Simone Zaza: The West Ham Flop Flourishing For Los Che

After failing to impress during his loan spell with West Ham United last season, Simone Zaza is on fire. A blistering start to the season for new club Valencia, the Italian swept up La Liga’s Player of the Month award for September – beating Lionel Messi to the honour.

The former Juventus man was a laughing stock before even arriving in London, after his penalty miss during Euro 2016 went viral. During his time at the London Stadium, Zaza only managed eight appearances, scoring a total of nil-pwa goals – then to cap it off his loan spell was cancelled in January after a torrid time in England.

But everything now seems to have changed for the frontman; seven goals in his first eight games for Valencia, Zaza has led Los Murciélagos to second in the table – behind only Barcelona. From an individual standpoint, Zaza also sits second in the scoring charts – behind Lionel Messi and his tally of 11.

A physically excellent frontman, Zaza is blessed with plenty of the gifts needed to succeed in England: strength, speed and an eye for goal. Something was missing at West Ham that has clicked in Spain since his arrival.

Since his loan was cancelled at West Ham, Simone Zaza has stated his failures were down to an inability to adjust to life in England.

Quickly I didn’t feel great in many ways. Environment, culture, nutrition, training.

I do not blame anyone. 99% of it was my fault, I was not able to adapt.

– Simeone Zaza

Effortless, however, would be the word to describe how he was settled in at Valencia. Left out in the cold by both parent club Juventus and temporary home West Ham, Zaza’s first choice was Valencia.

Valencia was always the team I wanted most. Everyone told me it was a wonderful place. And it’s true. It is similar to Italy. And then to be by the sea and the sun, makes me happy, I do not need anything else.

These words from the Italian show how much surrounding himself with a comfortable environment means to him. The hustle and bustle of London never suited Zaza, and it showed on the pitch. Penning a €16million deal for Zaza showed the confidence Valencia had in the man. After failing drastically in England, it was a huge risk for Los Che.

Confidence is essential for any striker to succeed, a confidence Zaza has suddenly got in abundance. Being positioned as the main attacking outlet for Valencia, their No.9 knows the side rely on him for goals. With strike partner Rodrigo preferring to drop into an almost No.10 role, and wide men such as Goncalo Guedes providing supply from out wide, the supply line is there for the striker.

Familiarity with your team-mates allows for an almost telekinetic communication to be formed. And that is what is happening for Zaza; Rodrigo, Zaza and Guedes have all been almost ever present this campaign so far, as has been skipper Dani Perejo. Pulling the strings from the heart of midfield, the Spaniard has a range of passing that can compete with any in Spain.

The thinking from manager Marcelino is one of attacking intent, with the focus being to get floods of players into attacking positions as much as possible. Attacking full-backs on either side constantly overlapping, balls are being fired low into the box as often as possible.

For a No.9 like Zaza, this is ideal and his movement and quick thinking allows this system to flourish. Sitting between the two centre-backs and gambling on any ball played into the danger zone, this attacking thinking is made for Zaza. Zaza has scored seven goals in either league games this campaign – only one of which was scored from outside of the box.

Simone Zaza is surrounded by attacking quality at Valencia, he knows any ball played into him will be one of quality. The options are always surrounding the man on the ball, with a minimum of three options on at all times. Whether it’s a period of sustained pressure, or a lung busting counter attack – the options are plenty for Valencia and Zaza right now.

The way Marcelino lines up is to go and take the game to any opponent, at no point do they slow down. This mindset breeds confidence into your attacking outlets, and Zaza is the perfect example. The Italian front man not only benefits from Marcelino’s confidence in his ability, but the man himself demonstrates huge confidence in the ability of his team mates. As he arrives in the perfect position at the perfect time, knowing the ball played to him will be perfect. Five out of Zaza’s seven league goals so far this season have came from first time finishes or headers.

Zaza’s team around him make up a foundation that was lacking during his time at West Ham. The London club had a horrible start to last season, moving into a new stadium, and with the manager seemingly not knowing his best team. The side was in turmoil, and this had a negative effect on the players.

The Valencia fans know all too well about a club in turmoil. After years in the wilderness, Los Che are on a path to return to the glory days of Rafa Benitez’s time in charge at the Mestalla. Harmony between all parts of the club, from the players to the board room. Boss Marcelino has been given control over all things football related, and it is translating onto success on the pitch.

This form of harmony within a club would do wonders for any player, and Zaza is at the forefront of that. With the machine behind him and his team-mates, the Italian is rolling and shows no sign of slowing down.

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