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Kouame central to Motta's revolutionary plans at Genoa

21:18 GMT 02/11/2019
Christian Kouame Genoa
The 21-year-old was expected to kick on this season, and looks set to explode under an attacking manager with very few inhibitions

Managerial changes always bring with them an air of excitement and mystery, and nowhere is that more apparent that at Genoa.

Since former Barcelona and Inter midfielder Thiago Motta was selected to replace Aurelio Andreazzoli, the fascination with his 2-7-2 formation (his notation, quirky as it sounds) has fueled interest, and that was only enhanced by a neat bit of history.

A come-from-behind victory over Brescia saw all three of Motta's substitutions pay off handsomely. Kevin Agudelo and Goran Pandev got the first and third goals, but the pick of the bunch, a scissor-kick to give Genoa the lead for the first time on the night, was scored by Christian Kouame, taking his tally for the season to five goals in 10 Serie A appearances.

It has been a decent start to the season for the 21-year-old, whose performances in the 2018/19 season whet the appetite for more. While he only managed four goals and six assists in 33 starts, he often had to play second fiddle in attack, facilitating first Krzysztof Piatek (before his mid-season big-money move to AC Milan) and later Antonio Sanabria. 

That supporting role allowed his all-round ability to shine through, and as expected he has kicked on in impressive fashion this term; a goal every two games is an admirable strike rate, for any forward, in the modern game.

There is a sense too that everything is coming together in the most interesting way possible.

Four days later, Kouame was at it again, finding the back of the net as an obdurate Genoa battled hard, but ultimately came up short against leaders Juventus.

There was more than a hint of fortune about the finish this time though, but the result was the same: Gianluigi Buffon found himself wrong-footed by yet another sleight of limb, as the youngster struck his finish against his standing leg and it bobbled into the back of the net.

It is just emblematic of a striker in 'the zone', where everything he touches seems to turn to gold, and every effort, however speculative or imprecise, finds a way to trickle past, often to the bemusement of the goalkeeper.

That form has seen his earn a first-ever international cap for the Ivory Coast. He came on in October's 3-1 friendly win over the Democratic Republic of Congo, replacing Arsenal man Nicolas Pepe in stoppage time, and will be a part of the Elephants' squad at the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt later this month.

However, perhaps the greatest point of excitement is the personality and charisma of manager Motta, under whom Genoa already look a more stable project than under Andreazzoli, an exciting manager but one under whom teams are apt to crash and burn.

While his insistence on including the goalkeeper and reading horizontally in the notation of his preferred shape made the headlines ("My idea is to play offensively, with a short team that controls the game, high pressure and a lot of movement with and without the ball," he told Gazetta dello Sport in 2018), he has been a lot more malleable, flitting between shapes in search of what works best.

That would suggest that he is by no means dogmatic, and instead seeks to maximize the characteristics of his most important players.

Great news then for Kouame, who is more than just a poacher: his ability to both create and score makes him doubly important to a manager who is uninhibited in his search for solutions.

Thankfully, if the evidence of the Motta's first two games is anything to go by, there will certainly be no shortage of goals when Genoa play: four in two games is already as much as they managed in the previous six.

"I found some very interesting players," Motta declared in the aftermath of that Brescia win, and they don't come more interesting than Kouame.