Krzystof Piatek’s Superb Start to The Season, Scouted

Via Getty Images

When a 23-year-old scores more goals than everyone else in Europe’s big-5 leagues, you’d be excited about that 23-year-old. Especially if it’s a guy signed for a rumoured €4 million who you probably haven’t heard about before.

Serie A club Genoa’s Krzystof Piątek is the only player since Gabriel Batistuta to score in the opening seven games of a Serie A campaign. With his 9 goals (none from the penalty spot) in 630 minutes, he has outscored the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lorenzo Insigne, Gonzalo Higuain, Ciro Immobile, and Mauro Icardi. In his only Coppa Italia appearance so far against Lecce, Piątek scored four — no, that wasn’t a typo — goals to power Genoa through. That game also happened to be his debut.

According to the newspapers, Piątek’s form has caught the eye of practically every club your friend who doesn’t watch football can name. If Genoa sell the man from Poland playing at center-forward, they could potentially make a sale that’s more than ten times the amount for which they bought him from Polish club Cracovia, where he scored 0.5 and 0.6 goals per 90 minutes in his two seasons.

So let’s dive into his numbers. First off, here’s the thing about his current goalscoring rate: it’s unlikely to be sustainable. His 1.3 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes have come from around 0.5 expected goals (xG) p90. This makes him the highest xG over-performer in Europe’s big-5 leagues right now. If Piątek had been converting his chances like the average player, he’d have scored 3–4 goals in the league, which is far away from his tally of 9 goals.

However, it’s worth noting that 0.5ish xG90 isn’t bad. At all. Especially if you’re 23 and in a team with the 7th-lowest xG in the league. Even if he isn’t someone who can start at a club the size of Barcelona, Piątek still looks like a player who could have a very good career at the top level. So what kind of player has he been in these 630 minutes?

The Good Stuff

Let’s talk about his shooting. As you can see in the shot map below, Piątek has taken shots from just about everywhere. He’s taken 5.3 shots p90, which is colossal. Just as a comparison to other high-volume shooters and drawing no conclusions about the quality of these players or the sustainability of this shot volume, he’s taken more shots p90 than Lionel Messi and Gareth Bale this season.

Via Understat.com

22 of his 37 shots came from his right foot, 13 were headers, and 2 were left-footed strikes. These shots come from a variety of sources, most from open play passes, as you can see below.

And these two things, Piątek’s shot volume and variety, constitute Piątek’s biggest strength if these 630 minutes are indicative of what he’ll do throughout the season — he’s been able to create shots for himself from different situations. Again, as you can see from his shot map above, a lot of Piątek’s shots come from outside the box and wide areas, which means he can get a shot off without being overly dependent on the players behind him getting the ball into good areas for him. This is a bit like other high-shot volume strikers Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo. It can mean that his play is more transferable across systems and teams.

He also generates shots from situations in which the shot is uncertain: he often shoots after winning the second ball, after getting it from a knockdown, or after taking a few touches in a crowded zone.

Here’s an example of this, when he scored against Lazio after winning it back from a 50–50 situation right after Genoa lost control of the ball.

And here’s an example of him shooting and scoring from a packed area in the box after winning the ball back from a failed clearance following a loose ball from his team against Sassuolo.

While a lot of his goals so far look like those of predatory striker, a lot of his chances come after him receiving it outside the box, carrying it towards the box and shooting. Here’s Piątek doing exactly this and scoring against Bologna in the league.

He’s shown signs that he’s fairly mobile in and around the box too, which is another great quality to have. Look at him here against Chievo Verona before taking a rather good shot that hit the woodwork.

And then there’s Piątek’s finishing. From the eye test, his shooting is undeniably good (even if not good enough to sustain his current goalscoring form). Most of his shots are low and hard to one of the bottom corners, generally hard to save. According to Stratagem Technologies’ ‘shot quality’ ratings, which rate how well a shot is struck on a scale of 1–5, Piątek had the 9th-highest shot quality per shot up to gameweek seven of Serie A.

Apart from his shot volume, Piątek isn’t a very high-usage player, with a usage rate (the percentage of a team’s possessions a player ends by shooting, assisting a shot, or losing the ball) of 10.3%, which is 3rd-highest in his team, after his impressive young strike partner Christian Kouamé and veteran Macedonian Goran Pandev. A lot of this is because he, well, actually doesn’t do much apart from shoot. This brings us to the relative hole in his game.

The Less-Than-Good Stuff

When Piątek gets on the ball, he takes a shot 20.3% of the time. This is a large, large number — the highest in this stat last season in the big-5 leagues was Kostas Mitroglou with 27%. In Genoa’s 3–4–1–2 shape, Piątek rarely comes short to get to the ball and most of the ball progression in the final third is carried out by the players behind him.

Completing just 11.4 passes p90, no other player on Piątek’s team attempts or completes fewer passes than him. Only two players in his team get the ball fewer times than him p90. He only assists 0.4 shots p90 (which actually isn’t much of a problem for the team considering that Kouamé, Domenico Criscito, and Romulo assist enough) and completes just 0.4 take-ons (a.k.a dribbles) p90. This is, however, most likely to be a result of his coach’s instructions though and not necessarily a weakness.

While his shooting and ability to create shots as we discussed earlier has been great so far, he has occasionally ignored passing options in front of him and gone for an optimistic shot — while this may be, again, what he’s instructed to do. Take a look at this wild shot against Chievo Verona.

In any case, if a big team signs him, these are small gaps that can be adjusted or improved through coaching. At the moment though, he’s a perfect fit for Genoa.


Conclusion

It’s unlikely that he’ll break Batistuta’s record of scoring in his first eleven matches considering that Genoa play Juventus, the two Milan clubs, and Napoli soon. These will also be the games in which he’s tested up against some of the better defenses in the world. There’s also a chance that his value in the transfer market goes down sometime if his goals slow down.

Nonetheless, while this has only been a review of his first 630 minutes, there’s a lot to say that Piątek is a talented striker. There’s no doubt that bigger clubs should be interested in him because of his fairly unique shooting profile in addition to the fact that he is, currently, a hell of a player.


PS: If you’re a big team you should also look at Kouamé. He’s super talented, even if a profile of him didn’t make it into this article.

This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which powers the StrataBetSports Trading platform.

xG stats from Understat.com.

Find me on Twitter: @AshwinRaman_