Should Maradona Jr’s candid Osimhen critique shape second year at Napoli?

Sat, 3 Jul 2021 Source: goal.com

A son’s behaviour or character is often expected to resemble his father’s, and this sentiment seems validated by Diego Junior’s seemingly hard-hitting evaluation of Victor Osimhen’s debut season in Serie A.

The offspring of late Argentina and Napoli legend Diego Maradona pulled no punches in a recent interview with Areanapoli, which has been labelled as unnecessarily harsh in some quarters.

“[Osimhen] is not the kind of player that drives me crazy,” Diego Jr began, "but he is a good fleet-footed player who is technically gifted. The Nigerian is strong as well. Having come from a mediocre league like Ligue 1, he needed a year for transition, it was necessary.

“We expect a better performance next season in Serie A”

The 34-year-old went further, explaining why he expects the Super Eagle to thrive in the forthcoming campaign.

“The former Lille player has a lot of qualities to do better [in Serie A],” Maradona continued. “The transition period is over, and he is more mature which will help him overcome challenges faced in Italy.

“Under Gennaro Gattuso, Osimhen struggled because of the style of play, but under Luciano Spalletti, in my opinion, [Osimhen] will improve but if he involves himself much during the build-up. He has to help his teammates and finish the chances which will make him better.”

In truth, most of Diego Sinagra’s comments are common knowledge, despite his utterly condescending tone regarding the French top flight.

The most expensive player in Nigeria’s history certainly needed adaptation time in Italy, especially due to his relative inexperience in Europe’s top five leagues.

He is also expected to be more level-headed after a year at the club given how injuries and Covid-19 hindered his debut season amid the ever-hovering trepidation in Naples.

Undoubtedly, consistent performances are required in the West African’s second year and it’s easy to understand why.

Napoli shelled out a higher fee for the 22-year-old than they did for Edinson Cavani and Gonzalo Higuain, South American forwards who absolutely thrived for the Partenopei.

Of course, the inflated market in recent years and Osimhen’s initial length of contract at Lille led to the astronomical fee which was condemned by many despite the frontman’s obvious talent.

Sinagra’s remarks over the young striker’s finishing and lessened involvement in the team’s play were particularly striking.

Statistics show that the Nigeria star missed 14 opportunities termed ‘big chances’ in his first season under Gennaro Gattuso, similar to his only year in France.

Despite related numbers, the obvious caveat of fewer starts in 2020/21 (16) compared to 25 in Ligue 1 presents a clearer perspective. Strikingly, though, his expected goals reveal a slight contradiction: he netted 10 open-play Serie A goals from non-penalty xG of 10.4, matching his non-penalty haul in 2019/20 from non-penalty xG of 12.8.

Osimhen’s non-penalty xG plus expected assists per 90 in his last two seasons — 0.75 last term and 0.62 in France — point to slightly greater involvement in team moves at Napoli.

Indeed, this reflects in the Super Eagle’s shot-creating actions per 90 last year (3.43) which significantly trumps his average from two years ago—1.73 p/90. From open play, the 23-year-old was involved in 2.17 SCAs per 90, over double more involvements than he managed at Lille.

Even though he, by and large, averaged identical touches per 90 in both campaigns, there was a greater contribution with Gattuso than he managed playing under Christophe Galtier.

Notably, this measures up impressively when compared with a few handpicked Serie A and continental strikers: Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Harry Kane, Karim Benzema and Erling Haaland.

Of the aforementioned quintet, only the Belgian (3.56 SCAs p/90) and Swede (3.74) outdo Osimhen’s average, while he also sits third when only open-play contributions are considered. Interestingly, Haaland ranked bottom in both.

Having said that, the Nigerian had significantly fewer touches in the comparison, with only the Borussia Dortmund goalscoring machine’s touches per 90 (28.5) anywhere near the West African’s 27.3. For greater context, Lukaku’s 36.6 sits third in the six-player assessment, while Benzema ranks highest on 48.8 touches p/90.

Perhaps this gives some credence to Diego Jr’s Osimhen evaluation, but the forward would ultimately be judged on his goalscoring numbers. Having had a tough time from November to February, the record signing’s purple patch to close out the season appears promising for 2021/22.

He could also be a beneficiary of Spalletti’s appointment in Naples, due to the 62-year-old’s previous success with frontmen, regardless of their profile.

Francesco Totti notably netted double figures every year under the ex-Inter boss, with 26 goals in 06/07 the acme for one of Italy’s greatest players and Edin Dzeko netted a staggering 29 goals in their only full season together at Roma in 16/17.

Mauro Icardi also thrived in his first year under Spalletti in which he netted 29 Serie A strikes before falling out with the tactician in the following campaign.

Despite a decent return in front of goal, Totti wasn’t an out-and-out centre-forward but a trequartista, smoothly operating between the lines, Dzeko a rounded target-man and Icardi a poacher.

Still 22, Osimhen has a high ceiling and his willingness to absorb new ideas could take his goalscoring numbers up a notch under Napoli’s new boss.

His tenacity off the ball, movement in the channels and greater involvement at the end of moves already bode well and Spalletti could help to maximise the clever Nigerian’s return in front of goal and transform the youngster into one of Europe’s deadly marksmen.

Source: goal.com