Stephan El Shaarawy has been an absolute revelation this season for Serie A side AC Milan.
The forward has bagged 16 goals already to make him the Rossoneri's go-to guy in 2013, and he's second only to prima punta Edinson Cavani in the domestic goal rush.
So what makes El Shaarawy tick?
Massimiliano Allegri has used his Italian prodigy in both the wide left and centre-forward positions, but it's clear to see which one he's more effective in.
He's bagged 14 of his 16 goals so far this season while playing from left, either cutting inside and shooting or meeting crosses at the far post.
His presence and ability to find and create space is what sets him apart at such a young age, and for two of the goals he's scored this season, you're left wondering how he managed to find so much space in such (usually) congested areas.
While AC Milan have Giampaolo Pazzini or Bojan to play the central striker's role and snare the majority of chances in and around the box, El Shaarawy does a lot of commendable work off the ball.
In private conversation, B/R Featured Columnist Gianni Verschueren shed some light on this:
He actually covers more ground than you'd expect on the left flank, and while he's not a great defender by any means, he provides a lot of pace and depth on the counter and does a fairly good job shadowing the wing-backs. He plays a little deeper than most wingers would in a 4-3-3.
Mercurial young talents don't often assume such responsibility, and it's a testament to his levelheadedness that he carries the hopes of the San Siro on his shoulders and does his defensive bit, too.
Any issues El Shaarawy faces are similar to any winger in a 4-3-3—if Milan are struggling, the Italian is at risk of being frozen out on the touchline.
Riccardo Montolivo tends to look for Kevin-Prince Boateng or Robinho to initiate attacks, but it's not just El Shaarawy's predatory instincts that impress—he's an underrated creator as well as a finisher.
As he becomes more confident, this creative prowess may see the Italian drift inside more often like Cristiano Ronaldo does for Real Madrid and Portugal. When he starts doing that more often, he's even more of a matchup nightmare.
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