Ruslan Malinovskyi, More Than Just Supersub

Alejandro “Papu” Gomez is indeed a capable playmaker and his dispute with Gian Piero Gasperini is unfortunate. In Serie A 2019/20, Gomez provided 16 assists for Atalanta, twice as many as the second most creative player. However, who would have thought, the Argentine’s departure made Orobici even stronger. The reason is, Gomez’s departure provides space and at the same time encourages other attacking midfielders to show their strength.

Without Gomez, Atalanta has absolutely no shortage of attacking midfielders. Josip Ilicic is still proven capable of being a master attack creator at the age of 33 years. Matteo Pessina began to be trusted by Gasperini and appeared neatly in bridging the game. Meanwhile, Mario Pasalic remains dangerous with his tendency to rush from the second line. Aleksey Miranchuk, who just arrived this season, is starting to try to show off.

Among the attacking midfielders at Atalanta, the one who has recently appeared impressive is Ruslan Malinovskyi. The Ukrainian player has also been responsible for Orobici’s impressive form recently. From the last five Serie A matches, Malinovskyi has successfully scored three goals and five assists.

Atalanta itself managed to secure five wins and a draw from the last six matches. A series of positive results lifted Atalanta to third place, displacing Juventus. Since coming to Atalanta, Malinovskyi tends to be used as a supersub by Gasperini. The former Shakhtar Donetsk player was brought in in 2019/20, when Atalanta was approaching their inaugural Champions League. Bringing Malinovskyi was Orobici’s move to add depth to the squad.

Malinovskyi only made 12 appearances as a starter in Serie A in his debut season. However, when he was played, he was able to perform nicely in response to the coach’s trust. In the 2019/20 Serie A, the 27-year-old scored eight goals and five assists in 34 matches.

Entering 2020/21, the former KRC Genk player was played more often. Until giornata 32, he has appeared 16 times as a starter. In the last five matches, he has appeared four times since starting football. Malinovskyi can also appear as Atalanta’s reliable playmaker. He is actively operating in the final third and cleverly opens up opportunities for his peers.

This was shown when Orobici immersed Udinese in early April. In this match, Gasperini installed him as a right attacking midfielder. Malinovskyi showed great playmaking skills to put his team ahead. He netted two goals by Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata with a through ball that shocked the back line. In giornata 30, Malinovskyi again dominated the final third in the match against Fiorentina. For Atalanta’s first goal, he sent an assist to Duvan Zapata from a corner.

On his second assist in the match, Malinovskyi showed brilliant vision combined with great technique. Malinovskyi has the ball in the final third of the opponent. He saw three Atalanta players who were ready to rush into the penalty box. However, between him and the box of 16, there were eight La Viola players who got in the way. To the surprise of the opposing players, Malinovskyi sent a gouge towards Zapata who was in the center, the area most closely guarded by the opposing defender. Zapata also received the ball in an uncontrollable condition and managed to beat the goalkeeper.

In the Atalanta squad this season, Malinovskyi is a player who plays a chair role in creating opportunities. He averages 2.59 passes to the penalty area and 3.7 key passes per match, second only to Josip Ilicic. Its expected assist value (xA) also reached 7.6 or the highest in the squad. His eight assists in Serie A are the best at Atalanta with Ilicic.

In addition, Malinovskyi’s firepower was a threat in itself. The player born in Zhytomyr, Ukraine often threatens with long-range shots. In Serie A, eight of his 13 goals have been scored from outside the penalty area. Gasperini’s move to install him in the right attacking midfielder post optimizes this ability. From the wing, Malinovskyi would often move to the center and make passes or shoot from there.

In giornata 31, Juventus fell victim to Malinovskyi’s long-range shot. He scored Atalanta’s only goal from outside the penalty box. Malinovskyi sent a powerful shot that hit the defender and outwitted Wojciech Szczesny. Previously, he had forced the former Arsenal goalkeeper to stretch out to ward off his free kick which led to the corner of the goal.

Malinovskyi’s single goal gave Atalanta victory over Juventus for the first time since 2001. Gaseprini’s men also overtook the Bianconeri in the table thanks to the victory. In his second season, Ruslan Malinovskyi brilliantly filled the space left by Papu Gomez. The player managed to turn the pressure of his second season into the fuel that made him shine at Atalanta.

“I felt a little bit of pressure [in season two] because I know people expect a lot of me. This is because I am using first season in Italy to adapt and learn the language. “In the second season, you always expect a step forward,” said Malinovskyi to L’Eco in Bergamo. “I want more from myself. I know I can do more, “he continued.

Malinovskyi answered more minutes to play with a brilliant game. Now, he has the opportunity to take Orobici to their second Champions League. In addition, Atalanta still has an important match against Juventus in the Coppa Italia final. Malinovskyi’s brilliance is certainly needed to end the 2020/21 season on a fine note. In the Coppa Italia final, Atalanta had the opportunity to end his 58-year drought. The club from Bergamo last won the Coppa Italia in 1983, the club’s only major trophy.

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