Last summer, when Lorenzo Pellegrini returned home to Roma on a buyback option from Sassuolo, I was thrilled. Finally, Roma we’re keeping one of their top talents. Unlike so many other Primavera products that were unceremoniously used as a makeweight in deals for overrated transfer targets, Pellegrini was coming home. It was another Roman to carry on the recent line of Roman born and raised stars; following in the footsteps of Totti, De Rossi, and Florenzi.
He spent two season at Sassuolo, where he seemed to have cut his teeth at the impressive provincial side that had hung with big boys of Serie A; qualifying for the Europa League. On top of that, at the end of his Sassuolo stay, Pellegrini had also made his Italy senior team debut in a friendly against San Marino. As an added bonus, he’d be following his manager of the last two years back to Rome. It seemed like the stars were aligning and the kid was ready to return to the Olimpico to shine.
However, despite making more than 30 appearances in his first season in Rome, Pellegrini never truly stood out on a consistent basis. There were some goals and flashes of the talent that convinced Roma management to bring him back from Emilia-Romagna. However, it was evident that the kid still needed time to grow and develop as a player. After all, he was only 21 years old.
Fast forward to this season. After the sales of Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan, it quickly became clear that Lorenzo Pellegrini would have an even bigger role to play in the Roma midfield. The team was going to need him to take the next step in his development to help fill the void left by the departures. It was time for Lorenzo to claim a starting role for himself.
Unfortunately, individually and collectively, the season got off to a rough start for Pellegrini and Roma. The 22 year old Roman started the season in unimpressive fashion and in some ways looked like he had taken a step back in his development. One of Italy’s best midfield talents looked a shell of himself and his playing time began decreasing. Despite it being so early in the season it was extremely worrying.
Then the derby arrived and Pellegrini found himself on the substitutes bench for the fourth time in seven Serie A matches. But as fate would have it, Pellegrini would get his chance when Javier Pastore was injured late in the second half. He looked comfortable and confident despite being called on unexpectedly and it would take him just mere minutes to make an impact in his first derby appearance.
In the 45th minute, Pellegrini scored a back-heel goal that saw Roma break the deadlock and turn the tide in a game that favored Lazio for most of the first half.
The second half saw Pellegrini continue his fine performance as he drew the foul that led to Aleksander Kolarov’s goal just moments after Lazio drew level. But Pellegrini wasn’t done there, as he supplied a pinpoint free kick that was headed in by Federico Fazio to seal the derby victory for the Giallorossi. It was a man of the match performance for the young Roman in his derby debut.
What a 1st #DerbydellaCapitale for #Pellegrini— AS Roma Data (@ASRomaData) September 29, 2018
1⃣ Key Pass
2⃣ Successful Dribblings (100% success)
2⃣ Successful Tackles (100% success)
7⃣6⃣% Passing Accuracy #RomaLazio pic.twitter.com/nseO7YrGLk
Pellegrini looked very comfortable playing in the trequartista role of Roma’s recently favored 4-2-3-1 formation. With Pastore’s injury history, if Roma are to continue playing the 4-2-3-1 they need someone else able to fill the trequartista role and after yesterday it looke like Pellegrini can be that player.
Pellegrini gave his take on playing that role to Roma Radio, “It was a different role for me, but there are a lot of similarities with the mezz’ala position. Playing as the trequartista means you have a bit more freedom to get involved, and can be a bit more varied in the defensive phase to. I like playing there. Every role has its different demands, but I like playing in that spot – I did it at Sassuolo at times and it was good.”
Meanwhile, EDF seemed to echo that sentiment post match, saying, “I’ve played 4-2-3-1 before and I used it at Sassuolo at times when needed, so it wasn’t the first time Lorenzo had played in that position. He’s got the ability to play there: he has stamina and technique.”
His derby performance should inject Pellegrini with some much needed confidence and propel his career forward after his early season struggles. Romanisti will hope that it’s the game that they will be able to pinpoint as the moment Pellegrini kick started his young career, which seemed to be stuck in neutral. If this is the case Roma and Italy will the beneficiaries of his talents for years to come.