The rising Eagle Simy: How he silently took over the Serie A goalscoring charts – scout report
With a long career in Europe and many ups and downs the 28-year-old Simeon Nwankwo – Simy finally got his chance to shine in the last couple of seasons with Crotone.
Coming from Portugal in 2016, the striker had a difficult start to his spell in Italy up until last season when he was one of the main reasons for the Pythagoreans’ promotion to Serie A, scoring 20 goals and assisting three more.
While his team is on the verge of returning to the second tier, showing extremely poor results in defence, Simy is their key player in attack, showing quality that is overshadowed by the relegation drama.
With his 17 goals, the Nigerian currently sits fourth in the league’s goalscoring charts, right next to Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo (25), Inter‘s Romelu Lukaku (21) and Atalanta’s Luis Muriel (18).
This scout report in the form of tactical analysis examines what makes Simy that successful in such an unfortunate period for Crotone and what is his role in their tactics.
Crotone’s performance and Simy’s importance
The reason for Crotone’s downfall this season is their defensive performance. The lack of defensive organisation and awareness often throws their attacking efforts to waste and results in constantly losing points. The team currently sit last in the table with barely 15 points and 80 conceded goals.
They cannot keep their opponents away from the goal and the results are catastrophic. Although they are not the worst side in terms of scored goals, their defensive vulnerability and the lack of adequate support by the advanced players made them an easy target for their opponents.
The team struggle in defending set-pieces but also commit many individual errors against skilful players. They often fail in their positioning and it is easy for the opposition to break their unsettled structure and expose them with though balls.
They accept the play in their own half and rarely get the chance to create quality attacks. Most of their successful efforts in the advanced areas are a result of both attackers’ Simy and Junior Messias movement in front of the goal.
Although both of them often need to drop very deep to pick up the ball in Crotone’s most used 5-3-2/3-5-2 formation, they do manage to move around the box successfully with Messias providing more threat from outside the penalty area, while Simy moves into it.
Simy’s movement off the ball and passing efforts
The Nigerian does not contribute a lot to ball progression, but he does move back to the central line in efforts to limit the spaces between the lines due to Crotone’s positioning in their own half. That’s why he most frequently occupies the central areas trying to pick up the ball and advance it or help with short pass combinations.
This is not his main trait though. His main contribution comes from his movement in the box and his positioning in the freed-up spaces. Simy moves around the penalty area trying to receive crosses, which are one of the team’s main attacking strategies due to their tendency to attack through the wings.
Although not the most attractive, his movement is efficient enough to exploit the areas in front of the goal. Apart from his moving to goalscoring positions, he is also often available for taking advantage of the second balls. Many of his goals have come after unsuccessful efforts by his teammates.
Simy’s passing contribution doesn’t support their attacking actions a lot but he often offers additional passing options for retaining possession. Most of his passes are a result of the opposition’s pressing efforts and he frequently sends the ball back under pressure.
Despite having decent dribbling abilities, he wouldn’t often use them in support of ball progression, he’d rather stay in a goalscoring position trying to take advantage of recoveries or oppositions’ individual errors and take on the defenders.
He often contributes to Crotone’s counter-attacking efforts. Thanks to his advanced positioning he is often available to move off the ball into an advanced position and help with creating counters, although his lack of creativity often stops him from taking advantage of these opportunities.
His decision-making and finishing
The 28-year-old overperforms his xG of 0.5 taking advantage of his 1.65 shots per 90 successfully. His 57.8% shots on target show his efficiency in front of the goal. Scoring 17 times with his average shot frequency is impressive. He often moves to the perfect goalscoring positions and now became the club’s all-time top scorer with 63 goals in 153 games.
His decision-making and work under pressure are also worth praise since he showed up and scored against some of the toughest opponents – Napoli, Juventus, Lazio and Atalanta. He wouldn’t hesitate to shoot whenever he gets the chance, without making unnecessary movements and overcomplicating the situations. Part of the reason for his success is that he puts simplicity over attractiveness. While he wouldn’t necessarily try to do tricks and score beautiful goals, his strong decision-making often results in nice flick-ons which catch the goalkeepers off guard.
His mentality and composure made him the team’s main penalty taker with him netting seven of the team’s eight penalties this term with one of them being scored by the centre-back Vladimir Golemić. His 100% success rate and unique style of taking the penalties have made him a huge threat to the opposition. Their opponents often play aggressively against them and being awarded a penalty most certainly means that Crotone will have the advantage.
Lack of defensive contribution
While Simy’s influence on Crotone’s attacking ventures is huge, he has been criticised for his lack of support to the defensive actions. As mentioned, the team is currently in a very difficult position defensively, failing to stop their opponents from creating chances and losing the ball quite frequently, leading to even more pressure on their backline.
The team’s low success in the air often results in poor defending of set-plays. This is where Simy could use his 1.94 m height. He does contribute with 5.02 aerial duels per 90 but most of them are performed in midfield in efforts to retain possession. He rarely drops back to his defensive third.
He could also use his advanced positioning for recovering the ball more. He isn’t currently efficient enough in that matter, making only 2.61 recoveries on average per game, which isn’t helpful for troubling the opposition’s build-up and avoiding conceding the 14.13 shots on average that they do.
As our analysis showed, Simy is not the most creative striker but he is very particular and efficient in his actions which makes him that successful. Genoa are one of the teams interested in saving him from going back to the second tier as they currently struggle with their actions in front of the goal.
The team’s leading scorer is Mattia Destro (11) but they still have fewer goals scored than Crotone who mainly rely on Simy’s efforts. Simy scored in five consecutive games and was the best striker in Europe in March ahead of Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski.
The Nigerian, who was part of the Nigeria 2018 World Cup squad is also hoping to get a second chance from the Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr and for that purpose, he needs more minutes in the top tier to prove his qualities.