Premier League

'New Inzaghi' would enhance Wolves' attacking pack

 • by Tom Bodell
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It says everything about the direction Wolverhampton Wanderers are headed that they’ve been linked with Milan striker Patrick Cutrone this week and it doesn’t seem ridiculous.

Conversely, it also says a lot about the Rossoneri’s fall from grace in the last decade. They’ve not won Serie A since 2011 and have had more permanent head coaches (9) than trophies (3) since 2009. Comfortably so, in fact.

Wolves, by contrast, have shown what is possible with astute management, recruitment and ownership.

They cantered to the Championship title in 2017/18, were the Premier League darlings last season finishing seventh to secure Europa League football and would have reached the FA Cup final, were it not for a catastrophic collapse against Watford.

Mexican forward Raúl Jiménez was one of the success stories of their first season back in the top flight, netting 17 times in all competitions. Diogo Jota was the only other member of Nuno Espírito Santo’s squad to hit double figures (10) and the Portuguese intends to rectify that this summer.

Atlético Madrid‘s former Chelsea forward Diego Costa is one of the more ambitious names linked. Hoffenheim‘s Joelinton was another, but he looks set for a switch to Newcastle United.

According to the Express and Star, as well as reports in Italy, the Midlanders are keen on Milan’s Italian international Cutrone. The seven-time European Cup winners are prepared to part with the 21-year-old in order to raise the necessary funds to sign Ángel Correa from Atlético Madrid this summer – a player who’s also been linked with the Premier League side.

So who is Cutrone and what would he bring to Molineux?

Born in the province of Como, around 55km from the centre of Milan, Cutrone had trials with the Rossoneri, rivals Internazionale and Monza as a youngster before signing for Milan in 2007.

He made his debut in a 3-0 Serie A win over Bologna in the final game of the 2016/17 season having been promoted to the first-team squad earlier in the season and, over the summer, signed a four-year contract extension – a statement of Milan’s faith in their young forward.

The 2017/18 campaign was Cutrone’s breakout year, netting 18 times in all competitions to earn his one an only Italy cap to date in a 2-0 friendly defeat against Argentina.

Last term was more difficult for Cutrone who, following the high-profile arrival of Gonzalo Higuaín on loan from Juventus, found himself marginalised. A brief spell alongside the Argentine yielded three wins in as many games but that partnership was short-lived.

Higuaín joined Chelsea on loan in January and Krzysztof Piątek arrived from Genoa, immediately establishing himself as Gennaro Gattuso’s preferred striking option. Cutrone finished the campaign with 43 appearances in all competitions but just nine goals for his endeavours.

Milan striker Patrick Cutrone celebrates scoring against Lazio in Serie A

Frequently described as a ‘typical No.9’, Cutrone is physically imposing and strong in the air. His work-rate and graft off-the-ball make him popular and he has previously been likened to Milan legend Pippo Inzaghi, who coached him while in the Primavera at San Siro.

“I really admire Cutrone and I made him play for the Milan youth side from a very young age,” Inzaghi told Gazzetta dello Sport in 2018.

“However, I would not make these comparisons. When I arrived at Milan nobody compared me to Van Basten or Weah. But Cutrone has everything to become an important striker,” Inzaghi added.

Despite working with the 126-goal Rossoneri favourite, Cutrone modelled his game on former Milan loanee Mattia Destro and earned the moniker ‘the young Destro’ while progressing through the club’s youth system.

Milan striker Patrick Cutrone's Serie A heat map for 2018/19

Although he is nominally a centre-forward, Cutrone was often used as a left-winger during Gattuso’s San Siro reign. But, as we can see in his heat map for Serie A last season, the 21-year-old got through a lot of work across the width of the pitch, rather than limiting himself to the central areas.

The big question, though, is how he compares to Jiménez. The former Benfica forward enjoyed the best season of his career to date last term prompting Wolves to spend a club-record £30million to make his switch permanent.

Milan striker Patrick Cutrone compared statistically to Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Raúl Jiménez

Taking some basic striking metrics, Jiménez comes out comfortably on top. But it’s worth noting the Mexican international played in 3,122 Premier League minutes last term versus the 1,438 Cutrone was afforded – of which, only 12 were starts. He came off the bench for the Rossoneri a whopping 22 times, which makes it hard to draw too many conclusions from his data for 2018/19.

What we can do instead is look at his 2017/18 data, which though drawn from only 1,509 league minutes, is comprised of 17 starts and just 11 cameo appearances, giving a far more complete representation of his striking ability.

With ten league goals to his name at a rate of 0.59 per 90, Cutrone ranked fifth among forwards in Serie A and performed just above his expected goals per 90 ratio of 0.55 – the division’s second-highest.

Cutrone hit the target with 44.4 per cent of all his efforts and, given he only took 2.68 per 90, a return of 1.19 on target (ranking 16th-highest in Serie A) is more than respectable.

Milan striker Patrick Cutrone's shot map for 2017/18

Delving a little deeper, we can see from Cutrone’s shot map for the 2017/18 season why he was so successful in front of goal. He took almost all of his gilt-edged chances, with five goals from inside the six-yard box and just one effort from wide. Furthermore, only three efforts all season were taken from outside of the penalty area.

But Wolves will look beyond the numbers, and with good reason. At 21, Cutrone’s best years are still ahead of him while Jiménez, at 28, is slap bang in the middle of his prime.

What he has shown in his short career thus far are a lot of qualities which would make him an appealing prospect to most managers. Namely, work-rate, versatility, selflessness and an ability to work hard for the team.

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More intriguingly, though, is their similarity between the two when we overlay their Player Personas. Exclusive to Football Whispers, Player Personas characterise a player based on their statistical output.

As we can see above, there is a clear overlap in their skillsets which will be of interest to Nuno.

Wolves tended to play with two up front last season and the introduction of Cutrone should add more bite to their attack.

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