18 Midfielder Partizan Serbia
2014 has been...
Slower, but you would really have to be going some to find a young footballer accelerating through the ranks as quickly as Andrija Živković.
A well-established junior international, Živković made his debut for Partizan in April 2013 aged just 16. As accomplished on the left flank as on his more native right, the Niš born winger really caught the eye during 2013-14, especially during the early part of the season when he scored in four consecutive matches. His form heading into the winter was good enough to warrant a call from Siniša Mihajlović and Živković was awarded two caps for Serbia in late 2013 in friendlies against Japan and Russia.
The young winger was a regular starter for Vladimir Vermezović and retained his place in the first team under Marko Nikolić at the turn of the year as Parni Valjak embarked on an outstanding run, which included sixteen wins in nineteen matches. However, their exceptional form was not enough to prevent cross-city rivals Red Star from claiming the league title.
Živković’s role within the side was a little different to several other youngsters of a similar type across the world. Partizan aren’t nicknamed the steam roller without good reason and the Serbian Superliga doesn’t always offered the stiffest competition once the big two are taken out of the equation. Nikolić set his team up to dominate and break from midfield, and goals would tend to come from across the team rather than from a single outlet. Accordingly, last season’s central midfield pair Sasa Ilić and Milos Jojic were as prolific as centre forward Petar Škuletić. That the duo were able to make the impact they did was helped by the explosive ability that Živković possesses and he frequently tied defenders into such tangles that space readily became available to his more experienced colleagues.
To that end, Živković isn’t really an assists man, nor is he, apart from an early season run last year when he caught several teams by surprise, a goalscorer. Instead, he largely provided nuisance value as an outlet that would often require opponents to double up on the teenage winger. It’s a reflection of his ability, yes, but there really needs to be a little more in the way of tangible outcome. And that may be a problem as we move forward.
Marko Nikolić has adapted his team in a way that relies less on the kind of outlet that Živković was able to provide last season and it’s working well right now. Despite their Europa League campaign ending at White Hart Lane, the famous Belgrade club are in pole position for a crack at the league title having already beaten Red Star once this season. The Ilić, Drinčić, Drinkić central midfield trio has been largely consistent in providing the platform for Danko Lazović and Škuletić to score goals. While Zivkovic has been involved in most matches, it’s been mostly as a late substitute and he has faced stiff competition from Petar Grbić, Nikola Ninković and Predrag Luka to obtain any game time whatsoever.
Last season really was all about explosion, this year more correction and that’s probably a good thing. Živković is quick, alert and has unquestionable ability, but he hasn’t hit such heights as to consider himself the finished article just yet. If he’d continued scoring, he’d have probably been carted away already, but instead must face up to the challenge of regaining his place at Partizan.
He’s involved in the first team picture every week, is clearly appreciated by his coach and represents a significant part of the club’s future, but to ensure that he is able to kick on at the appropriate rate, he really needs to become indispensable over the next twelve months. Two footed, bright and busy, we think he just might just do that.
"Looks very able indeed and there's a little of Mario Götze occuring here. A temporary pause right now, but he's too good to keep out of the limelight for long. Will come again." - Jeff Livingstone
C- A large door is open, make 2015 count.
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