Simy: The Underlying Numbers Explaining Crotone Forward’s Serie A Struggles

Was the towering frontman always going to face several challenges in the Italian top flight after regaining promotion? 

Two of last year’s promoted sides, Crotone and Benevento, face off for the first time in Serie A since securing promotion post-lockdown last year but both have gone in different directions.

The Pythagoreans, last year’s runners-up in Serie B, sit bottom in the nation’s principal competition while the winners of the second tier have largely thrived. In fact, of the three teams that moved to the top flight, only Filippo Inzaghi’s side are holding their own in 10th spot.

Spezia are 14th but have been in the bottom three for the majority of the season and have back to back wins over Napoli and Sampdoria to thank for current position in the league. Crotone, however, have failed to gain any sort of momentum all season, with problems at both ends of the pitch marring their comeback to Serie A after two years away.

Giovanni Stroppa’s team have netted 17 goals in 17 games, only second bottom Parma have fewer, with 40 goals conceded, the highest in Serie A so far.

Simy’s inability to score consistently in the top flight has largely contributed to issues in the attacking third but was this always going to happen?

Goal took a dive into the numbers that characterised Crotone’s promotion campaign at the end of last season, immediately spotting potential troubles for Stroppa’s team and the Nigeria forward before a ball was kicked in 2020/21.

Wrote this on Simy, whose Serie B adventure with Crotone culminated in automatic promotion to Serie A as well as ending top scorer.

The jury is still out on whether the towering frontman can thrive in the big time. Piece on @GoalAfrica https://t.co/RijbS2Jrmu

— Seye Omidiora (@theReal_SeyE) August 2, 2020

While statistics showed the Pythagoreans led the way for average possession in Serie B, having high possession figures in the top division wasn’t going to be a piece of cake. Consequently, this was bound to lessen the consistency of their chance creation.

Benevento aren’t a possession-based side, evidenced by their 43.2 percent average this year (19th in Serie A) which is only slightly lower than last term’s mean, 49.7 percent, 11th in the competition. By contrast, there’s been a significant drop off for Crotone — 60.6 percent last year to 49.4 percent in 20/21 — inevitably affecting Simy’s return.

Stroppa prefers his teams to build-up patiently but they haven’t had that freedom in the top division. The Pythagoreans averaged the highest volume of accurate passes per game last year (432), which has dropped to 362 passes per game this season.

Even though Benevento’s current mean stands at 293 p/g, the drop off isn’t as wide compared to last term’s average (328 accurate passes p/g).

Interestingly, Benevento fashioned out more clear-cut chances with little of the ball in Serie B than the side they face on Sunday, a trend that’s continued in the top flight. Inzaghi’s team have created more big chances than Crotone (25-18), both sides ranking 18th and 20th respectively for chance creation.

Simy, despite scoring 20 times in their promotion season, missed 14 presentable opportunities last term. However, he’s seeing fewer chances and shooting less this season, a drop off from taking two shots per game in 19/20.

The significant reduction in open-play goals this year an also be put down to the team’s aforementioned drop off in possession and passing figures, along with the upgrade in quality of Serie A compared to what they had to deal with last season.

Only four of the towering striker’s 20 strikes were from the spot, accounting for 20 percent of total, but this now stands at 75 percent, with three of Simy’s four strikes coming from 12 yards. He hasn’t scored from open play since late October and his last goal of any kind came from the spot in the Pythagoreans’ 3-1 defeat by Sampdoria on December 19.

Be that as it may, the underlying numbers reveal an underperformance in front of goal. The 28-year-old’s non-penalty expected goals is 3.0 but he’s only returned one goal from open play.

Whether an improvement will take place as the season goes on remains to be seen, but the Pythagoreans need the West African to get better in the attacking third if they’re to avoid instant relegation from the league.

Despite both sides’ contrasting fortunes this season, Stroppa can draw inspiration from the corresponding fixture last season when Crotone thrashed Benevento 3-0 at Stadio Ezio Scida in July, with Simy netting a stunning hat-trick in that encounter.

All three goals came from as many shots attempted on the day, and that clinical edge is what the struggling Pythagoreans require if they’re to step out of the relegation mire they now find themselves in yet again. Over to you, Simy!

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