Alejandro “Papu” Gomez has joined Sevilla in a move that could shake up the status quo in La Liga.
After leading Atalanta into the Champions League and making the Bergamo outfit one of the most thrilling sides in the world, Gomez fell out with head coach Gian Piero Gasperini and has thus left the club mid-season. Unsurprisingly the man to tempt him away was Sevilla’s superhuman sporting director Monchi.
Gomez joins a Sevilla side that are second in La Liga after an impressive start to the season. Under Julen Lopetegui, the Europa League winners have been a solid and steady outfit moving their way up the table, but 2021 has shown that they are ready to take the next step and with that in mind, Papu Gomez is basically the perfect signing.
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Since the start of last season, Sevilla have created the third-most chances in La Liga with 564, about 60 fewer than Barcelona managed and 80 behind Real Madrid. In terms of big chances, however, Sevilla are fifth with 89, just over 30 behind Real Madrid and 40 behind Barcelona.
And so quite predictably Sevilla have only been the sixth-highest goalscorers in La Liga since the start of last season. They’ve scored 82 times, which is 23 behind Real Madrid and 43 behind Barcelona.
Essentially, when it comes to goal production under Lopetegui they’ve been close, but not quite close enough, to taking the next step, to reaching the next level. And Lopetegui’s revolution started at the back.
Thanks to the whole defence, in particular the solid partnership of Jules Koundé and Diego Carlos, Sevilla kept 25 clean sheets since the start of last season, third in the league. And they conceded 50 goals, also third. Madrid were second for both categories and Barcelona were fourth, so you can see how Sevilla have, defensively at least, mixed it with the big boys.
But that offensive gap is why they have never really been serious contenders and why, even though they’re mixing it with Barcelona and Madrid right now in 2020/21, it is the weakest version of both of those sides. Atlético Madrid, meanwhile, are miles ahead of everyone else. It’s a different side ruling the roost, but Sevilla’s gap to the top remains.
- Age: 32
- Serie A stats (since the start of 2019/20)
- Games played: 46 (3,526 minutes)
- Chances created: 3.09 per 90
- Big chances created: 0.46 per 90
- Assists: 0.46 per 90
- Football Index value: £0.66 (Sell) – £0.84 (Buy)
Papu Gomez is the man to help Sevilla close that gap. The Argentine is a mesmeric playmaker, a sheer engine of productivity who was the hub of an electric Atalanta side.
Since the start of 2019/20, Atalanta have created more chances than anyone in Serie A (790) and more big chances too (142). They are the top scorers in Serie A (142 goals) and have made more assists than anyone (99) too. While their lead in those metrics isn’t massive, their lead in goals from open play (108) is a colossal 20 from the next highest side (Inter) and a whopping 32 ahead of Juventus. Now, Atalanta have lots of good players, but Papu Gomez was their main man.
The Argentine has created 121 chances in Serie A since the start of last season, 18 of them being classified as ‘big chances’. He has a massive 18 assists, too, the most among any Serie A player in that time.
Moreover, since the start of 2019/20 Papu has created 22 chances in the Champions League, the sixth-most among all the players in that competition and in the list above him are two treble winners, a World Cup winner, the Premier League’s top midfielder and then the best player in the world. That is ridiculous company to be keeping. It gets even more impressive when you realise that his 11 big chances created is second only to PSG duo Kylian Mbappé and Angel Di Maria.
Plug Papu Gomez and his absurd creativity into the Sevilla side, and Lopetegui’s men will gain such a shot of creativity it could transform the side. Suddenly the hot streak Youssef En-Nesyri has been on since the turn of the year (he has two hat-tricks in 2021) has a genuine chance of not becoming a purple patch but just becoming his usual standard of performance.
En-Nesyri ended last season with just four goals in La Liga. He presented a real threat on the field without ever seeming to have the ability to actually hurt teams. His miss at the end of Sevilla’s Uefa Super Cup defeat to Bayern Munich probably still stings for Lopetegui.
Before the turn of the year, he had already bested that record with six goals, but he’s doubled that in just a couple of weeks with his two hat-tricks. If he can keep anything like this level of performance up then Sevilla would improve exponentially. But of course left on his own the inconsistent En-Nesyri would probably revert to his previous scattershot self.
With Gomez in the side churning out chances for fun, however? With the Argentine directing traffic in the way Ever Banega used to do, offering an elite focal playmaker in the final third? Sevilla will be so much more creative and En-Nesyri would be the main beneficiary.
And given how rock solid their defence is, if they close the goalscoring gap between them and Barcelona and Real Madrid – and Gomez is built to help them do just that – then who’s to say that Sevilla cannot become genuine title contenders? Perhaps this season is already too far gone, but next season? And the season after? Leo Messia, Joaquin, Luka Modric and David Silva have shown that ageing playmakers can still dominate in La Liga as long as they’re good enough, and Papu Gomez is definitely good enough to take Sevilla to the next level.