiorentina

The 2016-17 Serie A season is when Bernardeschi truly announced his arrival to the football world. During that season, he was part of a balanced attack alongside Nikola Kalinic, Josip Ilicic and Federico Chiesa. He scored 11 goals and added four assists that season as a versatile attacker capable of playing as a second striker, a left or right winger and also as an attacking midfielder.

ACF Fiorentina v FC Barcelona - Preseason Friendly Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Bernardeschi quickly became Fiorentina’s most important player and one of Italy’s most exciting up and coming attacking talents. He was recognized for his pace, strength, work rate, technical quality on the ball, eye for a pass and wand of a left foot. He was even given the nickname after the famous Florentine architect, “Brunelleschi”, for his technique and grace on the pitch. Fiorentina only finished eighth in Serie A that season, and without European football to look forward to, Bernardeschi made his big money move to Juventus in July 2017 for a reported €40 million.

2017-18 to 2021-22: Bernardeschi’s struggles at Juventus

After being bought by Juventus for such a big fee, expectations were high for Bernardeschi. Fans were hoping he could become the next Italian superstar footballer. However, moving to an Allegri team meant there would be a transition period. Allegri prefers to rely on veteran players who fully understand their roles in his organized, defensive and disciplined system. Given his flexible game planning approach, players also need to be comfortable adapting to many different formations. Younger players are often slowly integrated into the team.

Bernardeschi’s best season at Juventus came in his first year. Despite a slow start where he was often on the bench behind Juan Cuadrado, he finished off the year with four goals and six assists. But while an injury to Cuadrado around New Years gave him that increased playing time, a knee sprain of his own would prevent him from finishing out the last two months of the season.

Parma Calcio v Juventus - Serie A Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Injuries became a common theme for Bernardeschi during his time at Juventus. In total, he missed 40 games across his five years there. Not only were injuries a problem, but Juventus’ managerial situation was also unstable during that time. Juventus had three different managers from 2017-2022 (Allegri from 2017-19, Maurizio Sarri from 2019-20, Andrea Pirlo from 2020-21 and back to Allegri in 2021-22).

As a young player still developing their game and trying to find their place amongst Juventus’ star attacking talent, adapting to three managers with vastly different coaching philosophies (and then back to the original one) is not ideal. Still, there are certain players capable of rising above these issues. Unfortunately, Bernardeschi was not able to. Injuries, coaching changes, playing out of position and only being able to sustain top level performances for brief periods of time sum up his struggles at Juve.


2017-18: Bernardeschi Player Radar Map

As previously mentioned, Bernardeschi’s best season at Juventus was in 2017-18. Aside from the goal contributions, the radar map above shows the profile that one might come to expect from him.

From an attacking perspective, Bernardeschi’s non-penalty goals, expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) really stand out. He ranked in the 97th percentile for non-penalty goals that year (0.43 per 90 mins), along with being in the 89th percentile for xG (0.32 per 90 mins) and the 77th percentile for xA (0.22 per 90 mins) against his peers at the same position in Europe’s top five leagues.

Looking into Bernardeschi’s possession statistics, the only thing that stands out is his pass completion% of 80.8% is in the 84th percentile compared to his peers at his position. However, studying pass completion % on its own is not enough. It’s important to dive deeper and look at things like key passes (passes that lead directly to a goal attempt that does not result in a goal) and progressive passes (see Wyscout’s definition of a progressive pass here) to better understand how impactful the player’s passing is.

Here, we see that Bernardeschi’s key passes per game of 1.41 per 90 mins is in below average at his position in the 49th percentile, while he sits in the 70th percentile for progressive passes at 4.76 per 90 mins. All together, it means that he was pretty good at progressive the ball through his passing, but not quite as strong at providing that final pass to teammates for goal scoring chances. Bernardeschi’s progressive carries (carrying the ball at least five metres towards the opposition’s goal in the opposition’s half) at 6.71 per 90 mins (60th percentile) is fairly decent and highlighted that he was a fairly progressive player overall in 2017-18.

From a defending statistical analysis, Bernardeschi was in the 87th percentile for interceptions with 0.97 per 90 mins. His 0.32 tackles per 90 mins in the attacking third rated in the 62nd percentile. Overall, his defensive statistics are not all too surprising considering Allegri’s preference for an organized, reserved and disciplined defensive block.


2019-20: Bernardeschi Player Radar Map

Maurizio Sarri was Juventus’ manager in the 2019-20 season and employed entirely different tactics to the previous manager, Allegri. Sarri’s teams are known for playing some of the most attractive, fluid and attack-minded soccer in the world. His preference is to set up passing triangles for quick, short passes on the ground, lots of rotational movement to create numerical superiority and to press aggressively when not in possession of the ball.

Bernardeschi’s 2019-20 player radar map shows the Sarri effect. His defensive statistics for pressures per 90 mins (increase of 3.34 more per 90 mins) improved significantly in the attacking third. His tackles in the attacking third also increased slightly, while his interceptions dropped significantly (decrease of 0.63 per 90 mins). Oddly, his aerial win % increased drastically to the 94th percentile, winning 0.34 aerials per game.

From an attacking and possession side, we see a sharp decrease in almost every statistical category. Bernardeschi was moved from his preferred winger position to a trequartista (Italian for attacking midfielder) role and clearly could not find his footing in Sarri’s system. As a result, both of his actual and expected goal contributions dropped.

Given Sarri’s preference for quick, short passes, players are not expected to be as progressive in carries or passes and it shows in Bernardeschi’s statistics. The only statistical category that saw an improvement under Sarri was his ability to play 0.58 more key passes per game compared to 2017-18, which is not surprising given the central, creative attacking role he was played in.


2021-22: Bernardeschi Player Radar Map

Finally, I wanted to show Bernardeschi’s player radar map from 2021-22. Allegri was re-appointed as Juventus’ manager after a two year break. He carried over his 2021 Euro Cup (technically 2020, but played in 2021) form and started the season off brilliantly. However, those good performances did not last long and Bernardeschi started to lose playing time to Chiesa who started to become a bona fide Juventus superstar.

Bernadeschi’s 2021-22 statistics show why his time at Juventus came to an end. In a year where he played plenty of minutes and Juventus lacked firepower, he was not able to rise to the occasion. The radar map shows a player that was not really effective in goal contributions or passing. His progressive passes and carries improved, while his tackles and pressures in the attacking third dropped significantly as expected in an Allegri system.


Final Thoughts

Bernardeschi is clearly a talented player capable of contributing goals and assists, progressive play for his team and in helping to win the ball back in the attacking third when his team is out of possession. His player radar maps at Juventus also show that he is capable of adapting to different systems.

In Bob Bradley’s preferred attacking 4-3-3 system, wingers who can progressively carry and pass the ball and press high up the field to quickly win the ball back are paramount. The biggest upgrade in Bernardeschi taking the right wing role should be his first touch to evade defenders and quickly progress the ball up field, ability to hold onto the ball higher up the field to allow the rest of the team to join the attack from deeper positions, to be more decisive in taking on opposing defenders and to provide an actual goal threat from his eye for a pass or from shooting it himself.

CANADA-TORONTO-SOCCER-MLS-TORONTO FC-PRESS CONFERENCE-FEDERICO BERNARDESCHI Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images

With players like Insigne and Bernardeschi playing on the wings, it will force defences to choose who to focus on. Space should be opened up for the other player to attack defences in 1v1 situations. If defences choose to overload to defend both wings, then players like Jimenez, Osorio and Kaye should enjoy more space and freedom to attack from central positions.

The radar map from the 2021-22 season could potentially serve as a warning sign. However, at 28 years of age and the fact that MLS is nowhere close to Serie A in terms of talent or tactical play, I’m less concerned. The potential is clearly there for Bernardeschi to recapture his 2016-17 form at Fiorentina (unfortunately, fbref did not have his statistical data from the 2016-17 for me to use as a comparison) and his 2017-18 form at Juventus.

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