Stevan Jovetić: The Greatness Ahead


Around a month ago, Serie A was a very different place to the one it is now. Napoli were finally looking as though they were putting together some sort of legitimate challenge to Juventus for the Scudetto which would, if nothing else, assure both of the top two spots in the table; AC Milan, newly equipped with Mario Balotelli, were continuing their fantastic recovery from their awful start to the season, flying towards the Champions League places, just as Inter’s dip took on a new toll as their only true ‘number 9’ Diego Milito was (shockingly) ruled out for the remainder of the season. Lazio had suffered a similar fate, losing Miroslav Klose for a few months, leaving them without a goalscorer, which has seen them recede in their charge for Champions League football.


In the meantime, sixth-placed Fiorentina, fresh from a 2-1 away loss to Bologna, appeared to be relying on all three of those teams to collapse and they to be pretty great themselves if they were to make the top three. It had been an inconsistent year, but in the first full season of Vincenzo Montella’s new project, this was of not representative of any great crisis, but did present a worry as to the future of their best player. A month on, they sit in fourth, just three points behind Milan and five from Napoli, whose own collapse has been quite something to behold.


Their rise up the table has had its roots in Stevan Jovetić’s return to form. Like the team as a whole, he has had a patchy season thus far. It started strongly, with him scoring 5 in his first 7 league games, all of which came with him playing in a two-striker system. With Luca Toni and Mounir El Hamdaoui he was very much the ‘number 10’ and it was then where the goals flowed most. By contrast, with Adem Ljajić, who is usually somewhere between an attacking midfielder and a winger, they played in a more rotatory manner, with both capable of playing deeper and further forward. Mostly, however, this saw Jovetić, the far stronger in front of goal, sit further up while Ljajić got to grips with the position. This led to Jovetić pushed further away from the play, reflected by his generally low goalscoring alongside the Serbian in the first half of the season. At the time, it was a relationship that greatly benefitted neither party.


The number 10 role is widely regarded as the position in which Jovetć is most comfortable. Much of his career has been divided between there and time on the left wing, which has allowed him to develop his creative tendencies and hone his ability to beat players. This year looked as if it was to be the breakthrough campaign for his goalscoring which has been solid, if not prolific, through his time in Tuscany.


He missed six weeks from early November after picking up a thigh injury, but he still managed to score a few goals either side of the injury. There is a misconception where Jovetić is concerned that he is an injury-prone player, thanks to the cruciate knee ligament tear in 2010 which ruled him out of the 10/11 season. He had a few minor muscular problems across the 11/12 season, but these are commonplace for players recovering from long-term injuries. Otherwise, the aforementioned thigh issue has very much been an outlier this year.


In more recent weeks, he has been used at the centre of a three striker system, as a ‘9.5’ style of centre forward, in the mould of both Robin van Persie and Karim Benzema last season, respectively, when the former was used in a more creative capacity by Arsenal and when the latter remembered how to be good at football. This sort of system is difficult for a team to adjust to, as it requires the whole side to be accustomed to having their striker spend most of his time closer to the midfield than the penalty area, as well as said striker having a strong understanding with his wingers, who are needed to operate more centrally, and the key creators behind them.


Jovetić and Ljajić very steadily established a strong partnership during their time played as a pair, and their respective moves into positions that, it could be argued, suit them better has seen them both flourish to a greater degree. Jovetić has maintained his total positional freedom, only now he has more space to use it. Not reflected in the stats is that he is visibly learning his new role as he goes, but is picking it up quickly. The only struggles he appears to be having with it is trying to be close to the main midfield creators David Pizzaro, Alberto Aquilani and Borja Valero (or whichever one, two or even three of which are on at any given point), all of whom are deeper-lying playmakers rather than classic number 10s.


So Jovetić is occasionally forced to sit deeper than even most ‘false 9s’, but this is becoming less and less of a problem as his understanding develops with the aforementioned midfielders. One stat that does bear this out is the fact that they have scored 9 goals in the 4 games in which Jovetić has been used at centre forward.


The mention of Van Persie gains more credence with a comparison between the two players. Both came through as number 10s who were comfortable on the wings; both are extraordinarily technically blessed and with a outstanding ability to manipulate space. With Thomas Müller, Jovetić is the closest thing to the Dutchman outside of the man himself. The Montenegrin’s movement is similarly brilliant outside the penalty area and he shares his excellent vision, creativity and ability to bring his teammates into play. Jovetić, however, is more able to beat players, while the former Feyenoord man remains stronger (at least at the moment) in most other departments.


Van Persie did not adapt instantly to the centre forward role and in his early days there; he assisted far more than he scored. His deep movement was as brilliant as ever it was, but it took him a while to crack where to place himself in the area. Once he did, the goals arrived. And, at first wonderfully and now most irritatingly, they have barely stopped. The same is currently, and will certainly become true of Jovetić. His goals have almost all come from outside of the 18-yard box across his career and when he combines this with the poacher’s instincts, which he is more than clever enough to learn, he will be near-unstoppable, and it will reflect in his goal record.


The similarities with Van Persie go their way to further explaining Arsenal’s apparent interest in him. His ability further back also make him ideal for Manchester City’s and Juventus’ (the two other seemingly interested parties) preferred two-striker systems.


For Arsenal he would play a role similar to his new one for La Viola, only with the main playmakers closer to him. He would combine extremely well with Santi Cazorla who himself has shown great improvement in his finishing and positioning in the area in recent weeks, as well as Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski, as wingers who prefer the inside track to providing pure width themselves.


For City, assuming Roberto Mancini is still in charge, and Juventus, he would fit in very easily, but would not be utilised as the key goalscorer. Rather, he would be used in the more creative role. At City, a combination of David Silva and he switching between going wide and moving centrally within games could be marvellous to behold. In Turin, he would play as a better alternative to or replacement for Sebastian Giovinco, with the similar penchant for making play from wide areas.


Any move to either (the former being far more likely than the latter given the history between Juventus and Fiorentina) would probably be negative for his development as a ‘9.5’, but would not damage him overall: he is far too good not to get the playing time required to excel at whichever, should he make the move.


He is not, at this point, a 30-goal a season striker: he is in the process of becoming one. He could become the archetype of the modern, complete centre forward, capable of scoring and assisting in equal measure. He may still remain in Florence – which would be more likely should they achieve Champions League football – but whichever teams he does end up at will have a magnificent player. Fiorentina appear to be demanding €30million for him. Should any pay that, it could be the best €30million they ever spent.


10 Comments on “Stevan Jovetić: The Greatness Ahead”

  1. MilanGuy says:

    I think this write up is too optimistic. To say he could be a 30 goal a season striker at this age is optimistic. In Italy, it is hard to get such numbers. At his age, Cavani hit 26 goals, comparably in his position, Kaka was more effective. One assumes he will have exponential growth, this may be the view in England, as Arsenal are desperate to get anyone, but in Italy, Juventus-Milan could do without him.

    The question as an outsider, that Arsenal fans must ask, is he a Messiah or a disciple? Can he lead Arsenal? for 30m€, you need a Messiah. MCFC can integrate him as they have a far greater squad, Arsenal last had a Messiah in Arshavin, and when no support cast was added, he drifted.

    I think Arsenal need a higher calibre player for this price and one more experienced.

    • You’re right – 30 goal a season is a bit of a colloquialism as much as it is stat here, but it’s definitely far tougher in Italy to get those kinds of numbers. But 20 goals in Italy would probably amount to over 25 here, assuming he adapts well.

      I also think Juve don’t really need him, but by all accounts they seem to be interested. Milan are well set without him now Balo’s there.

      Arsenal’s problem has been scoring and creating this year. It would take time but I really think Jovetić can be the guy, like Van Persie was, who can provide both. For €30m it’s a difficult call – the best we could get with the money we have is Cavani, but that’s just not going to happen. That Arshavin point is nonsense, he fell away because he lost his place to players who were playing better than he was. Cesc, Nasri and Van Persie were a more than able supporting cast.

      It would definitely be a gamble for Arsenal, but we’re in a position where we have to gamble on someone with his amount of talent. We can’t afford more ‘guaranteed quality’ (ie Cavani) but do have enough to take expensive chances. I really think he’s one worth taking, but can see why many also wouldn’t.

    • DialSquare says:

      Arshavin was a the “Messiah”? I must have missed that in between Fabregas, Van Persie and Nasri being the focal points of the team. Arshavin had plenty of supporting cast, in fact his problem was that there was supporting cast keeping him out of his preferred position behind the strikers. He wasn’t best suited to the left wing, but he couldn’t get Fabregas out of the no.10 role, and when Fabregas was injured, Nasri got that spot.

      I think the unfortunate reality for Arsenal is that for €30 million, which isn’t the extraordinary sum it used to be, is going to be fetching players like Jovetic and not better. We’re a strong side who play Champions League football, but we haven’t looked like contending for a title for some years.

  2. Daniel_dmac says:

    I enjoyed reading the article, thanks for taking the time to write it. Bit of a concern though that you have used Robin van persie as a platform to base Jovetic’s potential. When Van persie was learning, he had henry, bergkamp, fabregas, pires et al – all playing alongside him. Jovetic is never going to have such a talented team to play with, therefore lowering his potential for learning. I’d love for arsenal to show intent by buying a player who is publically regarded, but I just dont see it happening.

    • Thanks mate. That’s true, but Jovetić also knows a lot more than Persie did when he came here! I think you’re right, its tough to see it happening, but we live in hope.

  3. MilanGuy says:

    Arshavin form deteriorated once the club began to silence his quotes on buying bigger players. He probably embodies what Fabregas & Van Persie never said out in public, the club needed bigger players to support him and the established stars of Fabregas-Van Persie. I think instead of selling Adebayor-Nasri-Fabregas, Arsenal should have added to them, and with Arshavin as part of that project. He helped to secure your position in the CL when he arrived. At Milan, we can sympathize with him, we saw our squad broken up very quickly & it only resumed greatness once the directors could entice many stars at one effort to create no dependence. Squad construction is important and Arsenal need clarity in this process.

    That is the type of player Arsenal need. Can Jovetic immediately impact like Arshavin did when he arrived? Arshavin had the experience to help Arsenal in that difficult moment.

    I personally do not anticipate Arsenal to gamble 30m€ on him, this would forget the history where Arsenal spend less than 18m€ on transfers. Is Wenger not famous as well for not buying to protect players, like Denilson, Ramsey?

    I must be very respectful, as Arsenal deserve it, but maybe Jovetic is this years prize signing, who does not sign. Mata, Gotze, are the players who were rumoured but never came.

    The Luca Toni quotes were not verified, but it would be very strange for Jovetic to leave Fiorentina for the current Arsenal project that does not offer the possibility of silverware at present.

    I have tried to be respectful.

    • Adebayor was the right call to sell, he couldn’t be arsed and was replaced by a better player and system. Nasri we wanted to keep and Cesc, well, Cesc was Cesc. We have signed more established players lately since the money has been there, but they’ve had to be to replace the likes of Nasri, Cesc, etc.

      Milan were buying bigger players than Arsenal currently can though. But we do need to build a squad with more established players.

      We’re not in as bad a state as we were when Arshavin arrived, and as I say, he’s the best we can afford. He’s not €50m because he doesn’t have that experience, as you say. I don’t expect us to pay €30m either but there’s definitely interest there, if he does come to us (doubtful, as I say) it’ll be for closer to €20m/€25m.

      The ‘protection’ policy was mainly cos there wasn’t the money to spend. Easy excuse, ‘we’re building our youth’ sounds much better than ‘we’re skint’. Just ask Silvio!

      I think it’ll go that way too, but we live in hope of this finally being the summer of change. Toni’s quotes did hit a little close to him but if Jovetić is convinced by us making a few other signings, you never know. Especially if we get CL and they don’t. But as I say, I don’t expect we’ll get him.

  4. dkfjkddf says:

    Thomas Müller has nothing in common with Van Persie

  5. […] we would be seeing more goals from Walcott/Podolski/Ox/Gervinho…well maybe not from Gervinho. Stevan Joveti Reply With […]

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