Daniele Rugani had an uncharacteristically quiet game in a 2-1 loss to Udinese.
The central defender only turned 20 back in July and only made his Serie A debut on the first match day of this season, having shone for Empoli in Serie B last term.
Rugani joined the Azzurri as a six-year-old and came all the way through the ranks at the Stadio Carlo Castellani, simultaneously starring for the Italian national youth sides.
Juventus took notice and first got their hands on the youngster in 2012, and after a series of transactions the Bianconeri and Empoli find themselves co-owning Rugani.
His development as a professional has taken place almost strictly with the club of his youth, however, with Juventus yet to bring him in to the high-pressure environment of Turin.
But Rugani has spent this season showing that he is ready. The 20-year-old has been a major reason Empoli find themselves outside of the bottom three in the top flight.
Alongside central defence partner Lorenzo Tonelli, Rugani has led Empoli to the eighth-best defensive record in the division at present, an achievement for a newly-promoted side.
It was in turn a bit of surprise that Rugani wasn’t exactly on song against Udinese on Monday. The Azzurri lost on something of a fluke goal, though the Italian was somewhat underwhelming.
Rugani only came up with a single tackle on the day, no interceptions. Yet he did chip in with three clearances, two aerials won and completed 89% of his passes, per WhoScored.
These numbers are a tick lower than the 20-year-old’s averages in most regards. On the season he has completed 90.5% of his passes while averaging 7.3 clearances and 3.1 headers won per game.
Yet it is important to note that Empoli dominated the game from a territorial standpoint. The Azzurri saw 67% of the possession, allowing Udinese only three shots on target.
Playing for a provincial side, this isn’t something Rugani experiences too often. Maurizio Sarri has trained his men to fear no opponent, but it is still rare that Empoli so firmly hold the initiative over 90 minutes.
Soon, Rugani will likely make the step up to a big club. He’ll need to become accustomed to this phenomenon in order to transition into the next phase of his development.
A positive is that the young Italian’s passing is quite accurate and he rarely makes mental mistakes, crucial traits for a defender to succeed in Arsene Wenger’s system.
This too, however, will please Juventus – who in reality hold the key to the defender’s future. Only a lack of interest in bringing Rugani in the camp will truly give Arsenal a shot at bringing him to the Emirates.
Tuttomercatoweb have claimed that the Bianconeri are already preparing to take Rugani to Turin this summer, with co-ownerships set to become extinct in Serie A.
What his performance against Udinese suggested was that Rugani still has plenty to learn for all his success this term, underlining the difference in representing more dominant clubs.
The 20-year-old’s ability in the challenge and to read the game – one tackle and 0.7 interceptions per match this term – will need to develop further if he is to reach his potential.
That being said, it’s still no secret why Arsenal have reportedly entered the fray for his services. Rugani is a true talent and that much is clear, albeit one who is far from a finished product.
As of now it looks as if Juventus, a side with a spotty record of late for integrating co-owned or loaned out prospects, are indeed willing to take on the project of bringing him along.
But should they decide against it, Arsenal would to do well to swoop. Wenger has an excellent track record with youth, and Rugani has a solid base from which he could flourish under the Frenchman if given the proper opportunity.