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Author: Daniele Manusia

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The goal scored in Frosinone on Saturday marks Mauro Icardi’s fiftieth in one hundred matches played wearing the Inter jersey (a perfect average of half a goal per match that really does not reflect his seasonal average, which is slightly higher: 0.58 goals per match). It was a typical Icardi goal that came at the end of a typical Icardi match.

In the first seventy-five minutes Mauro Icardi limited himself to contributing to the team play, playing back passes to his own midfield, working the ball, never with more than two touches. Icardi does not protect the ball and he doesn’t move his team up the pitch, partly because he doesn’t receive many playable balls from the Felipe Melo-Brozovic midfield pair (in all he was on the receiving end of 22 passes, within the average for the rest of the season, where he rarely receives more than 25, with low points against rivals such as Fiorentina and Juventus where he only received 13 and 14 passes) and no one makes a move to go deep.

Icardi does not like to make mistakes and outside of the penalty area he shuts down almost completely (except on those rare occasions where he is isolated with a rival that he can beat in a sprint, the only quality he seems to be confident with).
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If anything, Icardi’s usefulness lies in creating that pocket of space between the lines where Jovetic (his fellow striker, but who moves much more freely along the lines and toward the centre) and Perisic find room to play.

Fifteen minutes from the end, the result was still 0-0 and Icardi had yet to take a shot on goal. Melo beat the opponent’s line of 5 midfielders, passing long and transferring the responsibility for creative thinking over to Jovetic, who made a brilliant stop with his chest and turned to face the goal.
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Instead of accelerating between the two Frosinone centre-backs, Icardi slid diagonally to the outside of Leonardo Blanchard, attacking the space between the Italian central defender and the leftback, Pavlovic, who was quite distant. For a few seconds Icardi opened up the corridor for a possible through ball from Jovetic that he would have been able to finish with his right (the foot he favours).
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However, that space was immediately closed down by Frosinone midfield and Jovetic chose the easier option of passing back to Perisic. The Serb’s pass was less than perfect and forced the Croatian to stop abruptly. After a stop with the outside of his right boot, Perisic lost his initial dynamic movement and, instead of challenging Leandro Rosi for the few metres that separated him from the goal line, he crossed with his right.
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Perisic was one metre inside the penalty area and there were 5 opponents and just 2 teammates in front of him. Mauro Icardi, at the far post, collided with Pavolvic and, just before the cross, he lost his balance and almost fell to the ground. When Perisic kicked the ball, Icardi was behind the Frosinone defence.
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Perisic’s cross was short (perhaps the teammate he had originally intended to serve was Jovetic) and it was directed not even one metre from Ajeti, who only needed to take a small step before jumping. Icardi came from behind and leapt into the air, striking the ball at the highest point of its trajectory, bending his body like the string on a bow. The header that extended the ball’s travel to the far post, giving it an arc that ruled out any chance the opposing goalkeeper may have had, demonstrates exceptional technique and unique awareness.

Compared with other Serie A centre forwards, Icardi is the one who takes the least shots on goal (1.99 shots per match, whereas the monstrous Higuain shoots 5.7 times per match) but he is also the one who needs the least number of shots to score (3.42, whereas Bacca shoots more or less as many as he does but he needs almost a full shot more to convert: 4.2).

Mauro Icardi is the sublimation of the traditional centre forward. His sense of space and his timing, combined with an uncommon technique compensate for his lack of support in collective game play and make him perfect for a team like Inter that is not very fluid in the offensive phase.
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Daniele Manusia
Was born in Rome where he currently lives and works. He’s the co-founder and editor-in-chief of l’Ultimo Uomo

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