The Georgian player had a tremendous impact on his new team. Let’s see how Spalletti’s Napoli is already benefiting from Kvaratskhelia’s immense talent

This summer has been quite bittersweet for Napoli fans in Serie A. They had to bid farewell to long-time club legends like David Ospina, Dries Mertens, Kalidou Koulibaly and - especially - Lorenzo Insigne, with Fabian Ruiz also rumored to leave the club in the last hours of the transfer window. But they also welcomed players like Kim Min-Jae, Giacomo Raspadori, Giovanni Simeone, Tanguy Ndombelé and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. And there’s no doubt that the latter has been the one that appeared to be able to single-handedly raise the ambitions of a team that last season lost the chance to win the Scudetto almost without even realizing it.

Half Europe had their eyes on the young Georgian after a breakthrough start at Lokomotiv Moscow and Rubin Kazan before signing for Dinamo Batumi earlier this year. According to his agent, Napoli was the club that believed in him the most - some English clubs wanted him on loan, AC Milan hesitated - and that was able to bring him to Serie A for ‘only’ €11m. Not so much considering his talent.

In just two matches, Kvaratskhelia showed his whole range of skills, made of dazzling dribbles and powerful, quick runs with the ball. He already scored three goals: one with a header, one with a right-footer from distance and another with his left foot. He also assisted a Zielinski goal with a razor pass. In general, every time he had the ball, he tried to make something important happen. We chose three meaningful plays to exemplify his potential.

Left-footed Cross (vs Hellas Verona)

In Russia, Kvaratskhelia attempted 6.8 dribbles per 90 minutes, missing more than half of them. The attempt to create space to access the last 20 meters of the pitch - to either cross or shoot - is constant. Even when he gets the ball in midfield, Kvaratskhelia tries to quickly turn towards the sideline to engage in a high-speed 1v1 with his defender

A very ‘vertical’ build-up that we are likely to see again during the season. The goalkeeper, Meret, plays on the left inside-forward, Zielinski, who turns on his left even before being pressed by the opponent.
Kvaratskhelia links up and gets the ball with sufficient space to control and protect it.
As he often does, though, Kvaratskhelia immediately turns on his left foot to carry the ball on the wide channel. In this case, he lets the ball run with the awareness that his speed will allow him to get it back first, even starting a couple of meters behind.
His direct opponent, Faraoni, correctly closes the gap but when Kvaratskhelia gets to the box and slows down, things get more complicated as he can either use his right foot to shoot or make a pass on the weak side (to Lozano), or use his left one to attack the flank and cross.
Maybe fearing being beaten in the 1v1, Faraoni allows Kvaratskhelia to get into the box without tackling him, hoping to prevent him from crossing or trying to force the Georgian to attempt a dribble. Kvaratskhelia eventually crosses with his left foot to Osimhen but the pass is blocked by Günter.

Cross with his right foot (friendly match vs Adana Demirspor)

With Kvaratskhelia, stalling and trying to push him to make a mistake can actually be a good idea. He’s an exuberant, instinctive player, with a lot of room for improvement in his decision-making. He often exaggerates with fakes and very complicated plays. This is normal considering that he’s a 21-years-old player with little experience at high levels.

As of now, though, Kvaratskhelia already has a vision that allows him to get all the chances that come during the game. When a teammate executes a movement with the right timing, he’s more than happy to serve him. He’s not selfish. 

A perfect example can be the assist to Zielinksi against Verona, a through pass in the offensive third that awarded his teammate’s well-timed cut behind the opposing defense. But the play that probably excited Napoli fans the most is the assist to Lozano in the friendly match against Adana Demirspor, very similar to what Insigne’s assists for Callejon looked like in the past.

Again, the origin of Kvaratskhelia’s dangerousness lies in the many options at his disposal. Knowing that he can shoot with his left foot, most of the full-backs tend to push him to his left one or at least try to stall him.
If he’s given space when on his left foot, Kvaratskhelia can beat his man to shoot, but also cross directly into the box. In this case, he only needs a glance to read the position of the defensive line and Lozano’s movement. He crosses the ball to the Mexican almost standing still, with surprising strength and accuracy.

Second Goal vs Monza

Even if he loves to dribble more than anything else and his crosses are always extremely dangerous, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is not that kind of trequartista that stays close to the sideline to get the ball and attack the opposing full-back in 1v1s. 

He often links in the midfield - with and without the ball - to participate in the build-up or to make the final pass in central areas. His extraordinary ability to shoot with both feet allows him to transform into some sort of second-striker during the play.

If the first goal against Monza is the kind of wizardry that the fans at the Maradona Stadium expect to see - a powerful and precise shot on the far post from outside the box - the second one perfectly shows how hard it can be to defend him for the very reason that he’s very good at shooting with his left foot too, the ‘weaker’ one.

When Lobotka steals the ball in the midfield, Kvaratskhelia is in a central position, on the same line as Osimhen.
Before getting the ball, that he gets in the midfield with Monza’s defensive line slightly unbalanced, Kvaratskhelia goes a few meters wider on the left, allowing himself to receive the ball on his feet. Immediately, he attacks the defender in front of him, Antov, and from that central position, he can shoot immediately with his right foot.
In the first half of that same game, he shot with his right foot from a wider and more challenging position - scoring a goal - and that’s probably why Monza defenders’ priority is to cover that side. Supporting Antov comes Marlon, who also gets closer trying to block a possible shot.
But Kvaratskhelia already made up his mind. The fake with the right foot is only needed to confuse Antov and allow the Georgian to make his move: he turns to his left foot with a tight dribble and while the defender is still turning on his legs, he speeds up with the ball to his feet. Only a few touches that ​​Kvaratskhelia used to get into the position he wanted, from where he could shoot to the goal without any interference.

The opposing defender closer to the goalkeeper desperately tries a tackle, just as the goalkeeper himself tries to stop the ball. But Kvaratskhelia's shot is simply too strong and accurate to give them a real chance to stop it.

What made a difference is the fact that Kvaratskhelia is basically two-footed. The unsolvable dilemma of “he’ll use the left, he’ll use the right” will be a problem for many Serie A defenders, also considering that when he’s playing wide is not advised to underestimate Kvaratskhelia’s left foot, with which he can serve razor crosses between the defenders and the goalkeeper.

Italian defenses are just getting to know the Georgian’s talent, true, but they’re unlikely to find an effective solution to limit his ability to use both feet. Actually, it’s way more likely that he’ll get better in his decision-making and synergy with his teammates, finding more continuity in his plays and isolating himself less and less.

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