Maurizio Sarri, a former banker born in the city of Naples, is single-handedly revolutionising Calcio and has turned Napoli into one of the most attractive football sides on the planet.
#SarriFootball, as it is affectionately referred to by fans on social media, is more than just a signal of admiration for Napoli’s easy-on-the-eye football, it is an appreciation of the tactical revolution which has reintroduced the real possibility of Naples becoming the epicentre of Serie A.
Napoli finished the 2016-17 season with a total of 86 points, a tally big enough to clinch the league in most other countries, however this stat alone does not do Sarri’s Napoli justice. Behind the puffs of cigarette smoke and tracksuits lies a remarkable tactical brain, one which has given a whole region hope lost since the days of Diego Maradona in the 1980s.
Pep Guardiola, the hipsters’ long-standing manager of choice, may well have been ousted by the Italian in bullish, unfaltering, typical Sarri style. It'll be fascinating to see them go head-to-head in the Champions League when Manchester City face the Partenopei.
Napoli is a team laden with talent, however such this alone does not develop the level of style and swagger Sarri’s side possesses. One of Napoli’s understated strengths is their symmetry and design. The term ‘methodical’ in the sporting circle would commonly be used to describe a process considered mundane, but Sarri’s Napoli explore an approach that encourages freedom, fluid movement and interchangeability. Common patterns and movements typify Sarri’s incredibly successful system, with overlaps and overloads down the left flank being a critical part of how Napoli play.
The excellent Faouzi Ghoulam’s balance with his opposite counterpart Elseid Hysaj allows him to break free infield, with Marek Hamsik overlapping him in wide positions. This symbiotic movement creates panic and confusion amongst the opposition defence, and this, coupled with the free rein talisman Lorenzo Insigne has to drift wherever he pleases, helps to create a chaotic attacking system comfortable within its tactical parameters.
However, to accuse Sarri’s football of being one-dimensional would be wrong, as last season’s emergence of Dries Mertens as one of the finest centre-forwards in European football disproves this notion. The diminutive Belgian’s relationship with Insigne is nothing short of mesmerising, and the individual quality of such players coupled with the excellent framework around them propels Napoli to an elite level.
Where Sarri differs from his now dethroned peer Guardiola is that his brand excels in its simplicity. The Spaniard is often critiqued for his teams lacking defensive performances and choppy team selection, all of which alters the balance of his sides, giving them a sometimes-unwanted unpredictability. Conversely, Napoli’s continuity and balance is testament to the way in which they are still so successful, even with a familiar tactical framework. There is no confusion or disorganisation in Sarri’s system: everybody has their role and it combines style and substance, making Neapolitans hopeful.
Critics may question the lack of silverware to show for Sarri’s reign at Napoli, however Serie A over the past few years has been like no other league. Juventus’ near freakish brilliance has hamstrung their competitors, but should the Old Lady endure a season of inconsistency, Napoli will be ready to pounce.
The sky is the limit for this current Napoli team. It is evidently close knit, and with them all united under the umbrella of #SarriFootball, it is not surprising to see why they are the hipsters’ preferred choice.