There was a spell of 6-7 Roma games where my main thing was counting how many times Giada Greggi could bait her opponent into closing her down, before she skipped right past them again. Then her reign of possession came to an end late in a game against local cup rivals Roma CF.
It was well into the last 15 minutes of the match, but it happened. Perhaps the emotional high of captaining Roma, for her first time in Greggi’s very young career, had taken its toll. The Roman midfielder lost concentration, robbed of the ball not once but twice in quick succession. It was a bit of a collector’s item, that game. Greggi getting dispossessed is like London buses, and yet Bavagnoli’s breakout star of 2018/19 has plenty more to her game than holding onto possession.
Far from falling in love with the ball, Greggi is always looking to pass and move. She will prefer to pass it to a teammate further up field in a succession of 1-2s even over distances as little as 10 yards to move into. The Roman #20 has been the glue to make at least 4-5 teammates around her feel far more involved in the match at any one given moment. And I hope she is eventually promoted to her favoured #10 shirt for the Giallorosse.
Bren has watched more games than me and likes the Roma midfield for what it is, but I look at midfield as Roma’s current weakest point for the kind of football Bavagnoli ideally wants to play week in week out. Players like Vanessa Bernauer need to get their feet further under the table at Roma next season, and really leave their mark on games more often. The team has sometimes worked hard to get Bernauer the space and time she needs on the ball, but Bernauer’s long-range passes haven’t been the silver bullet to mask over the extra workload Roma’s forwards had to put in.
What does this team need to kick it up to next gear? At times Bavagnoli’s football has strayed from her ideals into something that looks fatally dependent on Serturini and Bonfatini making repetitive runs behind the defence all day. Just kick and rush it to them, and hope they make something happen. You simply cannot ask that of the two forwards for next season, and expect that they won’t get bored with the job at hand. So I hope, more than anything this season, the team finds a way for Roma’s other midfielders to express themselves in the way Greggi already does with supreme confidence.
There is almost nothing you can learn about Greggi off the pitch that her game doesn’t say on it. I’ve combed through L Football feature interviews, the lot. Greggi is polite and careful to give credit to every coach and teammate before ever sharing anything truly personal about herself in words; perfectly understandable for a teenager who only recently turned nineteen years of age.
In that sense, she may be something of a Paul Scholes. The Salford-born midfield maestro was equally fond of letting his game do far more of the talking for him. But ask his contemporaries who was one of the most influential midfielders in the game and, behind all the glitz and glamour, they’d all namedrop Scholes. Greggi’s own influence on the pitch this season - the tireless running and pressing, the initiative to control possession for her team, the runs into the box and the goals - unfortunately do not look like extending into a call-up to the senior Italy side for the World Cup 2019.
For now, Greggi looks like she has to just keep building her reputation with the Azzurre at U-19 level and bide her time. She certainly has competition ahead of her at senior level. Deep-lying playmaker Aurora Galli has the machine of Juventus behind her, promoting her as the ‘new Pirlo’ of the women’s game. Galli lacks the goal-threat in her game that Greggi already has, but Galli is impressive and has the security of two Juventus teammates in the Italy midfield to justify her call-up to the World Cup for the sake of team chemistry. Then there’s Milan’s young number 10 Manuela Giugliano, an impressive talent looking like the best of Bernauer and Greggi combined into one player.
Giugliano also has the comfort of two Milan teammates in the Italy squad along with her. Roma’s Greggi is outnumbered and outgunned in terms of getting international recognition right now. But how would that be any different from a weekend at the Tre Fontane? The 5 foot 1 inch Roman has defied all opponents’ expectations by skipping around them with the ball for all 21 appearances of the 22-match league season, and already pushed her way up to vice-captain of this Roma side in her very first Serie A year.
Greggi has been played at mediano where, in my view, she does her best work. Key to Bavagnoli’s ideal team style is a deep-lying Greggi evading the opponents’ high-press to keep Roma’s possession in the opponents half. Yet she’s also been played as a trequartista, a box to box midfielder and Greggi could probably even double up as a shadow striker in an emergency.
She is the complete footballer at this level. Her intuition on and off the ball, combined with her read of the game, means she can bring the same level of discipline to almost any role she’s asked to play on the pitch. Now that Greggi’s converted her self-assuredness from the winning Primavera days into a solid Serie A debut campaign, she’ll be pushing for titles at this level.