Not long ago, Krzysztof Piatek was one of the most talked-about strikers in European football. He still is, but for all the wrong reasons. It now seems like a realistic possibility that the Pole leaves Milan only a year after signing him, with Aston Villa in talks for the striker. That, in itself, would show how things have changed for Piatek over the last few months.
It is said that Villa are willing to offer €30 million for the former Genoa man. While it remains to be seen whether Milan would be willing to sell him, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s arrival has complicated things for Piatek. Things don’t look as rosy as they did about ten months ago.
Since then, Milan have had three different managers at the helm. Rino Gattuso left to make way for Marco Giampaolo. The former Sampdoria boss was looking to impose a complex style, but he was axed to bring in Stefano Pioli. Milan have been stuck in this endless cycle and they walk around without any identity whatsoever.
While Giampaolo was keen on implementing a system, Pioli hasn’t done that yet. While there has been a formation all along, there is no specific approach to the game. Just when Milan were moving towards getting an identity, they got rid of their manager. The result? A midtable team.
Because of this merry-go-round, a player like Piatek has suffered. He has looked bereft of confidence and hasn’t been given quality service at all. He has just one goal from open play this season, racking up three goals from the spot.
Last season, Piatek had a tally of 30 goals for Genoa and Milan combined. For the rossoneri, he got eight goals in the first ten league games for the club. He was beaming with confidence at the back of a sensational first half of the season at Genoa. It was his first-ever campaign in Italy, having arrived from Cracovia.
Milan got him on the basis of six good months of form. They spent as much as £30 million on him, expecting him to fire consistently. Trying to sell him on after 12 months would show a clueless bit of planning from the club. That has been the reason for its downfall since 2012.
Recently, Piatek did hint that he might not see a long-term future at Milan. He told TVP Sport (via FootballWhispers):
“In football, it’s always about setting new goals. Now I’m worth €38million and the next time I change clubs I’d like to be worth €60-€70million. I have to be ambitious and I’ll work for it.”
As for the player, he has often been feeding off scraps. The underperformance of Suso and Hakan Calhanoglu has an influence. The constant change in systems and the lack of it isn’t of help either. But Piatek himself has to take some blame, considering how he underperformed by 3.52 of his XG. Last season, he had to overperform on his XG by 4.23.
Per Understat, the highest XG of a shot this season has been 0.56 for Piatek. The second-highest is at 0.50. Last season, he got shots worth XGs of 0.98, 0.69, 0.72, 0.62. and 0.68. He converted all of them and that led to a high goalscoring tally. While that shows how he’s not getting the sort of service this season, but he was also converting shots of a very low XG last season.
Seven of Piatek’s goals last season came from shots worth less than 0.10 XG. A majority of them were at Genoa, but they were goals nonetheless. It shows that some of the underperformance is his fault too.
But last season was a one when he was full of confidence. He was loving life. He had that bounce that gave him the momentum. Now, he has the pressure of replicating it and he hasn’t lived up to the hype. In a low-pressure environment with a good amount of service, he can still get some more goals.
Milan haven’t been the most low-pressure environment in recent years. The failure to succeed can lead to abuse from fans and Piatek has also taken criticism. If he can get away from that, there will be a good aura around him. Piatek can benefit from that- like he did last season.
Aston Villa may not offer too much of a low-pressure environment. The club’s struggles with relegation are alarming. They have lost Tom Heaton, Wesley and John McGinn to long-term injuries. They have won only two of their last eight games, despite Jack Grealish attracting a lot of attention.
Piatek would arrive to replace Wesley, who himself wasn’t at his best. He, like Piatek was last season, in his first season in England. The Brazilian came for big-money and could score only five goals in the Premier League. His injury has led to Villa looking for a target-man- something Piatek would love to hear.
Unlike Milan, Piatek will have productive key players around him. Grealish will be key, having played 2.7 key passes per game. Anwar El Ghazi has a tally of 1.2 key passes per game. They like to take defenders on, beat them and create things. Piatek would benefit a lot from them.
Villa fans would know that getting a quality striker could solve their problems. There can be a feeling that Piatek can be that answer. The optimism would be much more than there was about Wesley. There is every chance Piatek redeems himself at the Midlands and play a role in potentially saving them from the drop.