Krzysztof Piatek did not take much time in embracing AC Milan when he joined from Genoa last January. He scored six times in his first seven games and his gunslinger celebration became a fans’ favourite at San Siro. Every time he celebrated with the ‘pum pum pum’, the Rossoneri fans copied him. But this season, the Pole has been deemed as a one-season wonder by many.
Before last night, Piatek had not scored from open play this season. He found himself isolated up front under Marco Giampaolo. There was a lack of service and a lack of support for him upfront. The two goals he scored came from the spot. Otherwise, it has been disappointing from Piatek.
Against Fiorentina, for example, Piatek could only get 24 touches in the full 90 minutes. That was the lowest in the game. He would play as little as nine passes too, attempting a total of 15 passes (via Whoscored)
This shows a lack of service for the striker when the players behind him are failing. The Rossoneri faithful have been critical of Suso, Hakan Calhanoglu and Franck Kessie because of their inability to link-up play well. Under Giampaolo, technical ability and intelligence is a prime need. They showed little capability.
Piatek isn’t a striker in the Karim Benzema or the Harry Kane mould. He won’t drop deep and when he isn’t getting the ball, he isn’t a fox-in-the-box striker. He thrives on getting the crosses delivered to him and being at the end of passes.
Giampaolo believed that Milan can’t do without Piatek, even though he was struggling under him. He spoke in a press conference:
“Milan can’t do without their most prolific striker, even though he has failed to score several times this season. Otherwise, who will score? I have to trust Kris, though it’s obvious over the course of a long season that he might have to be rested at times.”
Indeed, last night’s game showed that. Piatek was benched for the game against Lecce. Rafael Leao started up front and Milan looked like they would blow Lecce away. The attack gleamed of promise. Calhanoglu had the best game of his Milan career. Players played with freedom and a sense of joy.
But the defensive errors let them down. Andrea Conti had a poor game and at 1-1, Piatek came on for Leao. Clearly, Milan had changed their approach.
They went direct. On a day when the players showed promise going forward, Piatek was never short of service. In the 23 minutes he played, Piatek got as many as 13 touches, one less than how much he got in the loss to Fiorentina (via Whoscored).
Calhanoglu’s impressive movement saw him find space on the right and play in Piatek, who slammed home to hand Milan the lead. The crowd went ‘pum pum pum’ and so did Milan sporting director, Ricky Massara.
The Rossoneri did concede in stoppage time, thanks to a Marco Calderoni stunner. But there was attacking positives on the night. Stefano Pioli had managed to impose his playing style quicker than Giampaolo ever did.
Apart from the flair, it was Piatek’s goal that was a huge positive. It showed that the Polish striker needs a playing style like Pioli’s to get back to his best. He had players like Calhanoglu and Theo Hernandez have brilliant games. While Kessie and Suso looked drab at times, the latter played five key passes in the game and looked to cut in and cross.
These are the qualities of Suso that Piatek would need. The former Genoa man won three aerial duels in just 23 minutes and how Milan went direct had a key role to play. He may not be the best when the Rossoneri play like how they did in the first half. But Milan lacked someone to aim at in the first half too.
Leao dropped deeper and the Rossoneri lacked a final pass sometimes. Having Piatek up front with loads of service will be good for all parties. The goal last night will give Piatek a huge boost of confidence in the bid to prove that he isn’t the one-season wonder that many see him to be.