Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was one of the best players in Europe last season and he led Napoli to the Scudetto in what a massive moment in the club’s history. But in recent weeks, something feels off about the Georgian. He seems subdued and unlike the version of himself from last season.
Kvaratskhelia’s last goal for the Partenopei came in March and since then, he has assisted twice. He is yet to score this season and his campaign has been full of only fleeting moments of him showing how good he can be, without any concrete end product.
During Napoli’s recent 2-2 draw against Genoa, Kvaratskhelia was surprisingly taken off by Rudi Garcia for youngster Alessio Zerbin and he wasn’t even replaced by a much more established player in Jesper Lindstrom. And Kvaratskhelia looked annoyed, having only shown shades of what he can be. And the context of the annoyance is strange, as even former boss Luciano Spalletti would constantly substitute Kvaratskhelia to save him for the next games last season. But amidst poor form, it apparently didn’t sit right with Kvaratskhelia.
Whenever the 22-year-old steps onto the pitch, something feels different because teams have come close to figuring out how to close him down. Since Inter beat Napoli last season, it has become apparent that opposition defenders often double down on Kvaratskhelia, leaving him limited space to combine with others and cut inside. This has nullified the room for him to act as his unpredictable self and it has become one-dimensional, while reducing the number of touches he gets in the box.
A lot of players, especially at a young age, can be prone to being found out. But how they react is vital. Now is the time for Kvaratskhelia to add more to his skill-set. He wasn’t always the one for off the ball movement and that is one thing he can add to his arsenal. He wasn’t always a very active presser and being more active in that regard can help Napoli regain possession higher up the pitch too.
Rudi Garcia, essentially, has his work cut out. This is Kvaratskhelia’s time to evolve as a player.
Kaustubh Pandey | GIFN