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FEATURE | Simeon ‘Simy’ Nwankwo profiled: Can Crotone rely on their Nigerian striker for Serie A survival?

Simeon ‘Simy’ Nwankwo is a Nigerian striker who fired Crotone to promotion from Serie B last season with an immense 20 goals. Whilst it will not be his first stint in Serie A – having spent his opening two years at the club in the top division – Simy is sure to feel a rejuvenated man heading into the upcoming campaign.

Of course, it is completely unrealistic to expect him to replicate his goal scoring form from last season – if he did, it would place him amongst the likes of Francesco Caputo, Duván Zapata and Luis Muriel. However, to what extent can we expect the prolific frontman to perform in Serie A?

Goal Analysis

Crotone manager Giovanni Stroppa deployed a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2 in every single match last season and, due to this structural consistency, it can be anticipated that he will be reluctant to drastically deviate from this methodology.

A team sheet of Crotone’s most common starters in their positions in the 2019/20 Serie B season (courtesy of buildlineup.com)

Simy generally occupied the left striker position in this system, but his contribution primarily came from operating within the opposition’s box.

All but two of Simy’s 21 goals across Serie B and the Coppa Italia last season arrived from inside the penalty area, and just under half were as a result of a cross – which is understandable given his height, standing at six foot six inches tall.

 

A map of Simy’s last 75 shots and their outcomes (courtesy of WyScout)

Some might argue that the previous campaign was just an example of a player running hot but, whilst this is true to a certain extent, Simy’s xG tally for the campaign still stood at a very healthy 17.29. In fact, a goal conversion rate of 24% proves just what an outstanding finisher he is.

Consequently, there should be little doubt believing Simy has the goalscoring capability to save unfancied Crotone for the forthcoming season. However, it is crucial to understand where these goal-scoring opportunities originate from.

Crotone’s creativity

Having kept the highest average possession in Serie B last season at 59.7%, Crotone had a big window in which they were able to exercise their creativity and the main platform for this was attacking down the wide areas.

Wing-backs Salvatore Molina and Mattia Mustacchio accumulated a collective 11 assists whilst Junior Messias, who consistently drifts into the wide areas, added a further 4.

These primarily came from crosses, averaging 18.59 per every 90 minutes, as Crotone had a knack for circulating the ball, quickly making switches to the alternate side of the pitch to allow the advanced wing-back to swing in a cross under a reduced amount of pressure. Mustacchio in particular completed the highest number of crosses per 90 (8.15) whilst also accomplishing the 6th most key passes per 90 (0.91). However, whilst this is impressive, it does highlight a deficiency in the squad.

Crotone are perhaps too one dimensional in their play and, coming into a league with masterful tacticians such as Antonio Conte and Gian Piero Gasperini, they could well be shut down and rolled over.

Just 29% of the assists to Simy’s 21 goals came from the central area and, to intensify the problem, Crotone’s second most productive assister Andrea Barberis (who would generally operate within this region) has departed the club for Monza on a free transfer.

Conclusion

Giovanni Stroppa did an excellent job in developing a successful strategy to gain promotion with Crotone to Serie A, seeing Simy thrive on the supply he received from wide areas. However, this could now well become their downfall. Crotone will no longer have the capability to dominate games to the extent they once did, and you’d imagine their lack of strategic versatility will be a major issue.

The multiple midfield signings of Miloš Vulić, Luis Rojas, Luca Cigarini and Eduardo Henrique could all possibly assist in a transitional phase for the club, but it is ultimately impossible to foresee how they will perform before viewing their game against Genoa this Sunday. 

If Stroppa is capable of masterminding an innovative way to overcome this conundrum, then there is every chance Crotone can escape the drop come a year’s time. 

In Simeon Nwankwo they have an exceptional finisher who will be able to salvage multiple points from low probability chances over the course of the campaign. However, only time will tell if this can be enough for the Southern team to evade relegation.

Jacques Le-Bon

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