Napoli star Arkadiusz Milik
Having missed a total of 52 matches since signing for Napoli in a deal worth £28.80 million back in 2016 due to two severe knee injuries, it’s been a major positive to witness Arkadiusz Milik finding some impressive form this campaign.
After a bit of a slow start to this campaign, where he could only muster four goals in Napoli’s opening 13 Serie A matches, he’s strikingly scored 13 in his next 18 league fixtures, as he’s been a key driving force behind Carlo Ancelotti’s men’s strong term. With many questioning if he’d ever live up to his price tag and reputation following his tough stretch, which even led to rumours linking Edinson Cavani with a return to the club, his genial coach dismissed this, instead backing his forward. “Milik’s a very young lad who was out injured for two years, and that shouldn’t be forgotten,” said Ancelotti.
“He was a bit up and down at the start, but now he’s finding continuity and we hope he’ll carry on like this. It’s ironic that people are talking about Cavani, who is much loved in Naples, when our strikers have scored a lot of goals.”
While he’s added another three strikes in the Coppa Italia and the Europa League, plus registered five assists in all competitions, the Polish international’s league form has been devastating. Bagging goals against some big guns like AS Roma, Sampdoria, Atalanta and Lazio (twice), the 25-year-old’s cemented himself as an integral component within the Partenopei’s talented squad.
An attacker who does so many things well, his multifaceted skill set is an immense asset to Napoli in all stages of offensive animation. To start with his movement, and this forms a brilliant foundation for him, with his timing, anticipation, reading of the play and relationships with his colleagues crucial.
A master at dropping deep, he picks his moments precisely, typically when he recognises his midfielder has opened a pass lane for him or if he sees the need to create a numerical superiority in midfield. Ably assisted by his crisp first touch and neat ball control, plus his decent strength and capacity to get himself between the ball and his marker, his checks towards the ball are very effective.
Remaining composed on the ball despite usually being under close attention, the technically proficient Polish international uses his press resistance to still execute his actions smartly. Whether hitting clean first time passes, dribbling away niftily, controlling the ball with the foot furthest away from his tracker, rolling his man or protecting the ball while he waits for an option, Milik regularly overcomes the pressure to make sound decisions.
A vital byproduct attached to the afore comes from the fact it creates space for his teammates to exploit, for when he drops he draws his man with him to create gaps within the opposition backline. The likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, Fabian Ruiz, Piotr Zielinski and Jose Callejon have been only too happy to take advantage of this by exploiting these openings via surges in behind.
Accompanying this with his excellent ability to time his runs in behind and this causes huge issues for defenders both in front of and behind their defensive line. Using cunning variations such as crafty stop-go moves, targeting the blindside of his man, directing his runs into the channels and by instigating his runs in between markers (that usually occupies both and generates room for others), he does an excellent job of bringing about separation for himself and his colleagues.
Also very adept at finding space in between the lines when his foe doesn’t follow him deep, supporting wing attacks and identifying weaknesses in opposing structures in transition, he’s certainly been an unpredictable customer to monitor.
Upon factoring in his cohesion with his fellow attackers, that sees them coordinate their movements so beautifully, and it’s been a joy to watch Napoli unbalance their adversaries.
Possessing a wand of a left foot, the instinctive frontman’s shooting and finishing prowess ensures he’s able to score in a wide manner of methods. Be it cheeky dinks, poacher’s finishes inside box, 1v1s with the keeper, volleys, driven efforts, placed shots or from free kicks, Milik’s combined power and finesse superbly. Hitting his finishes with different parts of his foot and body, his solid heading qualities also warrant mention.
For a fine example of his deadly work inside the box, his goal vs. Roma encapsulated this, and many of his other characteristics aptly, where he latched onto Mertens’ chipped through ball in behind, controlled the ball exquisitely while turning in the one motion before then masterfully finding the back of the net with a scorching volley. Oozing class, dexterity and technical mastery, this passage was a real piece of magic.
Although he’s efficient at picking up the ball’s trajectory inside the box to power or glance his headers at goal, his exceptional flick-ons from long balls have been just as crucial. Providing his teammates with a wonderful target or get out ball if they can’t beat the press, Milik’s leap and timing has allowed him to flick the ball on to a strike partner who’ll be expecting this to run onto. A simple yet great way to play a teammate in behind, as they can receive on the run and in an ideal forward-facing posture, this tactic has created many dangerous opportunities while unhinging defensive units.
By the numbers, his 0.45 XG, 1.2 key passes per game, 2.5 shots pg, 3.4 aerial duels pg, 1.1 successful dribble pg, 3.98 touches in the box pg and 0.96 shot assists pg illustrate his all-round attacking threat.
Now with seven goals in his last 12 matches, this inspirational purple patch will surely only increase the demand for the already coveted hitman. His overall tally has now risen to 17 goals, none of which have been penalties, thus notably ranking him fifth in the Capocannoniere standings behind Fabio Quagliarella, countryman Krzysztof Piatek, Duvan Zapata and Cristiano Ronaldo. But taking out penalties and he moves up to third behind only Piatek and Zapata.
There’s no doubting he’s one of the finest marksmen in Europe, as the intelligent, dedicated striker is emphatically proving what a weapon he is when he’s given a chance and fully fit.
Preview by: licencetoroam.