Since 2004, AC Milan have only won one Serie A title; dated back to 2011 when Max Allegri was still the manager of the club. Lucky for Il Rossoneri, the seven-year-gap in between those two Scudetti was not a really bad period after all. The reason is that they successfully won two Champions League titles, two Supercoppas, two European Supercups, and one FIFA Club World Cup in between 2004 and 2011.
However, from their last league title until now, Milan are not able to produce the quality they did in that seven-year period. One of the causes of this is the lack of quality in Milan’s front line. Between their last two league titles, Milan had blockbuster names as their talisman. Hernan Crespo, Andriy Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi, and even Ronaldo Nazario da Lima – the real Ronaldo – led Milan’s attacks for almost a decade.
The search continues
The last elite attacker Milan had was the current LA Galaxy star, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With Alexandre Pato and Robinho supporting him, Ibrahimovic produced 21 goals in all competitions thus giving Milan their long-awaited Serie A title eight years ago. After the Swede left the club for Paris St. Germain in 2012, Milan went toothless and won no prestigious titles until now.
Milan are still trying to instil that firepower back to San Siro. Unluckily, the quality of Giampaolo Pazzini, Stephan El Shaarawy, Mario Balotelli, and even the Argentine forward Gonzalo Higuain were nowhere near those big names mentioned above. This January, however, Milan went bold by announcing the loan of Serie A’s sensation Krzysztof Piatek from Genoa; who’s tallied roughly one goal per game for Milan so far.
Who is Krzysztof Piatek?
Let’s take a look at Piatek’s profile.
The 23-year-old striker was brought to San Siro in this winter transfer due to his impressive performance at Genoa. Piatek is a centre-forward who can also play as a second striker whenever needed. Capable of playing in a two-striker system or as a target-man, Piatek is a very valuable asset for his club. Could he be the next Robert Lewandowski?
In order to answer that question, let’s take a look at the statistics. In this piece, we are going to compare Piatek to another Polish attacker who already enjoyed the heat of Serie A for many years, Arkadiusz Milik.
Before going deep, we need to see where and in what system both strikers play in their respective clubs.
At Luigi Ferraris, Cesare Prandelli usually opts for 3–4–1–2 or 3–1–4–2. In those shapes, Piatek often played alongside Christian Kouame upfront; with the former as the main focal point of the attack. In the two-striker system, Piatek was able to score 13 league goals for Genoa.
In Milan, Gennaro Gattuso uses a different approach. The former defensive midfielder opted to use 4–3–3 for his team. In this system, Piatek is the target man and supported by Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu from both flanks. New role, same result: five goals in five league starts.
Meanwhile, at San Paolo, Carlo Ancelotti opts for 4–4–2. In this system, Milik is often can be found alongside Lorenzo Insigne up front. However, sometimes Ancelotti rotates his front line by playing Dries Mertens ahead of Milik. This is why Milik has a higher number coming in as a substitute than Piatek.
Both strikers are very aggressive, to say the least. The Napoli frontman averages three shots per game so far for his club. Meanwhile, his younger counterpart produced different numbers in his two clubs. At Genoa, Piatek averaged 4.1 shots per game but so far the number has dropped by almost half after his move to Milan. However, the decrease in that aspect doesn’t make Piatek a worse striker.
Piatek’s end-products doesn’t drop; somehow it’s actually increasing. With only 2.3 shots per game so far for Milan, Piatek has been able to score five goals in his five league starts for Il Rossoneri. This proves that Piatek’s efficiency has increased since he joined Milan. As we speak, Piatek now has 18 league goals, just one short of Cristiano Ronaldo.
Piatek also has a better movement than Milik, proved by the fact that he created an average of 0.4 successful dribbles per game since the start of the season. In the other side, Milik has only able to make 0.2 successful dribbles in each match. Piatek’s slick movements made him very often got fouled; 1.8 times per game at Genoa, and 1.2 times per game at Milan.
However, Piatek’s level of composure is not as high as Milik’s. With rates of 0.3 offsides, 0.7 times got dispossessed, and only 1.2 bad controls per game, Milik shows that he’s calmer than Piatek in offensive phases. Something Piatek has to learn to improve his game.
Piatek and Milik like to help their respective teams in creating attacks; as shown from comparisons above. At Genoa, Piatek averaged 15.7 passes per game, a relatively similar number to Milik’s 15.4. This happened mainly because both players played in two-striker systems. However, when Piatek’s role changed in Milan, this rate eventually decreased. Even so, Piatek still manages to make 11.2 passes per game so far for Milan; thus showing his desire to help his teammates.
Piatek’s contribution to his team can also be seen from his increasing amount of successful passes. At San Siro, Piatek averages 83.6% successful passes per game; rising more than 10% from his achievement in Genoa. To compare, Milik averages 82% successful passes per game, just slightly behind Piatek’s.
In the image above we can see how their experiences vastly differ. Piatek so far has less than 40 games at the highest level of European football under his belt (25 in Serie A, six in Europa League, and four in Coppa Italia) compared to his countryman. In the opposite side, 25-year-old Milik has played in the Bundesliga, Serie A, and Eredivisie in his domestic career; not to mention almost 30 combined appearances in Europa League and Champions League.
Piatek is enjoying his honeymoon period with Italian football at the moment. High offensive quality and huge willingness to help create in attack are the reasons why he’s able to produce great numbers thus far. Even so, Piatek has a lot to fix; mainly being his in-game composure. He also needs to play (and deliver) in more bigger games; something he’s far inferior compared to Milik.
It’s now down to Piatek himself. If he allows the seed of complacency to kick in, I believe he’s on his way to the never-ending list of one-season wonders. Oppositely, if he’s willing to consistently improve his game week-in-week-out, he will comfortably cement himself as Lewandowski’s main heir; even further, as Europe’s number one goalscorer.
What’s next, Piatek?