I'm not going to do another deep dive into Roma fan's complicated relationship with Alessandro Florenzi as a right back, but suffice it to say, it remains as complex as ever. His Romaness and his penchant to rise to the occasion in big matches have long slugged it out against his defensive shortcomings (no pun intended), and after a summer of mixed results, that debate shows no signs of abating. Florenzi may not be an architecturally designed right back, but he is a footballer, an intuitive and crafty one at that. So when Roma have been connected to new rightbacks over the past few years, I tended to view them as complements to Florenzi rather than outright replacements.
Never was that statement more true than when dealing with the prospective addition of Chelsea right bench... I mean, right back Davide Zappacosta. The 27-year-old former Torino standout moved to London on deadline day in the summer of 2017 for the somewhat hefty fee of €28 million. And since then he's...uh...not done much.
In two full seasons with Chelsea, Zappacosta has managed only 26 league appearances, or little more than 1,200 minutes, though he has supplemented that in the half dozen or so cup tournaments they play in England. Relatively free from injury during that span, it's hard to diagnose Zappacaosta's Chelsea sojourn as anything other than a spectacular failure.
However, he's only 27-years-old and figures to have several productive years ahead of him, so there may be hope yet, but new Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was somewhat non-committal when queried about Zappacosta's future:
That’s not clear yet. Zappacosta is our player and Reece is probably out for three more week. That’s a decision that will be made as we go on.
I’ve been really impressed with Zappa’s attitude, quality and how he’s trained. We have to make sure we’re happy with the squad by the time the European window shuts.
That will be a decision for us and of course Zappa, because I want players happy. The professionalism he has shown since he’s been here has been great and that can be an ongoing conversation.
For a new manager, Lampard sure has the PC speak down to a pat. Good on him. But let's be real, the manager who brought Zappacosta to London is long gone and Lampard has no reason whatsoever to prevent Zappacosta from moving on.
Valued at roughly €15 million per Transfermarkt, Zappacosta would be an affordable way to provide Paulo Fonseca with further tactical flexibility. If an opposing attack were a Biblical flood and Florenzi were a two-liter bottle, then Zappacosta is maybe an old, sun bleached Home Depot bucket; he's only slighty better at stemming the tide, but his offensive contributions are fairly similar to Florenzi's.
The stats above—pulled from the past two seasons and limited only to their appearances as a right back—show two relatively similar players, with Zappacosta having a slightly sharper nose for goal while Florenzi is better in the buildup. However, if we look at the things Zappacosta does well—key passes, crossing and even maintaining possession—then he looks like an ideal attacking fullback for Fonseca football, which could in turn allow Florenzi to return to a more advanced role, saving Roma money in the process (assuming they were planning on buying another wide player).
Besides which, with Rick Karsdorp gone Roma at least need another option at right back, and if that €15 million assessment is accurate (though Chelsea are rumored to want €25 million), a return to Italy and a reunion with Gianluca Petrachi could restore Zappacosta's once promising career and give Roma some (relatively) cheap depth while potentially increasing their options in attack to boot.
At €15 million, is Zappacosta worth the risk?
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