When Tecla Pettenuzzo traded the black and green of Sassuolo for the red and yellow of Roma in 2019, it was a bit of a surprise. At only 19-years-old, Pettenuzzo played every single minute for Sassuolo during the 2018-2019 season and seemed primed to reprise that role the following year, but rather than continuing to climb the Neroverde ladder, Pettenuzzo welcomed the challenge of competing for minutes with Allyson Swaby and Federico Di Criscio on Roma's backline.
Blessed with quick feet and an even quicker brain, it wasn't long before Pettenuzzo settled into the Roma lineup. During the pandemic-shortened ‘19-’20 season, Pettenuzzo’s 1,080 Serie A minutes were fourth on the squad and second only to Elisa Bartoli among Roma defenders.
Things weren't quite as rosy for Pettenuzzo this past season, as she lost significant playing time once Roma landed Elena Linari from Bordeaux in midseason. But, when you have the chance to sign a world-class center-back, you do it; no questions asked. Pettenuzzo still managed to find roughly 1,000 minutes on the pitch, but she took her demotion in stride and was quick to point out how much she was learning just by observing Linari in practice.
That maturity will serve her well in the long run, but let's take a closer look at what the Vicenza native has to offer Roma.
Number Four: Tecla Pettenuzzo
Future Comparison: Steph Houghton (Manchester City defender)
Who Is She?
A 5’5” center-back from Vicenza, Pettenuzzo made her Serie A debut with Brescia in the fall of 2017, just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday. While she was a bit player that season, she earned runner-up medals in the league and Coppa Italia. Pettenuzzo then parlayed that success into a move with Sassuolo, where she played every single Serie A minute during the 2018-2019 season, scoring her first career goal along the way.
Signed by Roma in the summer of 2019, Pettenuzzo has made 28 appearances for the Giallorosse since then, partnering with Swaby and Linari to give Roma an enviable center-back rotation.
What Can She Do?
A good communicator who is quick to develop an understanding with her defensive partners, Pettenuzzo is a reliable defender who makes up for her lack of speed by taking proper approach angles when closing out defenders and using solid technique when getting stuck in a tackle, though she's run afoul of the refs a few more times than we can stomach.
While that's all well and good, Pettenuzzo really shines with the ball at her feet. Your classic ball-playing defender, Pettenuzzo can transition Roma from defense to attack with one flick of her foot. Whether she's breaking opposition presses with quick diagonal balls to the full-backs or bypassing the opposition altogether by firing long-balls to Annamaria Serturini, Pettenuzzo is essentially the first link in Roma's impressive playmaking chain.
Pettenuzzo will undoubtedly continue to grow and blossom as a player, but her on-the-ball abilities will remain her calling card.
What Can She Become?
Now we've come to the million-dollar question: Will Tecla Pettenuzzo even remain a defender? While she has exceptional defensive technique, Pettenuzzo's ability on the ball, her vision, and her understanding of space would seem to make her an ideal defensive midfielder. Push her just a bit further up the pitch and her defensive skills will still provide additional cover for the backline but in this slightly more advanced role, she can have an even greater impact on Roma's attack thanks to her touch and vision.
It’s not a decision that has to be made tomorrow, but with Linari and Swaby entrenched in the heart of the defense, Roma simply has to find a way to get Pettenuzzo on the pitch as much as possible. Barring a switch to a three-woman backline—a role for which she might actually be ideally suited—transitioning Pettenuzzo to midfield would still play to her strengths while also enabling her to, you know, play.
Whether she remains in defense or changes positions, Pettenuzzo's vision, touch, and intelligence will play in any role. If both sides of the equation remain patient, Pettenuzzo can be a very good player for Roma for a very long time.