G2 Esports Officially Signs NiKo
G2 Esports has officially revealed the signing of NiKo to its Counter-Strike team.
G2 Esports has just announced the acquisition of Nikola "NiKo" Kovač from FaZe Clan. While François "AMANEK" Delaunay was initially supposed to make way for the Bosnian superstar, it appears as though he may be staying as a sixth player.
A challenging year
The move comes following a weird year for both teams, as G2 looked really strong coming into 2020. Like many, G2 was a victim of online CS, as the squad had really deep runs on LAN at cs_summit 5, Champions Cup Finals, BLAST Premier: Spring 2020, and IEM Katowice 2020. The move to online play due to the Covid-19 pandemic really hindered G2, but the team still managed good runs at ESL One: Road to Rio and DreamHack Masters Spring 2020, landing G2 at the #1 spot on HLTV's world ranking in June. The later portion of 2020, however, hasn't been great for the majority-French side. FaZe Clan has also had a bizarre year, and while the international lineup was able to win the recent IEM New York Online, the team's performances have been very up and down due to a fluctuating roster and role issues.
A needed boost
While G2 has yet to comment on who NiKo will be replacing, it seems as though AMANEK is the most likely candidate. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, he became the weak link in G2. Though, while he may not be in the same form as he was in Misfits, AMANEK still averaged a respectable 1.00 rating in 2020, so it's not as if he'd entirely fallen behind. Sadly for the AMANEK, NiKo is easily a top 5 (if not top 3) player in the world, so it's hard to make a case for keeping him when the Bosnian prodigy is available. There will certainly be many role changes within the squad, as AMANEK played many unfavorable or supportive positions, but G2 will undoubtedly gain a lot of firepower from NiKo's addition. Furthermore, NiKo will likely be taking over the secondary AWPing and secondary calling duties that were previously held by AMANEK. At the end of the day, every team has a bottom-fragger. The issue tends to come when one player becomes the "dedicated" bottom-fragger, as was the case with AMANEK. With NiKo now on the roster, chances are that Audric "JACKZ" Jug, due to the nature of his playstyle, will be taking over that spot. In essence, however, there's nothing wrong with a player having worse stats as long as the team is winning its matches.
Let's go bowling
NiKo's addition to G2 marks the first time he and his cousin Nemanja "huNter-" Kovač have actually played together. While huNter- was often dubbed as "NiKo's cousin" for the past few years, the Bosnian rifler really came into his own in CR4ZY and G2, proving that he wouldn't always live in his cousin's shadow. In fact, NiKo mentioned huNter- as a player to watch during his HLTV Top 20 appearances in 2017 and 2018, so it could be assumed that this unification was a long time in the making. While it leaves to be seen what the chemistry will actually be like between the two, the Bosnians cousins are exceptionally gifted world-class players that will serve as G2's main source of fragging power.
End of an era
G2 Esports has housed many Counter-Strike rosters over the years, but the Berlin-based organization is more widely-remembered for its various French teams. G2 entered the French scene in 2016 as it picked up the ex-Titan roster, which housed the likes of Richard "shox" Papillon and Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom. The organization also notably built the French superteam of 2017, the first time to unite shox and Kenny "kennyS" Schrub under the same tag. 2019 spelled the beginning of the end for G2's French core, as the organization signed huNter- and Nemanja "nexa" Isaković in September. While the roster retained its French essence with kennyS, JACKZ, and AMANEK, the team would transition to communicating in English in order to accommodate the new Bosnian and Serbian.
G2 Esports is a global organization with global ambitions, and most of its other rosters, such as its League of Legends, Rainbow Six: Siege, and VALORANT teams, are all international. While Counter-Strike historically shied away from multinational lineups, things have begun to change in recent years. In fact, G2 housed the original international European lineup that eventually became FaZe Clan. It's honestly surprising and even impressive that G2 retained French teams for so many years, but once the team began communicating in English, it was clear that the organization had no intention of going back to full-French rosters. With the French players losing the majority within the team, anyone on the roster is susceptible to replacement; with a French-speaking team, the pool of players you can pick and choose from is much more limited than in an English-speaking roster.
While a name like kennyS is obviously iconic and virtually synonymous with Counter-Strike, all legends eventually come to an end. Kenny has shown the world what he can do time and time again, as arguably one of the best snipers ever to touch the CS franchise. He has an incredibly high ceiling, but also a very low floor. He is an incredibly emotional player who usually plays at his best against AWPers he is familiar with. While it feels unthinkable that someone like kennyS could ever be on the chopping block, the same would've been said for Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács just a few years ago. Realistically, JACKZ's place on the roster is also at risk, as he is also a player who, yes, has a very high skill ceiling, but struggles with consistency. Being no longer tied to the French scene, G2 has the world to choose from if it wants to find replacements for any of its players.
Will NiKo's addition to G2 solve the team's problems? Well, yes and no. It became apparent that AMANEK was falling a little behind compared to his teammates, and though he was playing more supportive roles, G2 needed more firepower. NiKo certainly brings that, as a player who can achieve the unthinkable on a daily basis.
However, one can't help but wonder what would've happened if G2 left the roster untouched and waited for LANs to return, as those are realistically the only tournaments with any weight. Understandably, it's impossible to predict when that time may be, and if NiKo becomes available, it's an opportunity you can't really pass up on. It feels like a fifthy-fifthy situation. The chemistry and roles within the team could be in disarray; Kenny might perform poorly, JACKZ could be unable to adapt to new roles, nexa's fragging may suffer as he builds the team around NiKo, etc. At the same time, with a coach like Damien "maLeK" Marcel at the helm, it's very possible that everything is kept in check, that no conflicts arise and that everyone can consistently bring their A-game.
The good news for G2 is that it secured the services of a world-class player, but the bad news is that it might need to make roster changes sooner rather than later. Still, in an ideal world, NiKo's addition was purely a firepower upgrade, and G2's new roster can take the world by storm.