Before the FIFA World Cup kicked off, there was excitement regarding Lautaro Martinez’s involvement in the tournament. It the first time the Inter striker was about to display his prowess at a global level, after having done well for Argentina in the Copa America alongside Lionel Messi. But as the game against Australia and his performances so far show, he has been far from sparkling. It would be fair to say though, that being hot and cold isn’t a new phenomenon for ‘Il Toro’.
There is no doubt that Martinez has largely been pretty good for Inter but since the departures of Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku, a pattern has been quite evident in his performances. The Argentine has spells where he comes across as a devastating and all-conquering striker, but they are preceeded and succeeded by lowly spells where something seems off about the ex-Racing Club man. That, in essence, has been a key reason for why several Inter fans have criticised the striker.
This season, for example, Martinez did score once three times in a row early in the season but this was followed by a spell of games where he didn’t score for five goals. He broke his duck against Salernitana and grabbed a scruffy brace against Fiorentina, but he ended the season on a rather dull note.
Same was the case last season, where he had an excellent early spell and went goalless for five games. He came back to form later but it was followed by a paltry spell of him being goalless in eight games. This wasn’t always the case under Conte, whose transition-based approach made sure that Martinez also contributed to the overall play much more and grabbed more assists.
Even though Martinez’s Expected Goals numbers are still very much promising and show no signs of a big drop-off, the spells he is on help him make up for any underperformance.
The World Cup is a short-term competition where the little margins matter. Even though a team has structural and tactical issues, they can be covered up by individual performances since teams only play 6/7 games. Whether Martinez gets his form back is anyone’s guess, but Lionel Messi is acting as that paper over cracks for the Albiceleste already.
Kaustubh Pandey | GWFN