Alessio Cerci: Serie A Expert On Arsenal's Bargain Strike Target

He's been banging in goals left, right and centre in Italy and has caught the attention of many clubs, including Arsenal...
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He's been banging in goals left, right and centre in Italy and has caught the attention of many clubs, including Arsenal...

According to the Daily Express, Everton, Arsenal and Man Utd are all interested in tempting Torino's star-man Alessio Cerci away from Serie A. Here's Serie A expert Richard Whittle's scouting report on the crazy haired Italian winger, written just before Christmas.

Alessio Cerci is finally leaving behind the frustrations of failing to make it at his boyhood club AS Roma.

It seemed that the winger was heading for a career of drifting around mid-table Serie A sides instead of skipping past full-backs for his beloved Giallorossi. There were plenty of youthful promise when he made the breakthrough to the Roma first-team under Fabio Capello in 2004 where he had already earned the nickname “Henry” in deference to Thierry the flying Frenchman.

However, such early expectations weighted heavily and the added pressure of following in the footsteps of fellow Romans Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi proved another burden that the teenager could not handle.

A lack of opportunities and failure to live up to the hype left him by all accounts with a lack of motivation in training while acting like a big star who had already made it which left him on the wrong side of the fans.

Loan spells at Brescia, Pisa and Atalanta started his nomadic wanderings around the provinces and when it came clear that he was not going to add to his 13 appearances and three goals he ended his seven-year relationship with the Capital and drove his Maserati up to Florence.

Said car became more of a headline grabber than the player during his time at Fiorentina where he would apparently leave the vehicle parked in all matter of illegal zones in the centre of the city including reportedly once in a police-reserved parking space, as he tasted the delights of Florentine nightlife.

There seemed to be little appetite for the hard work that needs to go hand-in-hand with natural talent and there was to be no renaissance in Tuscany as one exasperating performance followed another, but now a more mature and grounded 26-year-old, the once upon a time wide-boy has travelled to the north-west of Italy and Torino to make up for lost time.

Having represented Italy at every level from under-16 through to the under-21 there seemed little chance that he would ever make the breakthrough to the full international squad until he was reunited with the coach who had got the best out of him at Pisa: Giampiero Ventura.

The wily old Ventura has long hoodwinked the rest of Italy that he is an exponent of attacking football; his team-sheet from Bari where he took the southern side back into the top flight to Torino always reading 4-2-4.

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In reality the two wide players would have to drop back into midfield when the opposition had possession and the two strikers were commanded to closing down space higher up the pitch which enabled Ventura’s defenders to drop deep and shorten the space in front of the area.

Then when his side won the ball back it would be the speedy Cerci leading the charge out of along the right flank before cutting in on his favoured left foot to try a shot or a curling cross if one of his team-mates had managed to arrive in support in time.

Cerci’s pace, confidence and finishing were never in question but Ventura’s counter-attacking style was the perfect outlet to exploit all that untapped talent. Eight goals and numerous assists in his first season with the Granata brought him to the attention of Cesare Prandelli who handed the mop-haired speed merchant with the dazzling feet his first cap as a substitute in the glamour friendly with Brazil in March 2012.

There was a further taste of what could be achieved higher up the footballing scale, with an appearance at the Confederations Cup last summer when he was again used as a substitute in a 2-1 win over Mexico. He has maintained that the bad-boy tag no longer stands up to close scrutiny but all that he needed was the nurturing of a coach such as Ventura to bring the best out of him.

With Torino basing their game plan around Cerci’s strengths he has responded with eight goals so far this season to leave him second in the Serie A goalscoring charts - and along the way a standout performance against Roma where he scored the equalizer to end his old club’s perfect run at ten games.

It was probably that reunion with his past and the way he tore apart a defence that had only conceded one goal up until then that brought him to a wider audience outside Italy and the attention of not only city neighbours Juventus but reportedly to Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United.

The Premiership scouts had an opportunity to get a closer look in November when he once again made an appearance off the bench for the Azzurri against Nigeria at Craven Cottage. It was a mere 20 minutes or so but in that time he curled one shot just wide of the post and almost set up Mario Balotelli with a darting run and cross.

There have been too many fleeting moments for the likeable but at times wayward Roman so far and now it is time for Cerci to take his career into full flight.

Follow Richard on Twitter, @RichWman