As the season is only a few days away, the Podcast team at Sempre! have taken a look at the squad, and have made some predictions on who they think could break out under new manager, Carlo Ancelotti. In our feature article of this segment, James takes a look at Arkadiusz Milik.
After two false dawns, the time is now for Arek Milik. It’s an understatement to say that the likeable Polish striker has had a hard start to his career with Napoli. Struck down with ACL tears in opposite knees in successive seasons just as he was starting to look a real threat, there are now genuine hopes that this time, finally, we are going to see a sustained run in the side from Arek.
And yet, for whatever reason, there are some within our own community who doubt Arek’s ability to become our top man. Some cite his injury record while others cite his ability, the latter I find bizarre and borderline ridiculous. Accusations that, “He can’t do it in big games” are often cast up, but people sometimes need to look at occasion before opposition and there was no greater pressure than when, with the title race still in the balance, Arek stooped to head home Lorenzo Insigne’s lofted cross and level things late on against Chievo at the San Paolo.
“It’s only Chievo”, said some, but again … occasion before opposition. It was the 89th minute, we were 1-0 down, the Scudetto race was slipping from our grasp. Talk about pressure? Our season, at that very moment as time stood still, fell on the shoulders (and head) of Arek Milik, and he delivered. His goal would be the catalyst for Diawara to score a sensational stoppage time winner in the 93rd minute that sent the San Paolo into a state of sheer meltdown.
With Roberto Inglese now on loan at Parma and reports from Di Marzio stating that Napoli won’t bring in another striker, the onus will once again fall on Arek to be that focal point. It’s not a pressure I think shirks him in any way, the lad oozes confidence and when he returned late last season he looked lean, motivated, and hungry.
Arek also offers us a kind of striking presence we’ve not had since the days of Cavani; a player who is equally as lethal in the air as he is on the ground. We’ve seen examples of this in his brief catalogue of appearances, with headed goals against Milan, Kiev, the aforementioned Chievo match, and our recent friendly with Wolfsburg.
However, his most potent weapon is the shift onto his left foot, which we’ve also seen several glimpses of, including the opener against Dortmund in pre-season and Sampdoria away toward the end of last season.
In my opinion, if Arek remains injury free he’s going to score 20+ goals for us this season with ease. Those of you who listen to the show will already know that pre-Ronaldo, I had tipped Arek for the Capocannoniere.
Carlo Ancelotti has also commented positively about the link up play between Arek and Dries Mertens and we all remember the burgeoning days of “M&M’s” before Arek’s first ACL injury.
If you don’t, you should … they were borderline telepathic despite barely playing together, something with can and does happen between two forwards but is extremely rare; think Yorke & Cole, McCoist & Hateley, Henry & Bergkamp. They just knew, instinctively, where the other would be.
Due to circumstances beyond his control, Maurizio Sarri was never able to tap into the potential of that partnership, but if Carlo Ancelotti can then we could yet be in for a memorable season.
By James McGhie