Wednesday October 11 2017
Roma-Napoli a tactical feast

Roma and Napoli both play 4-3-3, but a more detailed look shows that they have completely different styles, writes Vilizar Yakimov.

Two passionate crowds, two Scudetto rivals, two talented squads with two 4-3-3 formations. Roma and Napoli have so many things in common and when you add to all that their shared rivalry towards Juventus, the two teams seem almost identical.

The Giallorossi and the Partenopei will be locking horns against each other on Saturday in a clash between the only two teams that managed to launch a decent title challenge in recent years. But despite all similarities on the surface, are Maurizio Sarri and Eusebio Di Francesco’s sides really so alike?

That’s definitely not the case when it comes to their gameplay, as both tacticians interpret their favorite 4-3-3 formation in a completely different manner. It takes just one look at their starting XIs to spot the first major difference, which is the centre-forward position.

Edin Dzeko and Dries Mertens are their top goalscorers and finished first and second respectively in the Capocannoniere race last season with just one goal separating them. However, they are complete opposites.

Dzeko is a slow, powerful, classic Number 9, whose main strengths are his physicality, positional awareness and aerial prowess. Therefore the Bosnian is a constant, static presence in the box, who mainly counts on his finishing ability and is much more dependent on the service provided by his teammates than Mertens. This means that Roma’s wingers and full-backs are encouraged to put the ball into the box more often compared to Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon,who are usually cutting inside or making runs behind the opposition’s back-line.

On the other hand,Mertens is almost everything that Dzeko isn’t - the Belgian is quick, agile, extremely technically gifted and creative, so he is much more capable than the Bosnian when it comes to unlocking tight defenses on his own. Mertens loves to drop deep and use his incredible vision and technique to either dribble past opponents, look for a through ball or shoot from distance. Considering that the 30-year-old is more of a False 9 than a classic centre-forward, the 28 Serie A goals that he scored last year prove just what an incredible player he is.

Another significant difference between the two formations is the right wing position. While Mohamed Salah was more of a classic winger for Roma last term, his replacement Gregoire Defrel is trying to play the role in a different way and has struggled to adjust to Roma’s style. It’s true that Defrel was playing under Di Francesco for Sassuolo for two seasons, but he was mainly used as a centre-forward and is having a hard time matching Salah’s creativity and understanding with Dzeko since his move to the Capital.

The Frenchman is a decent dribbler, who likes to cut in from the right and look for shooting opportunities with his preferred left foot. However, his crossing is below par and Dzeko’s static game style often leaves the former Sassuolo man without much space to operate in, which makes him predictable and easy to anticipate.

It’s no surprise that Sarri’s preferred option for Napoli’s right wing has always been Callejon. The Spaniard is an intelligent player, a deadly finisher with good technique, whose greatest strength is his off the ball movement. This makes the former Real Madrid man an extremely efficient weapon and a crucial part of one of the Partenopei’s trademark attacking moves, which sees him finishing off a chipped ball by Insigne behind the opposition’s defence at the back post.

Last but not least, Sarri and Di Francesco use the deep-lying playmaker role in a completely different way. Daniele De Rossi and Jorginho are usually their first choices and while the Roma man is a tough-tackling player who loves to play long balls towards Dzeko, Jorginho is an elegant midfielder who prefers short passing and quick ball distribution.

The clash at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday is a must-watch not only for every Serie A follower, but also for every fan who enjoys the tactical side of the sport. Roma-Napoli promises to be one of the games of the season and also demonstrate how two equally talented sides play the same 4-3-3 formation in a completely different manner.

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Have your say...
Roma will be playing Florenzi at RW & Defrel will never be an RW replacement. Schick is actually more suitable there, cutting in with his left foot and it's we bought him for that exact spot.

Defrel is a back-up for Dzeko, it's why we bought him. Peres is at RB with Karsdrop but he's injured atm.

Allison is the best goalkeeper in Serie A so far this season by miles.

Dzeko also drops back to help his us & we now also have the fluent Pellegrini back at Roma. Just watch him tomorrow, you'll see!
on the 13th October, 2017 at 12:14pm
Due to the injuries Roma have suffered it remains to be seen who will play right wing regularly, if a single player does tie down the position (EdF has already shown a keenness to rotate).
We have seen Defrel, Schick, Under, Florenzi & Perotti play there so far.
on the 11th October, 2017 at 11:05pm
I found you analysis of Dzeko to be off; he regularly drops deep to build up play and lays well weighted passes and knocks to his teammates and frankly he isn't much of an aerial presence. Also his finishing is not a point I'd pick as a positive, his shots to goals ratio is not great.
on the 11th October, 2017 at 11:04pm
Hopefully no violence outside the stadia. Bunch of animals.
on the 11th October, 2017 at 4:15pm
This post should had been called:

“Areas where Napoli are better than Roma.”

In not 1 of your points (clearly cherrypicked) did you give any props to Roma:

Dzeko v Mertens, Defrel (not Salah’s replacement) v Cajjejon and DDR v Jorginho

I can do that too:

Nainggolan v Hamsik (form), Manolas-Fazio v Koulibaly-Arbeloa (stats) and Alisson v Reina (everything)

Football-Italia always kicking down Roma and hyping up Napoli.

It’s all good though. Roma iwill do their talk on the pitch.
on the 11th October, 2017 at 1:44pm
Good analysis. However, I wouldn't really call Dzeko a "static presence in the box". Sure, he is big and strong and a classic 9 in many ways. But he often drops down and participates in the link-ups where Romas wingers and central midfielders (usually Nainggolan) rush forward, leaving Dzeko behind. Compare Icardi and Dzeko and you'll see the former being more static in the box than Dzeko is. Imho anyways.
on the 11th October, 2017 at 1:09pm
Well analysed, but I hope and pray that my team napoli comes out the better side after 90 minutes
on the 11th October, 2017 at 9:22am
Napoli to win 3-1 and at least one player being sent off for Roma!
on the 11th October, 2017 at 8:14am
Good tacitical analysis.
on the 11th October, 2017 at 6:45am
This is going to be a fun match to watch for neutral spectators like me. But, I can see Napoli will struggle to play like they used to against 3 under rated midfielders of Roma: Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman, and Daniele De Rossi.
on the 11th October, 2017 at 6:16am

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