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The Enigma of Kevin Gameiro

For quite some time, Kevin Gameiro has been an effective striker in Europe, but his record in his first season at Atlético Madrid has been disappointing, but is that to do with Gameiro, or the system he’s played in?

Club Atletico de Madrid v Valencia CF - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Kevin Gameiro has long been a guy that has flown somewhat under the radar in terms of his quality as a striker, respected, but never considered elite by most onlookers. His underlying statistics have been very good for some time, if his pure goal scoring totals have not truly expressed his quality.

In terms of goals, his best two seasons were from 2009-2011 with Lorient, where he scores 39 goals in two seasons in Ligue 1. Of course, that was quite some time ago now, and Atlético Madrid mostly bought him based on what he did with Sevilla, where last season he scored his third highest tally, with 16 in La Liga. Winning three consecutive Europa Leagues elevated Gameiro’s status in Spain, especially since his arrival from PSG in 2013 was so lackluster, with PSG taking a significant loss on the amount they paid for him initially.

This year, Gameiro is second in the Atleti squad in terms of shots taken per 90, just after Fernando Torres, who has played much less than he, but above Antoine Griezmann, who has played the second most minutes in the whole team. What Gameiro does well and has done well is getting good shots inside the box. At 2.7 shots per 90, Gameiro is matching almost exactly what he did at Sevilla his last two years (2014-15: 2.65, 2015-16: 2.77). His ability to give up okay shots for much better ones closer to goal is certainly his strength, and takes far less long-shots than Griezmann, for example.

Coming off of last season, Gameiro was in the top 10 in Europe with regard to expected goals per 90 with .77, a monstrous total, which probably has not continued this year. With the end of the season fast approaching, Gameiro needs to take advantage of every opportunity he can to ensure that he remains in Atleti’s plans.

Where the problem for Gameiro at Atleti comes is with regard to his strike partner, and the way that his new club plays. At Sevilla, Gameiro was the focal point of the attack, with a number 10 like Ever Banega supporting him, which is a role Griezmann can play, but will also make similar runs to Gameiro, and often they are trying to do the same thing, which makes their attacking threat somewhat less dangerous than it would be otherwise.

Contrary to what many outside of Atleti see, Griezmann was, and is not in any way similar to Diego Costa or the role he played at Atleti, he was meant to be the upgrade for David Villa, which he certainly is. However, this means that the attacking partnership at Atleti has been extremely unbalanced since Costa left. On several occasions there have been physical strikers brought in, in particular Mario Mandžukić and Jackson Martinez, neither of which worked out at all. Gameiro is a physical presence, but a short, stocky one, not a giant like any of the aforementioned strikers.

With no obvious statistical drop off with Gameiro, it seems that his problems may be rooted in the system Atleti play, and it does not suit him. For the amount he cost, as well as his age, it could be fairly argued he should have had a much bigger impact on the squad than he has, regardless of the system. Equally, his scoring for Atleti has been decent, but far too spotty, with Gameiro usually getting more than one in a match, but then going several games without a goal.

It seems unlikely for any major club to have interest in a 30-year-old player coming off a disappointing season, but there may be suitors to take Gameiro on. A departure for Gameiro certainly would not shock anyone, but it would also not be the biggest surprise to see him stick around for another season at least, if a reasonable price cannot be had for Kevin.