Henry from Valmontone


After weeks, months, of small cameos off the bench or irrelevant away games in Bulgaria, Alessio Cerci finally had his chance to shine. From start, at home, in serie A. To say he was an undisputed success which will for years to come serve as inspiration to the next generation of homegrown talent would be massively overselling it, but Cerci has every reason to feel good about himself today. The key, to me, lies in expectations. If you're holding out for Cerci to really live up to his nickname of Valmontone's Thierry Henry, you'll be waiting for infinity. That's not happening, but it isn't the end of the world either. As a role player with a very specific set of characteristics, Cerci can become valuable in his own way.

Those characteristics are pretty much given on a what you see is what you get basis: he's crazy fast and will run circles around most starting fullbacks in serie A; he's also extremely limited in that he doesn't use his right foot even to climb stairs, as they say in Italy. Today that wasn't a huge problem, because on the occasions he did stubbornly use the outside of his left foot, it came off and worked. But there are games in which that is a damning limitation, and one that is aggravated by the invisible leash forever tying him to the right flank. Today, that right wing-to cut in strategy was logical and successful (more on that later on) because Roma, without a penalty area presence (also known as Luca Toni) relied to a fairly high degree on Cerci cutting in from the right, Ménez from the left and Vucinic from behind, from under, from north by northwest all at once. In other circumstances, for example with aforementioned penalty area presence Luca Toni available as THE reference point in attack, I would be interested to see what Cerci look like on the left instead. The speed is obviously the same, which would allow him to get around and behind his defender at least half a dozen times in any given game. And while he doesn't strike me as a great crosser even with the left foot, I do believe he is capable of hitting low crosses that land somewhere in the area between the goalkeeper and defender, around the first post. That area, of course, is to Luca Toni what the area between the surface and a few meters below is to a shark, and in it Toni and sharks are the apex predators of their respective areas. That set-up would remove the acute importance of Cerci being a goal threat, and he could serve mainly as the compliment to other dominant pieces in the attack. I think that sort of elevation through demotion can serve him well, because this is still a player that bar a year in serie B has seen mostly serie A bench time.

Baby steps, but he's taking them in the right direction.