After an incredible first season at Sampdoria, Patrik Schick has become one of the most in-demand young strikers in Europe.
Few would have expected so much from the 21-year-old Czech signed from Sparta Prague, where he failed to carve out space for himself. Sparta loaned him out to local rivals Bohemians, before selling him to Italy for four million Euros. Boasting the established and reliable pair front two of Luis Muriel and Fabio Quagliarella, it took Marco Giampaolo some time to put his full faith in Schick. The fellow summer signing from Crotone and proven Serie B goalscorer Ante Budimir was ahead of him the pecking order, and Schick was unable to show what he could do at the start with limited time off the bench.
Schick’s first real opportunity for the Blucerchiati came in an away match at Juventus, where Giampaolo rotated the squad to keep his key players fit for the following home fixture. On the break, Schick netted his first Samp goal with an instinctive left-foot strike, demonstrating his natural ability to hit a ball. Schick continued to be utilised as a super sub, with a real upturn in form coming as he netted in three consecutive matches against Torino, Lazio and Chievo from the bench. The goal against Lazio in particular highlighted his confident style of play at a young age, as he showed alertness to beat his man with close control before firing into the far corner from outside of the area as soon as he had a sight of goal.
For much of the season, Giampaolo appeared to still have some concerns about Schick’s tactical awareness, as he persevered with using Quagliarella to soften up defences before throwing on the quick and skilful Schick to pick holes in tired backlines.
In a league as lauded for its tactical prowess as Serie A, Schick’s main strength appears to be that he is an incredibly naturally gifted player who believes in himself. He’s not required to get involved in the dirtier aspects of forward play in chasing down high balls. He can score goals because he’s better than the players trying to stop him, not because he’s better at following instructions.
Patrik Schick’s natural skill makes him a joy to watch, and it was put on display in Sampdoria’s biggest match of the season, as he came off the bench against Genoa to steal the show. On three occasions, he he started with the ball in a position more fitting of a right winger, before beating multiple Genoa defenders with ease and he was unfortunate not to score. The way he started out from so close to the touchline also paid testament to his versatility, as he can move across channels and he doesn’t simply finish from in front of goal. He seemed completely unafraid in a fiery atmosphere, as he pulled out nutmegs and backed himself to find a way through the Genoa defence whenever he got on the ball.
Although he is relatively tall at 187 cm, he has a low centre of gravity as he shimmies past people and holds defenders off while his left foot works out what it what it wants to do next. Schick’s instinct to get to goal as quickly as possible has seen him score some goals in both incredibly simple and unorthodox ways.
Against Bologna. he simply broke beyond the defensive line with pace before coolly slotting into the far corner in what was something of a typical goal for the Czech youngster. On the other hand, against Roma, he was able to make the experienced Daniele De Rossi look foolish with a sublime, instinctive use of the chest. He was able to cushion a looping ball with his chest so that he was beyond the Roma man before he knew what was happening and he wasted no time to finish with the second touch. In many ways, it was a simple goal, but few players would have the creativity to try such a delicate touch with the chest, let alone actually be able to pull it off.
The complete nature of Schick’s attacking skill-set is also exemplified by his ability to hit the ball from range. Against Torino, he hit a controlled first-time shot with enough curl on it to leave Joe Hart with no chance, so defenders concerned about his great dribbling cannot simply stand off of him. Schick’s only real downside is that he’s not much of an aerial threat, and he’s not yet strong enough to hold the ball up, although that would likely inhibit his skilful and instinctive style of play.
His performances at Sampdoria mean that he could likely go wherever he wants now, finishing the season with 15 goals and 3 assists from 42 matches. The key step will be ensuring that he continues to play and develop and that he doesn’t play in a system which inhibits his natural freedom and expressive style. He’s looked predestined to become a legendary player, and that’s because he’s been able to make the most of his talent without having to overthink his role in the team.
By: Luca Gunby/@Gunbyzono