One of the most talked-about young prospects in the Major League Soccer currently is Sporting Kansas City’s Gianluca Busio. The 17-year-old American got a good number of starts under Peter Vermes in his first season at the pro level and has been a player to watch in the middle of the field for Kansas. In this tactical analysis scout report of the Italian-origin Busio, we will be looking at analyzing his positioning, ability to play with spaces and tactics, and aspects of Busio’s gameplay.
Gianluca Busio has been a regular for Sporting Kansas City ever since he made his debut, getting a good 923 minutes in 22 matches in MLS 2019 season. Peter Vermes has deployed the youngster in the midfield often as a central midfielder or an attacking midfielder.
Busio is generally deployed as a left-central midfielder when Sporting Kansas City start in 4-3-3 or a 4-1-4-1. However, Busio has been used as an attacking midfielder while the side is playing with a 4-2-3-1 scheme.
Looking at his heatmap, it is evident that the player prefers the left side of the pitch and advances from the left on the build-up. The 17-year-old has been instrumental when it comes to his dynamic movements, as he is frequently seen moving close to the ball and receiving it. As a result, Busio’s territorial coverage spreads across the pitch, as the youngster likes to get involved in both attack and defence simultaneously. We will be getting into his dynamic movement towards the ball as this analysis progresses.
Dropping deep and create passing options
Throughout 2019 season at Kansas, Gianluca Busio served as a channel to ease off the pressure from the defence in case of a long opposition press. He possesses an ability to drop deep, in the space created by advancing opposition press to switch plays and avoid losing the ball.
In the above instance vs FC Cincinnati, Busio is seen dropping from the midfield, to assist the defender who is being pressed higher. As a result, the defender utilizes Busio’s run towards him and opts to pass to release the pressure off himself. As we can see, Busio, too, is being presses. Hence, in this situation, he passes the ball wider, to switch plays and vertically create an advanced passing triangle, which further diminishes the chances of losing the ball.
Similarly, Busio is seen making runs behind his marker in a press, to avoid the 2v1 situation that teams try to create in a pressing phase. By doing this, he gets released from his man and also makes himself available as an extra passing option that can move the ball forward.
For an ever-struggling Sporting Kansas defence, Busio’s ability to drop down and ease the pressure off the opposition press makes the side less vulnerable to lose the ball in their own areas. Although still not a starter, Busio might well be suited to be a player that transitions defences to attacks with these traits.
Detecting spaces in the midfield
Busio is technically good at spotting spaces, and Peter Vermes seems to have got the most out of this very ability of his. The ability to play between areas and position himself makes Busio a very versatile midfielder that relies on playing with spaces instead of physical strength.
Busio is seen getting into free-spaces to draw midfield players, to make himself available for passing and to spot the next passing option simultaneously.
In the instance shown above, he makes a run towards the deep to make himself free of the three-person line set-up right in front of him. This makes him able to spot the advanced players with a run and get a better view of the forward players with a pass. Similarly, Busio makes himself less-prone to losing the ball. By doing this, he can also use the space he has to transition the process into an attack with a diagonal ball to the other flank.
Similarly, in this instance, Busio is seen demonstrating his skill of being able to play between the small opposition combinations. The pass he receives beats one line of opposition, and a pass to the advanced player beats two lines to make the player free for a forward run. The ability to detect and get into the spaces between the lines to exploit those voids makes him a regular receiver of the ball with frequent turns and forward passes.
The above picture further clears up the idea, as Busio is seen wandering between a chain of opposition players to receive and distribute a pass towards the run making player. In this way, the 17-year-old manages to get rid of the opposition structure, while ensuring he too can make a run to gain numerical superiority higher up the pitch.
In this way, Gianluca Busio makes himself a player that not only spots spaces for passing but uses the spaces to position himself to trick the opponent lines. Since Sporting Kansas City like to overhaul numerically while getting inside the box, Busio’s role is to cover the spaces left by advanced midfielders. Similarly, looking at the trend of attack, he also opts to appear in forward spaces if he is being covered by a fellow midfielder.
Pass and forward movements
One of the things that stands out for the youngster is his passing stats, as he boasted an astounding 90.9% passing accuracy in his first season at the top tier. Although he prefers to drop deep and exchange frequently passes, his ability to move forward and make passes cannot be overlooked.
Busio can make short passes to provide fluidity to his team’s midfield as well as create long passes to switch plays. Similarly, his ability to make decisions to throw forward passes and lateral passes at the right time makes his side relatively less likely to get caught due to his errors.
As we can see in the pass map above, Busio has his passes distributed all over the pitch. Similarly, most of his passes are forward consecutive passes that help his side progress from their half to the opposition half.
Busio regularly positions himself centrally when moving forward, to spot all the passing options that lie ahead of him. This also gives him a chance to make passes throughout the pitch, as shown in the picture below:
Here, Busio is seen carrying the ball from the centre and with three passing options, he can decide to pass the ball to the most viable one. Similarly, this very ability to drive forward and create opportunities for himself has seen him develop chances and bag a couple of essential assists in his 2019 campaign with Sporting Kansas City.
Busio also is capable of throwing long balls towards the flanks to provide lateral width and spread play to the wings. This has benefitted the Kansas side, as they’ve been able to effectively switch play and create dangerous situations out from the wings.
Ability to position himself and shoot
Busio is also able to make off the ball movements and position himself to take a shot occasionally and yielded three goals in 2019. This, however, comes from his tendency to get himself free from the defence (either ahead of behind) to receive the ball and effectively convert it into a shot. The youngster averages two shots per 90 and from zones that carry a tendency to gain higher xG.
Here, in this picture, Busio is seen lining up with the strikers and positions himself just above the defensive line formed. The move ends by him receiving the ball and taking a shot from inside the box.
Similarly, Busio’s ability to ideally position himself and take a shot on target can be better elaborated by the zones he gets himself to shoot from. Most of the shots come from the central area inside the box, which enables him to have a better and broader view of the post and place it around where he wants to shoot.
However, Busio does this by staying away from the area as well, as he is seen covering the external area of the box in case of abundant forwarding players. By this approach, he can aim for a longs ranger or get inside the box to shoot as he is left unmarked. Similarly, this approach helps him to be the first ball winner, making him capable of deciding to get the ball back into the area.
Gianluca Busio has been a find for Peter Vermes and Sporting Kansas City side and continues to amaze despite being only 17. As this tactical analysis pointed out, his technical abilities facilitate the overall team, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if a European interest comes on for this talented player.