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Lautaro Martinez 2.0

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If, by any chance, Argentina had lost the World Cup final on December 18, 2022, then one man who would have taken the most blame would be Lautaro Martinez. The striker who was substituted missed several key chances. Argentina’s win on the night papered over the cracks. Martinez was not in a woeful form before the tournament began, as he had scored seven goals in 16 games, an average return.

However, since then, the Argentine has transformed himself as he rediscovered his mojo to show why he is one of the most feared strikers in the game.

And while his performance in the second half of the season was brilliant, he has taken his game a level above this season. Only the high-flying Serhou Guirassy scored more goals in the top five leagues.

His form is why Inter Milan are currently top of the Serie A table. So, what changed for the Argentine post that night in the Lusail Stadium?

The resurgence after the World Cup 

When the leagues around the world stopped for the FIFA World Cup, Inter were fifth in the Serie A table. Losing five games, the most in the top eight. When the second season started, though, Martinez was a different beast. He scored 14 goals in the second half of the season, a tally only bettered by Serie A top scorer Victor Osimhen.

At the end of the season, he was the second-best player on the Expected Offensive Value Added (xOVA), a metric that measures the total attacking contribution of a player. Martinez also had the second-most shots on target in the league.

When the season ended, Martinez ended with 21 goals, with only Osimhen scoring more. While he came into form too late to help Inter mount a title challenge, the signs were encouraging for the 2023-24 season.

Lautaro Martinez 2.0

Before the start of the season, Inter Milan added Benjamin Pavard, Kristjan Asllani, Yann Bisseck, and Yann Sommer. The message was clear: Inter were going to go all out to win the Serie A title. With attacking compatriots such as Alexis Sanchez, Marko Arunatovic, and Marcus Thuram, Martinez had a greater chance to shine.

And he has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. At the time of writing, the centre-forward has scored 11 goals. This included two braces against Monza and Fiorentina and a four-goal stellar show versus Salernitana.

So what changed? Nothing much, barring one area: his positioning. In the current season, the Argentine has been as good with his brain as he has been with his feet. According to Soccerment, the Argentine has taken 30 shots this season, out of which 14 were on target, a brilliant conversion. However, what makes this stat even better is that 11 of his shots on target have ended in the back of the net, giving him a conversion rate of 78.57 per cent. In fact, out of his total shots, only one has been saved by the goalkeepers, with the rest either being blocked or missed by Martinez himself.

Another stat of Martinez that has risen disproportionately compared to the last season is his tackles won. Martinez has been tackled 19 times so far, the fourth-most in the league and the most for a player from a team in the top six.

In addition, the 26-year-old has also been actively trying to win the ball, especially in the attacking third of the pitch, winning 16 tackles, the most by any forward in the league.

Martinez was already blessed with brilliance in shooting but was let down by his poor choice when taking the final shot. This has been seldom visible this season. Martinez has also performed his xG (6.56) by 4.44 goals, one of the best across the top five leagues.

One must also remember that he is only 26 years old and is now entering his prime, which might also be the reason for his play’s sudden spike in quality and form. How better he will get remains to be seen, but in an era where finding high-quality strikers are a rarity, Martinez has undoubtedly garnered the interest of top clubs.

With Lionel Messi also at the twilight of his career, Argentina will need a new generation to step up, and with his current form, Martinez is sure to be an integral part of such an era.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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