Wednesday October 25 2017
Napoli must learn to rotate

With a few key additions in January and an increased willingness to rotate, Napoli could overcome their depth problems, writes Chloe Beresford.

Napoli are top of the table, having dropped points only in the head-to-head with second-placed Inter, but as the season wears on, will the lack of strength in depth prove costly?

It may have been a 2-1 defeat for Napoli at the Etihad last week, but the Partenopei gave a good account of themselves against an excellent Manchester City side nonetheless. Maurizio Sarri had strayed away from his regular XI, selecting Amadou Diawara and Piotr Zielinski instead of the usual midfield duo of Jorginho and Allan.

Even talented tactician Pep Guardiola admitted the Neapolitans were among the best sides he has ever faced as a Coach, and it is testament to their strength in midfield that they were able to put in that kind of performance.

However, for a boss who is so set on continuity with his team selections, the rotation was a clear statement of intent to prioritise Serie A over the group stages of the Champions League.

After having missed out on winning the title for the past two years running, a more determined and tenacious Napoli side have blown all the opposition away, becoming the only side in Europe’s top leagues to have won all eight opening matches.

Yet a question mark remains. Whilst unstoppable domestically with their usual line-up, their strength in depth leaves a lot to be desired. With Arkadiusz Milik out injured with a torn ACL for the second season in a row, it is once again down to Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon to single-handedly lead the front line.

Without any one of those three, their attack looks decidedly blunt and the side most certainly would lose a great deal of attacking prowess. The Champions League escapades in Manchester proved that the midfield is certainly stronger in terms of depth, and so too is the defence.

Christian Maggio, Nikola Maksimovic, Vlad Chiriches, Mario Rui plus Lorenzo Tonelli provide more than adequate back-up to the usual Partenopei back line of Elseid Hysaj, Raul Albiol, Kalidou Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam, but perfectionist Sarri is hesitant to rotate.

Of course, his precise passing system relies on regularity, but if fatigue sets in during the latter stages of the season – a time when Juventus have been strongest in recent years and with Inter free of European commitments –  the Coach may well find himself pondering what could have been yet again.

There is obviously the January transfer window to consider here, but any new acquisitions take time to be integrated into the system, if Sarri decides to play them at all. Whilst these factors could lead to his undoing, rectifying these problems could see them become champions of Italy for the first time since 1989-90.

For the midweek trip to Genoa, there was no rest for the attacking trio or Koulibaly, as Adam Ounas, Emanuele Giaccherini and Marko Rog barely get a run-out. How long can Mertens keep being decisive and what fixture will finally see Sarri rest any one of his trident?

Sassuolo in crisis visit the Stadio San Paolo this weekend, so if Napoli don’t rest any of their star names in that fixture, they probably never will.

Have your say...
How gullible are you guys? Take off those Serie A blinders for a second and realize Pep doesn't actually think Napoli are the best side he's faced.

Does Montella really think AEK Athens are a "tough opponent"? Did Ventura really think Montenegro were a "real test"? All coaches talk up their opponent. It keeps the fans happy and presents them in the best light possible.

Good luck to Napoli in Serie A. Respectfully, they never stood a chance in CL.
on the 3rd November, 2017 at 1:41pm
sarri,conte,simeone,pochetino etc. But then again, is it because thats how they perceive it or because their teams are not that huge? Taking the examples of messi,ronaldo,neymar its quite daft in my opinion. Of course you cant keep the best players in the world in the bench, when they are breaking any record that there is. It'd be foolish for any coach to allow that and also for marketing purposes it'd be unacceptable. Zidane did benched ronaldo a lot last year though.
on the 28th October, 2017 at 2:15pm
Maldini's Heir.I dont know if those stats you mentioned came out of the magic hat, but I did watched quite a few games in la liga last year and this year. Zidane loves rotating and so does Barcelona. The only team that does not rotate a lot is Simeone's Atletiko but you'd expect that cuz his team in thin. It all depends on the coaches really. Guardiola loves rotating and he has done that in spain, germany and england. Apparently Zidane does too but some coaches dont..such as the case of Sarri...
on the 28th October, 2017 at 2:11pm
@ Rusdi The reason Spanish teams (and Napoli) can play like that is because they are so well drilled. It comes from playing together week in/week out. And it's not just footballers. In other sports such as basketball and even rugby there is not as much rotation. If rugby players can get knocked around each week and play on then footballers can play 3 games a week.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 10:55pm
They're lucky Koulibaly is strong like an ox. If that man goes down to injury, kiss that back line good bye. He's their rock.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 8:57pm
What? This is just weird. Is Chloe Beresford or Maurizio Sarri the coach of Napoli?
on the 26th October, 2017 at 8:39pm
Rotating players is a myth. All the top players play week unawake out. You play with fire if you change your team for the sake of it. You think guys in their prime can't handle 2 90 minute games of football a week?

Sarai knows what he's doing.

When do Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar ever get rotated? Ever seen them drop their level?

In saying that, I do agree that Rog needs to play. This guy is going to be some player, so not playing him is a sure sign he will not be there too long.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 6:12pm
Right now they can get away with it due to the lesser amount of games in the winter side of the season. Luckily they're main stars will get a rest over the Christmas period. The only issue I see is if they sustain an injury to 1 of their trident, Hamsik, Koulibaly or Ghoulam. Milik's injury has caused much of this argument as he can cover them in attack. They can always sacrifice the Coppa and I even think they will sacrifice UCL if needed, Scudetto has to be everything for Napoli this season.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 4:27pm
Napoli's squad is a bit thin. If any of the main players sustain a serious injury then it could hinder their scudetto challenge in a serious way.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 12:46pm
@ Maldini's Heir

Interesting thought. It's true Spanish teams has been successful in Europe. But I believe it's not because solely their anti rotation policy. For me, the main reason is the way they care so much for possession, domination and playing attack minded football. After many years hold tight their philosophy, Spanish teams have been expert in run less than their opponents. This allows players such as Messi and Ronaldo who are considered as super fit footballers to play 55 games/year.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 12:37pm
To be honest having a settled team seems to be napoli biggest advantage although i do admit some rotation is needed. The likes of giaccherini, tonelli, leandrinho, rui, sepe, rafeal and onuas combined played barely over a 100 minutes between them. In addition depending on mertens to get all the goals is crazy they need another alternative especially if they are to win the tittle. Some one like plea or sisto would be excellent or just get a loan return for the likes of zapata or inglese
on the 26th October, 2017 at 11:42am
Was at the San Siro Tuesday night and as entertaining as the game was I'm not convinced Inter will be able to keep up with Napoli and Juve.They don't have a strong squad and if Icardi get's injured they will suffer as Chelsea suffer without Moratta.Napoli are the only real rivals to Juve.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 8:42am
Get behind your team and, more importantly, the players who play for your team. Why does anyone support a football team (other than through birth)? It's the players. As a Milan fan I was spoilt for nearly 30 years as the likes of Baresi, Maldini and Ambrosini became synonymous with my team and no other. It was what made it unique, special and most importantly of all - successful. Forza Napoli.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 1:32am
football should be livid. Napoli are an inspiration. If they can pull off the Scudetto then maybe they can restore order to the Serie A galaxy. I have no hesitation in supporting them. It's not like the 'revolution' at Milan will be delivering the title (or possibly Champions League qualification) this season. And fans and anyone who cares about Italian football needs to get on board with this. Stop demanding "world class" players. Stop turning the transfer market into some kind of gossip column
on the 26th October, 2017 at 1:28am
If I was a conspiracy theorist (which means I probably am) I would say large squad sizes are simply to justify the ludicrously profitable transfer market. And nowhere is the transfer market more ludicrously profitable (for agents) and ludicrously unrelated to football than in Serie A; the summer of 2017 brought 733 departures (33 per club) and 686 departures (34 per club) compared with 'just' 294 arrivals and 288 departures in La Liga. It's an absolute travesty and any supporters of Italian
on the 26th October, 2017 at 1:24am
rotation. The Spanish league generally have smaller squads. They're allowed a max of 25) and must wear 1-25 (which is a nice touch). The Spanish league has also been the most successful league in Europe bar none with 6 from the last 10 Champions League winners (including 2 all Spanish finals) and 5/10 Europa League winners. Added to that we have the success of the national side. The Spanish league produces better football, better footballers and generally rocks. Rotation is a total myth.
on the 26th October, 2017 at 1:16am
Love it. Love the lack of rotation. This is how you get the best out of players and teams. As I mentioned on here previously Messi one season played the full 90 mins in 55/60 games. Overall he's played over 500 games in 13 years averaging 38 games per season and hit over 50 in 6 of those seasons. Ronaldo has similar stats; over 400 appearances in 8 full seasons at Real. This is the reason these guys have gone stratospheric. As have their teams where other players have benefitted from a lack of
on the 26th October, 2017 at 1:10am

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