Sunday July 9 2017
Make room for Milik

Napoli start this season with a conundrum, as Tom Scholes wonders how to fit Arkadiusz Milik in at Napoli.

Around a year ago, we were talking about how Arkadiusz Milik would be able to adequately replace the outgoing Gonzalo Higuain up front for Napoli. The Polish international had been brought in from Ajax to be the new main man for Maurizio Sarri’s side and everyone wondered how he would fare. A year on, and we are still sat here talking about how Milik will fit into this Napoli side, but this time he’s got competition.

The incredible form of Dries Mertens as the main goal threat as well as Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon on the flanks means that Napoli has one of the deadliest attacks in world football, all without Arek Milik. It’s one of the toughest decisions Sarri will face this season, but one that few have the luxury of making.

As demonstrated last season, Napoli’s attacking play relied heavily on the fluidity of the front three, something that was done to perfection at times with Mertens down the middle.

Would Sarri sacrifice this for Milik? Perhaps, if he trusted his ability or had a change of plan during pre-season, but that would be quite unlikely given the success Napoli had with that style of play last season.

Despite the reservations Sarri may have on dropping one of the front three, it may be the only way to pair up Mertens and Milik together. For example, if he wanted to switch to a 3-4-3 formation, it may be the only way to fit the two in alongside either Insigne or Callejon. It would be a very good way to fit both Milik and Mertens into the side, but would also mean having to lose one of the attackers, something Napoli may not want to do.

We all know the talent Milik has, something he showed whilst starting at the beginning of last season before his cruciate ligament injury in September. No one is doubting that he is a top-quality player, but his role at the club may change into a rotational one and maybe starting in the Coppa Italia. This may seem like a poor role for someone of his ability, but with Napoli having to go through the Champions League preliminary round, he may find more opportunities early on in the campaign.

So, how does Milik fit into this Napoli starting XI whilst keeping Mertens at his creative best? By moving Mertens out to the wing and dropping another player, Milik could find his way back into the team, but it is very doubtful that Napoli will sacrifice something that made them so clinical throughout last season.

An option would be moving to 4-2-3-1, the system that revolutionised Juventus under Max Allegri this term. Mertens could therefore still have a central role and drop deeper to run at defenders, dialoguing with Milik, Insigne and Callejon. It might leave the midfield a little exposed, or at least force Marek Hamsik to spend less time bombing forward in search of that Diego Maradona goal-scoring record.

It will be tough, very tough, for Milik to walk back into the Napoli line-up. Can he do it? Well, he certainly has the ability, but it’s highly unlikely. Arek is a great option to have on the bench and as a back-up player should anything happen to Mertens, but given how well all three of Mertens, Insigne and Callejon did last season, Milik will likely have to make do with a place on the sidelines alongside Sarri.   

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Have your say...
@ a Varsavia
Don’t worry, Isigne’s place is 100% guaranteed, Sarri has made it clear, he has no intention of playing Mertens on the left, he’s got to fight Milik for the striker’s position, a Mertens Milik combination is a threat to his majesty.
on the 24th July, 2017 at 3:23am
So I checked: Insigne scored 1 (one) international goal for Italy. Against Liechtenstein (5:0).
On the other hand Lorenzo scored 20 goals in 49 appearrances for Napoli (18 in 37 serie A caps), not bad at all.
Ligue teams need local players, like Insigne in Napoli or Lahm/Mueller in FC Bayern
on the 20th July, 2017 at 3:40pm
Finally some honesty about the unjustifyed special treatment that brat Insigne has been getting for years now. Reading the comments one cannot help noticing how holly he is, every other playsr's place is challenged, but his. Always ready to sacrifice Mertens, or Milik, or Callejon, but never his Majesty il "Magnifico", even when he is embarrasingly bad. I don't know if it is general stupidity, or mass brain washing.
on the 18th July, 2017 at 2:16pm
Does Insigne play as Italy international?
on the 18th July, 2017 at 10:44am
Insigne is a lot weaker than the rest, and should be used as a substitute.
on the 17th July, 2017 at 10:14am
Insigne is a creator and brings others into the game with his vision and movement off the ball. Mertens is more of a poacher
on the 14th July, 2017 at 12:26pm
The promotion of mediocrity is a national sport in Italy for decades now, dozens of talented footballers have been sacrificed, or lost to Italy, to promote half players like Insigne instead.
We don't have winning leaders like Maradona, Zidane, Ronaldo, or Messi, so we think we can invent one mediatically, by giving him very special treatment, no matter how bad he is.
Mr “Me”, ask yourself a simple question; why has not one single big Club, Italian, or foreign, ever shown the slightest interest in buying your darling Totti of Napoli?
on the 14th July, 2017 at 1:24am

If you think Insigne is a problem, then you should watch a different sport. And don't call me a Napoli fan.

What are some of you watching? Their front 3 didn't penetrate Madrid? Did you watch the games?

Goodness, the inferiority complex in Italy seems to start to with the fans.
on the 13th July, 2017 at 1:27pm
Napoli's problem is the same for the last 3 years, all the comments prove it, no one questions the legimity of the Totti of Napoli, no matter how badly he plays or behaves, he is the only one guaranteed a place, to the detriment of the best.
No ome envisages an attacking line Mertens Callejon and Milik, why?
Insigne is a liabilty and should be kept on the bench, or sold, his presence only creates friction and negativity, not because your a native that everthing is owed to you.
on the 13th July, 2017 at 2:47am
Actually in some of those losses Gabbiadini started instead of mertens. One i particularly remember is their last game vs benfica when mertens came on and the game was won through his performance. Also the trio weren't awful against Madrid, maybe some height would have been useful but Insigne and Mertens scored and both were providing problems for Madrids defence. Even hit the post in the 2nd leg which could've made it 2-0.
on the 12th July, 2017 at 7:12pm
Anonymous- That Tridente in Europe did nothing to penetrate Madrid. Napoli's group stage performances were not very sharp either, with a loss and 2 draws, and in a group that wasn't very good overall. Scoring 11 goals in 6 games with what is being portrayed as a stellar attack, isn't saying much. If anyone is to be dropped it would be Callejon, and move Mertens out right, with Milik in the middle and Insigne out left.
on the 12th July, 2017 at 4:49pm
Aus-Napoli - No...they need Milik in Europe. They tried the Insigne, Mertens, Callejon attack in Europe and they got next to nothing out of it.
on the 12th July, 2017 at 4:41pm
Like I say to everyone else. I am half Napolitano. I wear the Half blood badge with pride. Besides, If you call it racist, you are part of the problem since Napoli is technically a part of Italy. Calling them a villager is the equivalent of Americans calling middle Americans "hicks". If anything its classism
on the 12th July, 2017 at 4:07pm
No international wants to spend time on a bench during pre-World Cup season.
on the 12th July, 2017 at 9:35am
@ Hate Fakers - less of your anti Neapolitan racism here - it's uncalled for!
on the 11th July, 2017 at 1:25pm
Milik and Mertens play very different styles of football and i think Sarri will use Milik more domestically as he is a little more direct and more of an out and out striker so he can punish the small teams and Mertens more in europe as he adds more to the build up play which we will need against the big teams who will dominate us in the midfield.
on the 11th July, 2017 at 12:15pm
Also. Sarri has proven time and time again that he doesn't know how to rotate. He is a good coach for a provincial side like Napoli though.
on the 11th July, 2017 at 9:50am
Anyone that thinks Napoli will win the scudetto with Albiol and Reina is on heavy medication
on the 11th July, 2017 at 9:48am
I love how the villagers don't consider for a second that despite his goals at the beginning of the season, he could still end up being a flop. That is my prediction at least. Start Mertens and implement him slowly to avoid further injury. Mertens is gone in 2 years tops

Although after the villagers made a banner making fun of Strootmans ACL tears, it would be deserved karma if he injured his knee again.
on the 11th July, 2017 at 9:43am
Btw some of the comments here are painful. If you believe that, due to age, Milik should be counted on...well, then ok. But then sell Mertens and Callejon and make some money. Certainly sell Mertens. But Milik isn't in his class.

Napoli are 3rd place and lost 6-2 because their attack isn't good enough? It wasn't their defense, goalkeeper, and random rotation in the center of the park? Oh, that makes sense.

Btw, switching formation does what to their captain? Peeps gotta think.
on the 11th July, 2017 at 5:04am
Again, people talking about Juventus and their move to 4-2-3-1, when they clearly moved to an old-school 4-4-2. Are you telling me Dybala was dropping into the midfield? I hope not, because you'd be saying something that is wrong. Mandzukic can play LM, but he can't play LW. Please.

Mertens dropping into a Being central for him means being free to run along the front. It doesn't mean become a #10. Suggesting 3-4-3 with him LW and Insigne #10 comes closer to making sense than that.
on the 11th July, 2017 at 4:59am
There have been no rumours of Milik wanting to leave, and I'm sure he will get chances to prove himself when Mertens is tired or other players are rotated. Milik will have his chances to shine and when he does then the tables will turn in his favour. But as for now Napoli play great football with mertens up top so thats the formation I'm predicting for the CL playoffs
on the 10th July, 2017 at 10:16pm
But thats not the reality right now, Mertens qualities have been shown and the idea of benching him seems anything but counter productive. Besides I find it hard to imagine Milik being as influential as mertens, maybe in terms of goals (he has the ability of being good in the air too which would have helped) but in terms of assists and the slick one touch and at times telepathic play between the front 3. Insigne-Mertens-Callejon playing football was simply beautiful
on the 10th July, 2017 at 10:13pm
Belle Rossi.

Have you seen the Napoli players stats? They're right up there with the very best of them, even though their names don't grab the attention, their play and productivity earn them that right.
on the 10th July, 2017 at 6:33pm
Narrative is because Arek Milik (23) on the bench may be willing to leave Napoli, let's look at James Rodriguez in Madrit, etc.
on the 10th July, 2017 at 5:00pm
Anonymous - What Mertens did in one season at Napoli isn't being lost on me, but what would have Milik done if he was healthy all of last year? Mertens would have been an after thought sub, and Milik would have been the one fighting for Capocannoniere.
on the 10th July, 2017 at 5:00pm
As long as no other club wants to buy His highness,il magnifico,the untouchable, Saint Lorenzo Insigne, Napoli will never win anything.
The Camorra wants him on the pich every game, so ADL and Sarri just oblige, and shut up. The stablishment's media also do the same, because they know napoli with him is no match to Saint Juve, that is why they alays lobby for him.
This is the sad story of Napoli since Mazzari left.
on the 10th July, 2017 at 3:15pm
Surely the issue is more Hamsik than Mertens when it comes to introducing Milik? Mertens would be fine behind or in front of Milik but it's moving Hamsik deeper which cannot happen. Napoli have a world class midfielder and he cannot be limited going forward. Top teams don't always have a top top keeper, look at Madrid with Navas so if they can get another top CB Reina should be fine.
on the 10th July, 2017 at 2:48pm
Mertens does not need to repeat the same form to be considered a starter, he's shown he is world class in strike and showed glimpses of it on the wing. Why is there this sudden narrative that he'll lose his place, when Insigne played poorly during the first half of the season sarri continued to have faith in him. Lets not pretend as if dries wasn't Napoli's best player because without him they probably wouldn't have reached CL playoffs
on the 10th July, 2017 at 1:56pm
Christain Vieri's predictions on Serie A 17-18 had little to say on Napoli but I agree with what he said.

Napoli lack a ruthlessness to see games out and not concede goals to lesser talents. Secondly they need to improve defensively, not sure if Mario Rui is better uprgade to Strinic and can spell Gouhlam. Maksomovic and Tonelli so far disappointments. Napoli can challenge Juve and win scudetto but it has to happen with improvents on defense and attitude
on the 10th July, 2017 at 12:34pm

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