On Wednesday evening, Inter finalized an important reinforcement for its midfield with the acquisition of Roberto Gagliardini from Atalanta. The ‘nerazzurri’ invested two million Euro for the six-month loan of the player, adding another 20 for the buyback obligation. A significant investment, especially if you consider that the footballer born in 1994 has only played in 14 Serie A matches so far (one last season and the rest this year) and 70 total as a professional, with only three goals scored. What led Inter to bet on a player who is also sought after by other European big names?

Gagliardini was used by Gian Piero Gasperini as one of the two halfbacks in Atalanta’s base 3-4-3 configuration. This position on the pitch also had him covering the role of midfielder ahead of the defence on occasion.

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Atalanta’s tactical strategy – a very tight and compact team – has allowed Gagliardini to become the beating heart of the midfield, moving “box to box” and always looking to recover the ball through pressing.

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One of the characteristics that could make the difference for Gagliardini at Inter – and therefore in the process of adapting to a big team – is his attitude in terms of ball recovery. Gasperini used him to stop the opposing ball carrier when the other team was seeking to turn the tables and counter attack. Because of his good physicality, the player was often able to thwart the initiative and allow his own team to maintain stability. This is something that Inter has been lacking throughout the season.

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Gagliardini is able to play as a halfback in a two-man midfield, but he can also play inside on a three-man line. It will be interesting to see if he will also be able to cover the role of a back halfback, something that does not seem at all far from his characteristics, considering his ball protection and handling skills. He can provide order to the department.

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On the other hand, he needs to improve his ball handling in the final 25 metres, when the midfielder must also know how to set up the strikers with killer passes. Here he sees the movement Kessié makes, but he is unable to set him up, despite being in the right position. This is a frequent error, a tactical area where Stefano Pioli will be called on to act in order to facilitate Gagliardini’s plan for growth.