A characteristic that defines Victor Osimhen is his intensity off the ball. He’s one of those players commentariats will hardly slam for showing little effort or desire or any of those cliched remarks that do the rounds from time to time.
Victor Osimhen: Has Napoli frontman taken Luciano Spalletti’s advice on board?
The Azzurri manager believed the tenacious front man had to curb his intensity out of possession…so has there been a change in the Nigerian?
He leaves everything on the pitch. He presses and harries the opposition, giving them little time in possession. Of course, this has its merits. When it’s done right, the team’s chances of recovering the ball higher up the pitch increase.
On the other hand, there’s a likelihood of little turnovers in dangerous areas for the team looking to regain possession if it’s haphazard.
At times in 2020/21, Osimhen looked to harry the opponent in their own third, striving to force an error in the hope of winning back the ball for his side. However, he received little support on many occasions as it appeared to be a one-man show, as opposed to playing his part in a coherent, integrated effort to force mistakes.
Perhaps, it’s no surprise Luciano Spalletti emphasized the need for the West African to ease off a little with the intensity without the ball in the summer.
“Osimhen is a striker who can transform every ball that comes his way into chances,” Spalletti told the club’s website in late July.
“He is a very generous player who runs a lot and now and then this intensity can cause him some mistakes, but he is an important player, complete and we aim a lot on him.”
The Napoli boss’ logic was explained at the time, but, about three months into the season, there’s a bit of curiosity regarding the player’s assimilation of the aforementioned or otherwise.
Indeed, the underlying numbers reveal the Partenopei front man’s intensity off the ball has dropped significantly.
Osimhen averages 13.8 pressures per 90 in the Napoli set-up in 2021/22, which ranks him in eighth spot among players to have averaged three games or higher.
Contrast this to last season under Gennaro Gattuso where the nation’s most expensive player ranked in fourth spot with 18.0 pressures per 90.
In his only season at Lille, he ranked in a similar position averaging 17.3 pressures per 90. Without a doubt, the opening months of the season indicate the front man is pressing with lesser intensity having risen somewhat in his opening year in Serie A.
While there’s a danger of making conclusions from a small sample size of games, the change in the Nigerian not only passes the eye test but is evident in the statistics.
Indeed, this will be revisited in a few months — when there’s a larger sample size of data. Watch this space!
Seye Omidiora is a passionate football writer and pundit whose deep appreciation for the beautiful game exceeds the usual. He is currently a columnist for Goal Africa and has previously written for Vital Football UK, IBCity Info and Opera News.
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