Giovanni Simeone is just 23 years old and has already played 81 matches in Serie A. He’s earned 2 caps and a goal for Argentina, who are unbelievably loaded up front. Since Fiorentina bought him from Genoa for €15 million in August 2017, his value has increased to €25 million according to Transfermarkt (although assigning a value to a player is impossible in a vacuum). He’s been the unquestioned starting striker since arriving in Florence. His hustle and attitude are absolutely exemplary and have endeared him to fans. He’s also not scoring nearly enough goals.
Cholito has now pulled on the Viola shirt 48 times, and he’s scored 16 goals. That’s a goal every 3 appearances, which is an okay return, but way less than you’d expect for such a talked-about young center forward. This year, he’s got 2 goals in 8 appearances. Since Fiorentina boast the 6th-most goals scored in Serie A this year with 14, you might think it’s not a problem, but more than a third of those goals came against relegation-bound Chievo Verona. 9 goals in 7 matches isn’t going to get it done, and it’s fair to say that Simeone has been one of the biggest disappointments on the team this year.
So what’s gone wrong? I’ve pulled together some of his statistics this year, as well as where they rank for Fiorentina and in Serie A. After we’ve all had a look at them, I’ll try to draw some conclusions. As usual, all the numbers are per 90 minutes and from WhoScored.
Giovanni Simeone in 2018 thus far
|League rank among strikers
|League rank among strikers
|Shots on target
|Shots off target
|Shots inside 6-yard box
|Shots inside area
|Shots outside area
So what can we learn from all this? If we’re being honest, it’s not much that we couldn’t have figured out by simply watching Simeone play this year. Still, we can go over a couple of points dredged from the numbers here.
He’s not getting enough service
There aren’t very many teams in the world that want their number 9 to be taking the 4th-most shots per 90 minutes, particularly when that number 9 is pretty much purely a poacher and runner who doesn’t contribute to the buildup. So why isn’t he getting more shots?
There are a couple of reasons. The first is that Cholito isn’t the type to score from distance, so he needs to get the ball pretty close to the goal to fire off a decent shot, and those are generally the type of shots that are trickiest to manufacture. The only plus crosser on the team is Cristiano Biraghi, as Federico Chiesa and Marko Pjaca create off the dribble more than with their passing, and generally like to shoot rather than feed the other forwards. These factors combine to limit how many chances Cholito gets in his preferred spots.
The second is that the midfield lacks creativity to play the ball through an opposing defense, particularly one that’s sitting deep. Last year, Jordan Veretout was frequently the instigator of the attack, but he’s working in a deeper role now which puts him farther away from Simeone. Gerson has had some nice moments, but he’s not a reliably creative force, and Marco Benassi is purely a runner at this point. This is where the team misses Riccardo Saponara most.
When he does shoot, it’s not very well
That said, it’s not like he doesn’t get any chances. I think the most interesting number here is how many shots from inside the opponents’ 6-yard box he’s taking per match. A shot from that close to the goal is generally the best possible outcome for a striker, and Simeone’s had a fair number of them. The problem is that he’s not converting.
If I could tell you how to fix a striker whose finishing is off, I’d be drawing a massive salary as a consultant rather than writing for a blog. Cholito has never been a natural finisher, so it’s imperative that he gets shots where he wants them. As Fiorentina struggle to generate an attack (no goals from open play in the last 3 matches), Stefano Pioli can’t afford to have his striker misfiring if he wants to take Fiorentina back to Europe. Whether that means a shift in tactics, personnel (Valentin Eysseric or Kevin Mirallas on the wings? Bryan Dabo or Christian Nørgaard in the holding role so Veretout can push forward?), or simply reassuring Simeone that he’s still got it, something has to give pretty soon, because a team predicated on strong defense and quick counterattacks needs a center forward who finds and finishes his chances. Right now, that’s not Simeone.