FEATURE: How Kouka can revive his career at Olympiacos
KingFut’s Ahmed El Ramady explains the steps Kouka needs to take to revive his career.
Ever since he started playing in Europe, Kouka showed glimpses of a world-class target man in the making. However, his form in recent months has raised questions of whether he’s capable of playing in Europe or not.
The 25-year-old’s career in Europe started when he moved to Portugal in 2011 to join Rio Ave’s U19s. He was then promoted to the first team in the summer of 2012 where he scored ten goals in his first year at senior level. Kouka’s best season with Rio Ave came in 2014/15 when he netted 15 goals and assisted another two in 35 games in all competitions.
His hard work was rewarded later that year with a move to Braga SC, where his career took a roller coaster ride. The former Al Ahly man carried on his excellent form where he replicated his scoring numbers from the previous season. However, Kouka suffered from the “Sophmore Slump” syndrome, and his form began to deteriorate in his second season.
His move to Greek giants Olympiacos in August could help Kouka revive his career. Here are the main factors necessary for his success in Greece:
There was always one thing lacking in all of Kouka’s performances with Egypt. It was his work-rate. Typically, a player of Kouka’s height would like to position himself in the opposition’s box and latch on to any cross sent his way by teammates when they are in possession of the ball. But without the ball, you would normally see strikers press the opposing defenses or trackback sometimes to support other teammates defending. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for Kouka, who never seemed to take an interest in pressing the opposition’s defense.
Despite former Egyptian national team manager Hector Cuper’s defensive approach, the one thing the Argentinian relied on was a physically strong target man to receive the ball from the goalkeeper and start an attacking movement. He would either play Marwan Mohsen or Kouka for that duty, but the latter looked to be far from perfect to fulfill it. His first touch was always heavy and sluggish that it would result in giving the ball away cheaply to the opposition and it would halt any attacking movement his team wanted to initiate through him. Kouka’s struggles with the National Team led to him not being selected in the World Cup squad, but the striker has played himself back into National Team selection.
The most vital attribute for any forward must be decision-making in the final third. Strikers always have to choose between a wide range of options, and it’s that decision that determines whether a team’s attack is productive or not. Kouka has certainly not delivered in that department for a while now. His performances with the national team before the 2018 World Cup are a perfect example of that. He passes the ball when shooting is the best option and vice versa.
As we mentioned in the beginning, Kouka’s scoring numbers went down after a tremendous first season with Braga and coincidentally, these were not the only numbers descending. Stats have shown that Kouka averaged 1.3 aerial duels won per game last season (stats per whoscored.com), which is half of what he managed in his earlier seasons at Braga and Rio Ave (2.6). This was also evident in his games with the national team being one of the tallest players in the squad, but he somehow fails to win most of his aerial duels, getting out-jumped by shorter defenders.
A few simple improvements to Kouka’s game could see him take the next big step in his career. How do you think he will do this season? Comment below.
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