This piece on originally featured on totalfootballanalysis.com on September 11th 2018
Serie A has recently become a league where young talents from all over the world get their European breakthrough. Given the financial situation of Italian clubs compared to English or German, the Italians are forced to use their extensive scouting networks to unearth the latest gems. Eastern Europe has been a market where the Italians have traditionally looked for players. But where it mostly used to be mostly the Balkan countries, leagues like the Czech or the Polish has been more explored lately. The latest player to emerge from an Eastern European league and hit the ground running is Krzysztof Piatek. After joining Genoa this summer, he’s already scored seven goals in three games. This tactical analysis will look more closely at the 23-year-old.
Krzysztof Piatek has had a steady rise from his debut season in the Polish Ekstraklasa in 2015/16. Piatek then played for Zaglebie Lubin and scored six goals and made three assists in 33 appearances. After starting the following season with one goal in the opening five games he was signed by Cracovia where he scored an additional eleven to take his season tally to twelve goals in 33 games. He again contributed three assists. Last season is when he really took off, scoring 21 goals in 36 matches while adding four assists. Piatek has therefore nearly doubled his goalscoring in each season in Poland’s top flight.
After a stunning start at Genoa, whom he joined for €4m in the summer, Piatek has scored three goals in two league matches, as well as four in a Coppa Italia, win against Lecce. That gives Piatek seven goals from his first three matches in the Rossoblu shirt. While his early form is encouraging, I think it’s safe to say nobody expects Piatek to double his tally again. After all, 42 goals in Serie A would be an all-time record. But given his quality and his strong start you wouldn’t put it against him to reach above 20 goals for the season in all competitions. That would be a great improvement from Genoa’s strikers in recent seasons. After his superb start, Piatek has already been linked with a future move to Barcelona. While those links are premature, Barca’s reported interest highlights Piatek’s quality.
Tactical analysis: Piatek’s style of play
Krzysztof Piatek is a centre-forward and he loves to score goals. Genoa play in a 3-4-1-2 formation which has so far seen Piatek form a strike-partnership with Christian Kouame while the creative veteran Goran Pandev is the playmaker behind them. As we’ll see, the split striker formation gives Piatek the chance to make diagonal runs in-behind to great effect. Defensively, Genoa drops into a 5-2-2-1 shape where Piatek has to defend the left-sided half-space ahead of the two midfielders as seen below. When the ball is won, Piatek provides a great out-ball for Genoa to break quickly from defence to attack.
Krzysztof Piatek is a natural goalscorer. The Polish centre-forward is comfortable finishing with both feet and with his head. His start at Genoa, with seven goals, is testament to that. He’s scored with both feet so far this season. The goals come as volleys from crosses, runs in-behind or quick-reaction finishes in the penalty area. This understanding and technique makes him a handful for every defender.
Added to that is his aerial quality. His heading ability and strength makes him a constant threat from crosses. The above image is a good example of why. As the cross comes in, Piatek has positioned himself cleverly. He starts behind the defender to prevent the defender from seeing the ball and him simultaneously. Instantly, that gives him and edge as he can see both. He then uses the defender to reach an even higher point than his already impressive leap has given him. The defender can’t compete and Piatek heads home comfortably.
Piatek’s movement and intelligence takes his technical ability to another level and makes him such an exciting striker. I’ll look at two examples. The first one is highlighted below. Starting from the left-sided half-space due to Genoa’s split-striker system, Piatek makes a diagonal run towards the center. He identifies space behind the high defensive line and provides a penetrative option for his teammate. The pass is played through, Piatek finds himself in front of the goalkeeper, rounds him and scores.
The best example of Piatek’s intelligent movement comes from the home win against Sassuolo. I’ve divided the sequence into three images where I’ll explain why he’s so impressive.
In the first image below we see Piatek in the center ready to attack a potential cross from the left. He’s reacted quicker than the defenders and finds himself ahead of all of them. Should the ball come in he would certainly reach it first and likely, score.
As his teammate isn’t ready to play the cross first time, the wide player takes an additional touch. This means the defense can get back into good positions and block the potential cross between the defense and the goal into the path of Piatek. The striker reacts quickly though. He makes a short movement backwards to find space in front of the defensive line instead.
Now, as the cross comes in, Piatek has created enough space for himself to even take a touch before powering the ball past the goalkeeper. Absolutely brilliant movement from the Polish striker and a piece of play that highlights his stunning football intelligence and understanding.
Piatek is also a good striker in general play outside the penalty area. His movement is just as intelligent in the middle third as it is in the final third. He’s often seen dropping into midfield to A) become an option for a pass and B) to create space for others to run into. This is something Genoa will reap the rewards from during the season. It will be intriguing to see if they utilize this mechanism against, for example, Atalanta’s heavily man-orientated defense.
The image below is just one example of this movement which has caught my eye so far. Piatek drops into midfield to become a passing option for the defender. As he receives the ball he can instantly lay it off to a midfielder attacking the space between the lines. His movement has also created space behind the defensive line for his strike-partner Kouame to run into.
Krzysztof Piatek’s start at Genoa has been fantastic and he seems capable of developing into a superb centre-forward. Incredibly, his seven goals so far mean he’s already scored more goals in all competitions than ANY Genoa player managed last year. Gianluca Lapadula was the top scorer with six Serie A goals which also was the highest total in all competitions. Piatek is sure to add three Serie A goals in the remaining 36 fixtures to beat that record too. Piatek recent international call-up means he joins Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik in the Polish national team in one of Europe’s best strike-forces. The future seems extremely bright for the Polish 23-year-old and Genoa will be delighted with their new signing.
With the Serie A up and running make sure you check out our match analysis of Lazio vs Napoli.