Pierluigi Pinto (Salernitana): The 21-year-old centerback has finally made an appearance, his first of the season, starting the 2-1 win over Virtus Entella. He looked pretty good, honestly, earning plaudits for a couple of last-ditch interventions and generally seeming competent at this level. We also got the bonus of a local media interview with him, so give it a watch: it’s in Italian, of course, but Pinto seems fairly excited to have made his bow under manager Gian Piero Ventura and, naturally, hopes to feature more regularly. While Paweł Jaroszyński, Andreas Karo, and Marco Migliorini form Ventura’s first-choice defense, Pinto’s proven that he’s a dependable rotational option and could see more time going forward. As a side note, what’s going on with Salernitana? Besides Pinto, they also have (deep breath) Alessio Cerci, Fabio Maistro, Cedric Gondo, and club captain Francesco di Tacchio—all former Viola players—on the roster. Weird.
Mattia Trovato (Cosenza): The 21-year-old winger also made his debut against Entella, although it was 2 weeks ago for him. He came off the bench for 33 minutes and looked fine, although he probably wasn’t at his best. Still, with the Lupi sitting in 17th place in the table and boasting the second-most futile attack in the league, it may be time for manager Piero Braglia to shake things up a bit. While Jaime Báez has been solid on the left wing, Mirko Carretta and Emmanuel Rivière, the other two members of the tridente, have underperformed a bit. Given that Trovato can also drop into midfield, he should have a path to more minutes as the season progresses. We still think he can be a very solid professional, even if it never happens for him in Florence.
Riccardo Baroni (Siena): The 21-year-old centerback scored his first goal of the season last week, the opener against Pro Vercelli; it was a scrappy, scrambled effort from a corner but was enough to open his account.
Unfortunately, he had to be subbed off 15 minutes later due to injury and missed last week’s clash; I haven’t been able to find any diagnosis, but hopefully it’s nothing serious. He’s been a key figure at the back for Robur, playing every minute of the season before his knock, contributing to the 6th-best defense in Girone A. He’s also showed a heretofore unrecognized ability to break the lines in possession by stepping forward and picking clever passes. While he’s certainly not ready for Serie A, Fiorentina have another solid-looking defender on the books and may look to offer the native Fiorentine a new contract soon.
Gabriele Ferrarini (Pistoiese): The 19-year-old fullback has been one of the most impressive performers thus far in the entirety of Girone A. His attacking verve has seen him score once and assist 3 more, and he’s only been booked once. Of the two dimes we haven’t seen yet, the first was against Baroni and Siena: a lovely run straight at goal on the break and a clever little pass through for old man Francesco Valiani to poke home.
He also got the assist on this outrageous Niccolò Gucci goal, but that’s less to do with the service and more to do with a moment of absolute genius.
He’s worked as a wingback and a winger in manager Giuseppe Pancaro’s 3-4-3 or 5-4-1 and looked brilliant at both spots. He’s still prone to bouts of reactive, rather than proactive, defending, but he’s improving in that area. His attacking verve, however, has been a godsend for the Arancioni: he’s been directly involved in 29% of their goals this season, which is unreal for a guy who spent his Primavera career as a defender. With his pace, final product, and fearless forays forward, he’s surely ready for Serie B next year.
Simone Ghidotti (Pergolettese): The 19-year-old goalkeeper has certainly gotten lots of reps; the Cannibali sit at the bottom of Girone A and are winless through 13 matches. They’ve only scored 4 goals all season, which is the root of the problem, as the 17 they’ve conceded is the same as 2nd-place Pontedera. Ghidotti probably has more to do with that than anyone, as he’s been exposed time and again by a defense that doesn’t seem to have any talent for or interest in stopping anyone. He may not be ready to serve as the vice-Bartłomiej Drągowski next year, but he’s not far off from it either.
Gabriele Gori (Arezzo): The switch has finally flipped on for the 20-year-old striker. Goalless over the first month, he’s exploded into life since then: a fantastic brace (with a third that was dubiously not given) against Pro Patria gave him his first goals of the season, then he fired in an equalizer oozing with class against Alessandria, won a penalty against Vercelli, and provided another acrobatically headed equalizer against Pontedera this past Sunday. He’s been magnificent.
He looks like he has his confidence back. His movement off the ball has been more purposeful, he’s been attacking the ball in the air with a vengeance, and the finishing touch that terrorized Primavera defenders has returned. He’s back on track, although we never really doubted he would be, and looks like the man to lead the Amaranti to safety this year.
Petko Hristov (Bisceglie): The 20-year-old Bulgarian centerback has staked his spot in the center of manager Sandro Pochesci’s 3-man defense, playing every minute (except for those when he was on international duty with the U21s) since his arrival at the club. Of course, the Nerazzurri Stellata aren’t very good—18th place in Girone C and winless since September—but that’s mostly on an attack that’s worst in the division. Hristov is the same player he’s always been: tough as old boots, strong in the tackle and in the air, and generally the very image of a penalty-box defender. His occasional lapses in marking aren’t a huge concern, given that he’s young and still learning, but his lack of foot speed is still a big concern. Until he’s learned how to mitigate that with intelligent positioning, he won’t be able to play a high line under any circumstances. For an outfit like Bisceglie, though, that’s hardly an issue.
Julián Illanes (Avellino): The 22-year-old Argentinean centerback has settled in nicely with the Lupi, manning the center of a back three for Ezio Capuano’s men. Of course, he’s the heart of a defense that’s got the 3rd-worst record in Girone C, so it can hardly be said to be smooth sailing. He’s also been booked 4 times in 9 matches, and that doesn’t count the direct red he picked up for a very bad challenge against Cavese. He really needs to tighten up his discipline, as that’s a lot of interactions with the referee over just 9 games, but if he can clean that up and keep his head down, he could well come out as a good defender. He also recently obtained an Italian passport that could make it a lot easier to keep him around the peninsula, although it’s hard to see him staying on Fiorentina’s books past 2021, when his contract expires.
Erald Lakti (Gubbio): The 19-year-old Macedonian midfielder has started 3 of 4 games since new manager Vincenzo Torrente took over. After spending time at rightback earlier in the year under former manager Federico Guidi (who also coached the Viola Primavera for a while), he’s featured full time in the center of the park under Torrente, which seems to be his more natural role. It’s helped reverse course for the previously-flailing Rossoblù, who’ve now won their first two matches of the year and climbed out of the relegation places. I’m not going to say that Lakti’s been the driving force, because he hasn’t. That’s not really his forte, in fairness; he’s a hardworking and smart midfield general in training (midfield lieutenant?) who’s still learning how to do all the little things right, but he likes to have his foot on the ball and run the show in the middle third without venturing forward too much. He’s not too far away from a light version of Milan Badelj, or at least being on that track, and hopefully he can keep it up this year.
Salvatore Longo (Bisceglie): The 19-year-old striker remains a regular for Pochesci’s men up front, but as mentioned earlier, this is a truly miserable attacking unit. Longo’s yet to open his league account (he did get a goal against Casertana in the Coppa), so it hasn’t been a walk in the park. It’s a tough spot for a kid who spent most of his career with the Primavera overshadowed by guys like Gabriele Gori and Dušan Vlahović; he’s busted his hump to earn a starting role in his first professional assignment and it turns out to be with a team that’s been awful. Hopefully he can get himself in the goals soon, but it’s not like he’s gotten a plethora of chances.
Marco Marozzi (Virtus Francavilla): The 20-year-old midfielder has played a total of 64 minutes spread across 4 appearances this season. It seems like he’s mostly worked in central midfield this year, but new manager Bruno Trocini has yet to come around to him; he’s benched Marozzi for one match and didn’t even bother calling him for the matchday squad in the other. While it’s not the easiest situation for a young player, Marozzi’s already had a year away on loan in Serie C and knows the ropes. We’re hoping that he works his way into the new mister’s plans and earns some time on the pitch; given that he’s out of contract in 2021 and not a candidate for an extension, he’s pretty much auditioning for his future.
Marco Meli (Gubbio): The 19-year-old winger has spent most of the season as an energy attacking sub off the bench, although he doesn’t seem to fit super well in Torrente’s 3-5-2. On the one hand, it’s got to be tough on him to see Guidi, who managed him as a kid, dismissed, especially since the former Primavera boss employed a setup that used wide attackers more often. On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for a young player to prove his versatility and mettle; as the third wheel to Riccardo Sottil and Gabriele Gori with the youngsters in his most prolific seasons, this is a great opportunity for him to show that he can be a key cog on his home. He’s certainly got the talent, so we’re backing him to earn a role either in central midfield or up top before the season’s out.