Osimhen arrived in Naples last season with a lot of weight and expectations on his shoulders. The 22-year-old joined Napoli from Lille for a club and African record fee of 81.3m euros, including add-ons.
Osimhen had scored 18 goals in 38 games for Lille, but it was still a lot of money for a youngster that had only played for one year in Europe’s top five leagues.
The amount of money spent on his transfer put a lot of spotlight on him. Osimhen’s first year in Naples was an indifferent one.
He scored ten goals in 24 league games, which is a decent return for a youngster in a new league. However, he also missed more than three months of action due to a shoulder injury and coronavirus illness.
But despite missing three months of action, there was still a feeling that he could have scored more had the team played to his strength.
Napoli had Gennaro Gattuso in charge last season, and in fairness, the former AC Milan midfielder loved Osimhen and even protected him from the Italian media.
But the truth is Napoli under Gattuso never played to Osimhen’s style. In fact, most Nigerian fans believed Napoli players failed to play with Osimhen because they were jealous of him.
However, it simply had to do with the style Gattuso employed. Before the Gattuso arrived, Napoli had Carlo Ancelotti and Maurizio Sarri, respectively.
The latter created an identity, which is known as ‘Sarri Ball’. When Sarri left, Ancelotti came in to replace him, but there were still some precepts of Sarri style in the way they played, although the former Everton manager also had his idea.
It was also the same under Gattuso, who replaced Ancelotti. Napoli’s style under the former midfield general was patient build-up play and slow passing, which is not really the style to get the best out of Osimhen.
The Nigerian international thrives on through balls, using his speed and strength to his advantage, while he also likes exploiting the spaces behind the two centre backs.
It showed in the game against Bologna and Torino last season, using his space and strength to score two well-taken goals in both games.
But while the team did not play to his strength last season, it has all changed so far this season, which is due to a change in manager.
After missing out on Champions League qualification last season, Gattuso was relieved of his duties, with Luciano Spalletti brought in as his replacement.
Spalletti’s arrival was good news for Osimhen, given his proven track record with his former strikers. The former Roma manager had worked with the likes of Francesco Totti, Edin Dzeko and Mauro Icardi in the past.
They all had their highest-scoring season under the Italian tactician, and it was hoped that Osimhen would also benefit under him.
And so far, it has turned out to be true. The 22-year-old is just three goals away from matching his tally of ten goals last season, having played just eight games this campaign.
But it’s not just the goals alone. The Nigerian international is now involved in Napoli’s general play as Spalletti’s style is designed to get the best out of him.
According to Fbref, Osimhen managed just 477 touches in 24 league games last season, but he’s on course to eclipse that number this campaign, having already managed 139 touches in just six games this campaign.
Of the 139 touches, 83 are in the attacking third, while 39 are in the penalty area. However, one important stat that showed that he is now more involved in the team’s play is the number of passes he has received from his teammates.
Last season, he received 342 passes in 24 league games with 731 targeted at him, which meant he had a 46.8% pass received.
However, this season, his percentage of passes received is 55.4%, receiving 104 passes out of 193 targeted passes from his teammates.
This shows his teammates are now relying on him more, and that’s down to the work of Spalletti. Also, he is creating chances for his teammates.
Last season he created seven chances in 24 league games, but he already has two in six this season. Although he’s yet to provide an assist, he has won two penalties this season.
And with seven goals in eight games already, he is on course to eclipse his best-ever season by scoring more than 20 goals in all competitions.
It may be difficult for him to finish as Serie A’s top scorer due to Nigeria’s involvement in the Africa Cup of Nations, but should he maintain this level, he could score 25 in the Italian top-flight this season.
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It was a difficult first year for him, but Osimhen has finally hit a purple patch at Napoli, thanks to Spalletti.