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‘Uncoordinated’ Simy may hold the keys to Crotone’s Serie A survival

04:44 GMT 11/03/2021
Nwankwo Simy
The forward helped Serse Cosmi to his first Serie A win in nine years, and the Pythagoreans will hope to build on that success to beat relegation

Not every neutral would have taken a second look at Crotone vs Torino when considering the possible standout fixture before gameweek 26 kicked off in Serie A.

While it was a relegation six-pointer, the encounter between the league’s bottom side and the third-bottom outfit was probably not going to be top of the average observer’s list of must-watch fixtures at the weekend. As it turned out, the encounter at Stadio Ezio Scida produced six goals, a joint-high in the Italian top flight last week with the hosts claiming a 4-2 success.

In a round of games that produced several amazing goals, Crotone vs Torino served up its fair share with Arkadiusz Reca and Adam Ounas netting brilliant efforts for the Pythagoreans, while Antonio Sanabria found the back of the net out of nothing.

Only the woodwork prevented a stunning Federico Bonazzoli effort from hitting the roof of the net, just as it denied Amer Gojak’s curled effort from finding the far corner of Alex Cordaz’s net.

Amid all the rasping long-range efforts in Calabria, Simy was doing what all good strikers do: finishing easy chances from close range. The towering frontman is now up to 10 Serie A goals this season, three higher than his previous best return in 2017/18 when Crotone failed to beat the drop.

While four of the 28-year-old’s strikes have been from 12 yards, the fact five of his other six goals have been one-touch finishes demonstrates what every top goalscorer has going for them by being in the right place at the right time.

He’s a poacher in every sense of the word, and that tag is underscored by a solitary assist this season and his 0.7 key passes per game. Simy may not be involved in the team’s build-up, but there’s a high probability chances will be converted given his tendency to take up very good positions in the opponent’s box.

That proclivity is probably what new Crotone boss Serse Cosmi values in the frontman, despite his other obvious deficiencies in possession. Sunday’s victory over Torino was the new manager’s first Serie A win in nine years and he was effusive in his praise of the Nigeria striker.

“Simy scored two goals, he has his very own special physicality and way of holding the ball,” the 62-year-old remarked after the thrilling victory. “He’s got these very long legs and large feet, so at times he can look uncoordinated, but he’s scored 10 goals and that means he’s got some skills.”

Having lost his place in the last few games under Cosmi’s predecessor Giovanni Stroppa, Simy’s done his chances of regaining his place as Crotone’s principal frontman no harm with three goals in two games under the new regime.

He got the equalizer against Atalanta in gameweek 25 but La Dea found an extra gear and netted four second-half goals to thrash the Pythagoreans 5-1 in Bergamo in the new head coach’s bow.

The Nigerian sits 23rd in the entire league for expected goals per 90, although he falls to 39th when penalties are excluded. Be that as it may, it was a surprise Stroppa dropped his most effective attacker in his final weeks in charge of the club, leaving the gigantic forward out of the starting line-up in four successive games before he got the chop.

While Simy’s place in the XI has to be assured for what’s left of the campaign, there’s a sense the new trainer has to find solutions to their extremely leaky rearguard that has conceded a staggering 64 times from 26 games. Even though the expected goals against of 50.1 reveals an absence of luck in their defensive third, that xGA is still the worst in Serie A this season which is a portent for the rest of the campaign.

Their xG betters only Genoa in the league, which highlights how the experienced man in charge has his work cut out keeping the bottom side in the top tier. They are seven points adrift of Cagliari in 18th and will need to pick up points consistently than they have so far to maintain their top flight status when the season concludes.

Cosmi understands the situation at the troubled club who have suffered at both ends of the pitch all season. They have fashioned out the lowest volume of clear-cut chances and are conceding the highest shots on target against per 90 in the league.

Be that as it may, Simy has produced decent numbers in front of goal with only 10 players outscoring him on his return to the big time. Crotone’s run-in will be fraught especially as it seems they seem up against it in their attempts to survive.

Stroppa may have ditched the leading frontman in the last days of his reign, but Cosmi ought to lean on the West African who may not be easy on the eye but guarantees goals and could be the difference between staying up or dropping to Serie B at the end of the season.