Aleksandr Golovin: the boy who’s made Russia proud

Russia made it to the quarter-finals at the 2018 FIFA World Cup thanks to some excellent football and great goals. In the face of fears of political instability, Russia proved to be proud hosts of this great tournament, and gave their fans something to cheer. Amongst the players who were key to their displays, CSKA Moscow’s Aleksandr Golovin was particularly one who impressed us all.

He ended the season with a decent tally of seven goals and four assists, which included a class display against Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League.

 

The player:

Thanks to his excellent vision and an impressive understanding of his teammates’ runs off the ball, Golovin is the creative hub for CSKA as well as his country. A dynamic central midfielder, Golovin enjoys having possession of the ball and loves to drift into attacking areas to exploit the opposition back-line. He has an eye for a goal from distance and close range as well, which always makes him an asset and creates tension for defences.

At CSKA, he is deployed in a three-man midfield alongside two players in Pontus Wernbloom and Bibras Natcho, who are both holding midfielders by nature. This means that he does have a certain degree of freedom to go forward, but Golovin doesn’t ignore his defensive duties, and is quick to help his side regain control.

Russia manager Stanislav Cherchesov was quick to identity these strengths, and allowed Golovin to excel in a familiar role.

Golovin gives it all on the pitch; he is relentless, both on and off the ball.

 

The stand-out performance:

Golovin has had some really good performances for Russia in the past month; however, the opener against Saudi Arabia was his masterpiece.

Although the opposition didn’t put up too much of a resistance, Golovin pulled the strings in the midfield, making two assists and scoring a beautiful free-kick to put the finishing on a fine opening day display from the host nation. His crossing was immaculate, as he assisted Gazinskiy, who scored the first goal at the World Cup – a memorable achievement for the defender.

Additionally, what was also impressive to see was his role in Denis Cheryshev’s first goal. The ball had looked like it was going back to Osama Hawsawi, slowing the play down; however, Golovin had the tenacity to chase after the loose ball and create a chance out of nothing – he passed it to Smolov, who then found Cheryshev in loads of space, and the Villarreal man made no mistake from close range.

Despite not delivering the final pass, Golovin played a major role in getting the ball back and allowing his teammates to have a chance in the first place. That industrious nature of his play is exactly what made him a favourite with CSKA fans – and has now made him a favourite with his entire country.

 

The ideal player for:

Before the World Cup, Golovin was being linked with to Brighton & Hove Albion in the Premier League. Alongside Davy Propper in midfield, he would’ve been a blessing for the Seagulls fans who have been treated to a great debut campaign by Chris Hughton.

The names are a bit bigger now.

New managers Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery could really use a player like Golovin in their respective midfields, and he would do well under either manager. At Chelsea, he could be part of a great midfield trio alongside N’Golo Kanté and Jorginho, while Arsenal, embarking on a new project, would be an interesting prospect for him.

According to Tuttosport, however, Juventus seem to be his preferred destination, but would he fit in with the Old Lady? Yes!

Manager Massimiliano Allegri has been tactically very flexible with his side, but he has almost always played his side in a three-man midfield formation – suitable for the young Russian. Witnessing the playmaking ability of Miralem Pjanic first-hand, along with the tireless work-rate of Blaise Matuidi, Golovin could make some real progress as a player. We’ve already seen glimpses of Golovin’s skill from set-pieces, so he’d add a string to Juve’s bow as he realises his great potential.

Sami Khedira’s lack of mobility could see Golovin get some real playing time if he does join the Bianconeri, who have recently completed possibly the biggest transfer in the club’s history by signing Cristiano Ronaldo.

 

The rating:

I would give Golovin an 8 out of 10 for his displays during the World Cup. While he was not overly impressive in terms of his final product in the latter stages, he was no doubt an influential player in Cherchesov’s midfield, and will play a key role for Russia in the years to come.

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