Taking the world by storm in 2022-23, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has come from relative obscurity to join one of Europe’s most famous clubs, and now leads their charge toward the top of Serie A. The direct and dynamic wing wizard has been in remarkable form since joining Napoli from Rubin Kazan, contributing to 5 goals in his 7 matches so far this campaign, already close to bettering his tally from 2021-22 in Russia. Here is our analysis of the remarkable rise of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia this season.
ATTACKING PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
21-year-old Georgian winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has been in sensational form since joining Napoli, with 4 goals and 1 assist in his 7 appearances. He’s been referred to as a “throwback” winger in recent weeks for his dynamic out-to-out speed up and down the left wing, and the way he endeavours to use his pace and power at all costs. He’s not overly concerned with making exciting passes or even in creating chances for others in the final third. Instead, he just wants to get his head down and run at his opponents.
In doing so, Kvaratskhelia prioritizes his right foot, readying the fake onto his left at any moment. He will seek moments to cut inside on his right, or even drift all the way over to combine and create an overload.
Any degree of Kvaratskhelia’s 13% left-footedness likely comes more out of playing on the left of Napoli’s attack more than anything else. He will often use his right to his own peril, driving straight at opponents or hesitating in his own trust of his weaker foot before losing the ball. While the 21-year-old is an incredibly effective winger, it’s worth noting that he’s been dispossessed (3.4 per 90) and suffered miscontrols (2.8) more often than the number of dribbles he’s completed (2.4 per 90). That is precisely because the Georgian international is often rampaging down the wing at such a speed that even he can’t control his own exuberance.Embed from Getty Images
He’s not one to slow the game down and pause at the vital moment. He’s the one to drive at the opposition like a freight train, waiting to bulldoze anything in his wake. Sometimes that results in a foul won or a nick past a defender. Other times it results in running straight into trouble.
But despite this slight knock on his play, you would not want to eradicate Kvaratskhelia’s directness. Not only is it his career-defining characteristic, it’s also incredibly effective. In all competitions, he’s carried the ball into the penalty area 3.18 times per 90; and he’s posting up 5.6 shot-creating-actions per 90. 1.06 of those shot-creating-actions have come from dribbles, which ranks in the top 1% of players in world football this season. His directness has resulted in goals for his teammates, penalty kicks won, and opposition teams responding by sticking an extra man down his side.
We may find out as the season wears on that Kvaratskhelia becomes a frequent target of 2v1 defensive overloads and double-team situations, which is only a compliment to his play. But as he becomes isolated in those moments, he will also allow the positive effect of the potential for overlaps or underlapping runs to create space away from the double-teaming duo. Mário Rui has already assisted 2 goals in his 7 appearances this season, which will help to encourage an efficient partnership down the left wing for Gli Azzurri.
In other cases where the 21-year-old waits for the ball, defenders will look to get touch-tight, preventing the space available for him to sprint away. Unfortunately for them, he’s quite exceptional with his back to goal, and possesses the size and strength to hold off any unwanted attention. This allows the Georgian winger to be used as a wide target in not only receiving long passes to chase, but ones directly into his chest to bring down and play to others.
It’s also not as though Kvaratskhelia doesn’t have a skillful bone in his body. He can be seen gallivanting around in any given game pulling off Maradona’s, or shimmying from right to left back to right. His goals are often scored either from this bit of precisive skillful brevity, or through sheer power as he blasts the ball home on a one-touch.
Either way, his goal-scoring exploits are perfectly personified by his entire personality on the pitch. It’s done with pace and power at every turn, never taking no for an answer.
DEFENSIVE PRINCIPLESEmbed from Getty Images
If you like watching Kvaratskhelia’s directness in attack, don’t think for a second that you’ll be bored when possession changes hands. Kvaratskhelia rummages at his opposition attackers like a dog chasing down a tossed ball. There’s an old saying about running through a brick wall for someone you respect. Kvaratskhelia is the type of player to run through a brick wall for absolutely no reason except for the fact that he never gives up on anything he sets his mind to. As we talked about with his attacking skills, this can often result in some missteps along the way. Rather than intensifying his approach, Kvaratskhelia could work on his angling. He’s an incredibly active and hungry counter-presser, but he often runs straight at his opposition rather than turning his body one way or the other.
A pressure percentage of 34.5% this season is quite decent and a direct result of his intensity and aggression. But a 25% tackle success rate is slightly less encouraging, and pinpoints the holes in his defensive game still worth addressing. That said, even if he fails to get his angling correct, Kvaratskhelia will often win the day from his intensity and approach.
He’s remarkably quick to race back in defensive transitions and recover his position, and will often cover for his fullback as they step out of position to get tighter to an opponent.
Not always scanning the field to his best ability, this can also manifest in just pressuring the nearest player on the ball even if his fullback already has the situation covered, thus leaving the team with an exposed player in behind. His intensity will also sometimes manifest in darting through the middle to cover his tracks and win the ball, which could leave his side of the field open for exploitation.
But again, his hard work will yield results for his team. He’s made 7.00 ball recoveries per 90 this season for his team – the most of any attacker for Gli Azzurri by quite some margin. His physicality and strength even means he contests well in the air, even despite often withstanding the disadvantage of a touch-tight defender rising in behind. His 50% aerial success rate in the league stands out as immensely impressive when compared to other wingers in Serie A, as the Georgian puts his 6’0 frame to use.
Importantly, as he holds a position in Napoli’s 4-4-1-1 to 4-5-1 defense, Kvaratskhelia rarely steps over the line when it comes to his aggression. He’ll cause the odd niggling foul in his honest approach to win the ball, but typically won’t over-extend his efforts to the point of fouling, or engage in reckless behaviour. He’s yet to pick up a booking across all competitions this season, even for his national side.
Overall, with his intense, full-throttle defensive style, Kvaratskhelia continues to be selected not only for the dynamism he adds in the final third. The wing wizard is also a wide warrior of sorts that wants to hunt down any loose ball, and it’s easy to see why he’s often been called a “throwback” of sorts for his prioritization of physicality in all phases of the game.
CONCLUSIONEmbed from Getty Images
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has come out of nowhere this season to stake his claim as one of the most exciting prospects around. He’s dominated absolutely every single game he’s played for Napoli and Georgia this season, gallivanting around the pitch with an intense swagger that simply can’t be stopped. 5 goal contributions in 7 matches only tells half of the story of his immensely impressive efforts, even if it does serve as a remarkable tally for a man who made just 6 goal contributions in the entirety of last season. Whether or not Khvicha Kvaratskhelia can lead Napoli to Serie A glory remains to be seen. But for now, he’s striking up a storm in Serie A, and one that will likely only catch the attention of Europe’s elite all the more.
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So there it is! A tactical analysis of Napoli’s new star – Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. Be sure to check out more of our Player Analyses, and our upcoming posts on all the player types associated with wingers within our Role Continuity Evaluation System. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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