24th March 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Despite only managing one goal and one assist in December and January, Kevin Gameiro's really began to hit his stride with Atletico Madrid in the months thereafter.
Since the start of February, the €30 million summer acquisition from Sevilla has embarked on a wonderful run of form, scoring six goals and supplying two assists in his previous eight matches. On top of scoring against Barcelona in Atleti's 1-1 La Liga draw, he's also bagged an impressive brace in the Champions League vs Bayer Leverkusen and blasted home a rapid hat-trick against Sporting Gijon to clinch a vital victory for Diego Simeone's men.
Simeone's recent comments on his pupil illustrate how happy he now is with the Frenchman. "For me it is what I imagined from him, he has 14 goals and I expect even more," Simeone told AS.
"I think he has been better in games than just his goals, because he has provided many assists. He gives us speed, keeps the ball, good interplay and works well with Griezmann.
"It gives us a chance to attack with Gameiro-Griezmann and teams know they cannot leave space."
Although he couldn't get his name on the scoresheet vs Sevilla, in Atleti's most recent fixture, his performance was still highly influential. From his interchangeable left centre forward slot, alongside Antoine Griezmann, whom he shares an exceptional, complimentary relationship with, the duo went about making life difficult for Sevilla from the off.
To begin with, they'd cleverly open gaps between Jorge Sampaoli's side's defensive and midfield lines by performing contrasting, well timed movements. Gameiro's threatening, vertical and diagonals, runs in behind forced his marker to follow him, while Griezmann would often drop deep, which saw another Sevilla marker follow him. This successfully manufactured gaps to widen and unsettle Los Nervionenses' defensive structure.
In other situations, they would position themselves within close proximity to one another in the 10 spaces and coalesce with some slick, synchronised passing patterns, with the remit of unlocking the defence. Their understanding here was a joy to watch too, orchestrating their movements and passes with brilliant timing to create chances for their team. Indeed, the way the two Frenchman unite unquestionably gives Simeone's outfit another dimension of dynamism of going forward.
"Gameiro is brilliant, I get on really well with him," Griezmann recently told Canal+.
"Gameiro has set me up seven times and I have given him three or four, we have a good understanding and the fact he is French also helps."
Helped by fellow attacker Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco's advanced positioning, which ensured at least three of Sevilla's backline were occupied at any given time, and it's easy to see why Atletico enjoyed such a fruitful evening in an offensive sense.
Although Gameiro couldn't put his typically clinical finishing ability to good use to find the back of the net, his unheralded passing ability deserved special mention. This aspect of his game was primarily evidenced through tidy interchanges in tight with Griezmann, but also in general play where he showed his component range of passing. The fact that all seven of the assists he's registered during his time with the Mattress Makers have been for Griezmann aptly illustrate his quality here and further underline what a tremendous relationship he shares with Griezmann.
Even when he wasn't parlaying with Griezmann, his threatening runs from the left were very well calculated indeed. Before embarking on his run, he'd typically drift into the left half space, where he could then start his runs on the blindside of his opponent, gain separation and angle his run out-to-in, in order to attack the ball at full tilt. By doing this, Gameiro gave himself a huge advantage over his adversary, for his man was naturally facing away from him due to needing to watch the ball, thus ensuring Gameiro could cunningly exploit this by using the aforementioned qualities.
When Sevilla were attacking, as soon as Atletico forced a turnover, the 29-year-old's hold up play when being the first outlet after his team had won the ball was crucial in instigating their counter attacks. Aside from his competent first touch and slick lay offs, his immense strength to hold off his marker was vital here too. The stocky striker won his battles of strength time and time again, with his low centre of gravity and balance allowing him to rarely get outmuscled.
The former Lorient and PSG marksman served as a key element in his side's defensive exertions too. By curving his pressing of whichever Sevilla centre-back he was marking, he made sure to use his cover shadow to block passes into the likes of Steven N'Zonzi and Sergio Escudero, successfully stifling their build up out from the back.
Following his outstanding output in front of the raucous 49,831 crowd at the Vicente Calderon, it looks like the man who's won three Europa Leagues and one Ligue 1 trophy is hitting form just as the season enters its decisive, business end. With Atleti still real contenders to win the coveted Champions League, the lighting fast forward might just be the game changing weapon they need in their quest to win the competition for the first time.
Although he's had his struggles this term, there's not many more dangerous or explosive attackers in European football than Gameiro when he's on top of his game.
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Atletico Madrid's Kevin Gameiro: One of the Most Explosive Attackers in Europe
24th March 2017. By Edward Stratmann.