With five goals in the opening six rounds of Serie A, Lorenzo Insigne is currently enjoying his best start to a season ever. The talented Italian also added his first assist against Parma on Wednesday and has simply been unstoppable since Carlo Ancelotti decided to change the formation after the heavy 3-0 defeat against Sampdoria.
Although Carletto sometimes fields the same players that so often featured in the 4-3-3 that he inherited from Maurizio Sarri, the ex-Bayern Munich Coach has also added a few of his trademark tactical twists, which seem to be getting the best out of his players for the time being.
Jose Callejon has been given a bit more of a conservative role on the right, as the Spaniard played as a wide midfielder instead of just as an attacking winger. Adam Ounas and Fabian Ruiz have also featured on the right side of Napoli’s new four-man midfield in a role which clearly demands more responsibility than playing further forward.
While Callejon was instrumental in the 4-3-3, his main duties were related to creating chances at the opposition end and not think about defending or building up play too much. His run to the back post, however, had become predictable. The 31-year-old possesses a fine football brain and has been one of the senators in Naples for years, so Ancelotti’s decisions to ask more from the Real Madrid youth product seems completely logical.
The situation on the left has been similar, as Piotr Zielinski is Ancelotti’s first choice for filling in the role in front of Mario Rui. The Pole has quality in both his feet, which adds a pinch of unpredictability in Napoli’s gameplay. When the Partenopei have the ball, the 24-year-old often moves in a more central position and shoots from distance, but his strong left foot also allows him to stay wide and give width to the attack.
Having intelligent players like Zielinski and Callejon on the pitch is a huge advantage because of the flexibility they can provide, and it is obvious that Ancelotti is already noticing that. In certain episodes, Carletto has shifted back to a 4-3-3 without making any substitutions and, although some Napoli fans might dislike that comparison, this approach is similar to Max Allegri’s hybrid formations at Juventus.
Surprising opponents has been one of Juve’s biggest strengths under Allegri and if Napoli can change their tactics and the way they attack during a game, they’ll be one step closer to dethroning the Bianconeri.
Just like under Sarri, Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens have both been key cogs in Napoli’s attack, although the two of them have rarely featured together. The reason for this has been Lorenzo Insigne.
The Italian has always featured on the left wing of Napoli’s trident attack under Sarri, but Ancelotti’s decision to move him in a more central position already looks like a masterstroke. Although the 27-year-old has always been one of the team’s best performers, he has often been criticised for not being able to step up and drive the team forward in tough moments. Carletto must’ve felt that Insigne’s exceptional technical quality and vision remain limited when the Italian international spends the majority of the time out wide.
Seeing Insigne playing so well right next to Milik at the heart of Napoli’s attack has revived the memory of Calcio’s great fantasistas of the past. It might’ve been just for a few games, but seeing an Italian of this quality playing the role so well has undoubtedly given chills to many tifosi, who still remember the grace that the likes of Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti and even Antonio Cassano possesed.
It might be a bit premature to say, but if Insigne continues to perform the way he’s been doing it so far, Naples and Italymight find the top player that the country so sorely needs.
With Napoli and Insigne set to face Juventus this weekend, it already seems that Ancelotti’s mark on the Partenopei’s gameplay is visible, as for the first time in a while there is a bit of unpredictability in their tactics. The game will not only show if Ancelotti’s men are ready to launch a serious Scudetto challenge this term, but it can also reveal if Insigne can make the next step and become Italy’s next great fantasista.