Alasdair Mackenzie Date: 27th July 2020 at 12:45pm
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On the whole, calcio fans are quite upbeat about the future of the Italian game at the moment.

Sandro Tonali has proven his Serie A credentials at Brescia this season, while the likes of Nicolo Zaniolo and Gaetano Castrovilli have made terrific recent progress and Gigi Donnarumma and Nicolo Barella are established top-flight stars by now.

Federico Chiesa’s name has been high on the list of Italians to be excited about for years.

But as another underwhelming season in Florence draws to an end, the 22-year-old is being deployed as a wing-back by Beppe Iachini.

Chiesa’s future has been the cause of speculation and discussion for years now, but one thing is for sure – he’s being wasted in this role and must ensure he’s back in his natural winger position next season, one way or another.

This has been the youngster’s most productive league campaign to date, as he’s provided the most goals (seven) and joint-most assists (seven) of any Serie A season in his career to date.

But that’s been despite, rather than thanks to, the way he’s being used.

Against Roma on Sunday, Iachini lined his side up in a 3-5-2 formation, with Chiesa on the right side of midfield.

He spent a lot of time deep in his own half, defending the forward surges of Leonardo Spinazzola and helping with the collective effort to maintain shape and defensive discipline.

Chiesa may well have the ability to do a commendable job in this role, but it’s not exactly playing to his strengths.

He made four tackles, the joint-most in his team, but at the other end of the pitch he mustered just one shot before being replaced on the 82nd minute.

Iachini was willing to completely transform his attack at half time, replacing Franck Ribery and Christian Kouame with Patrick Cutrone and Dusan Vlahovic.

But Chiesa was left chasing and harrying on the flank, rarely getting into the areas of the pitch where he is most dangerous.

Federico Chiesa Touches v Roma (July 26, 2020)

His Opta touch map from the game shows that the majority of his 44 touches were made between the edge of his own penalty area and the halfway line. He only touched the ball once in the opposition box, but twice in his own.

It hasn’t always been this way, of course. The Italy international spent much of this season playing as a striker, which may explain his increased output.

But that’s not his natural role either, and not one that allows him to flourish in the way he has done before with electrifying performances from the wing.

Iachini is often pointed to as the man at fault when it comes to Chiesa’s development. His system isn’t one that gets the most from arguably his most gifted player, so he has tried to shoe-horn him into other roles.

It feels like next season could be a crucial one in Chiesa’s career. He is a huge talent, but has been criticised and questioned no end in some quarters this season. It’s time for him to prove his doubters wrong.

He will be eyeing a place on the right wing in Italy’s 4-3-3 during next summer’s European Championship, but to earn it, Roberto Mancini may well expect him to be playing there at club level.

Whether the best option is for him to try a fresh challenge, or to hope for a new coach arriving in Florence who is more capable of helping him realise his potential, is impossible to say.

But one thing is for sure – one of Italy’s brightest young wingers should be playing as that, a winger, not shuttling up and down his own half making tackles.