Can Patrik Schick realise his potential under Julian Nagelsmann?
Background image: Markus Unger, CC BY 2.5
Patrik Schick once ranked among Europe’s best teenagers. When he lifted Sampdoria to new heights, the buzz surrounding his potential went off the charts. Then his move to AS Roma ended the hype.
Managerial issues at the Giallorossi didn't help his cause. The Czech star became confused by constantly changing tactics and expectations. Now, his unexpected move to RB Leipzig might be a blessing in disguise.
Another move to an unknown environment came with its risks but playing under Julian Nagelsmann isn't an opportunity to be passed over. The 32-year-old boss drew the best out of a seemingly average Hoffenheim squad and is doing the same with a more talented Leipzig side. With the winter break approaching, they top the Bundesliga.
It's already evident Nagelsmann is working his magic on Schick. The 23-year-old took time to adapt to his new surroundings but did so with conviction. Playing in a side with no strings attached has helped. He benefits from the tremendous quality in the squad. Operating as a winger at Roma led to a drop in form but slotting in as a No.9 again restored his confidence.
Schick lacked the killer touch from distance for I Lupi. Two goals and an assist in five appearances, two off the bench and 248 minutes in total, indicate he's back in his comfort zone. Nagelsmann partners him with Timo Werner who tends to wander out to the flanks, pulling a defender with him, and leaving space for Schick. The youngster is ably covering for Youssuf Poulsen’s while the Dane recuperates. Schick isn't as experienced but offers the same physical presence when matched against centre-backs. His hold-up play allows Roten Bullen teammates to run into channels and exploit defensive gaps.
Not only does he carve space for others, his own movement is too clever by half. He has a knack for sneaking into open space when his marker looks away.
Schick’s target-man skills and smooth close-control allow Nagelsmann to divert from his crisp, short-passing style to a more direct long-ball approach to break open compact blocks. He’s proven himself a valuable alternative to Poulsen, imitating the senior man's impact with added finesse.
Schick returns the favour to colleagues who make him look good. He's developed an intuitive understanding with Werner, allowing the German to wander freely while he creates a ruckus in front of goal. The German's four goals while the Czech is on the pitch testify to their chemistry.
When he drops deep, it allows space for others to overlap. Christopher N’Kunku, himself reformed with a move to Germany, finds more opportunities than he ever did at PSG. His link-up play with Schick is seamless. The young Frenchman enjoys the license to venture further forward and make his creative presence felt in the danger areas.
Leipzig hold an option to sign Schick on a permanent basis. If the youngster buckles under pressure at any point, threatening their title challenge, he’ll be shoved aside without question, but continuing his inspired form as their x-factor could secure a much brighter future than he faced in the Eternal City.