Milan and Napoli face off for the second time in a week today, the only difference being that this contest between the two clubs is in the Coppa Italia. The 0-0 draw in Serie A had opportunities, but neither side was able to execute in the final third.
When you think about the strongest attacking cores in Serie A, Napoli always comes up in in the conversation. Home to the likes of Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, and Arkadiusz Milik, you wouldn’t think Carlo Ancelotti would have trouble getting goals out of his men, but that seems to be the case for some of his attacking options.
When we saw Ancelotti had chosen to start Insigne, Mertens, Milik and Jose Callejon together, plus Piotr Zielinski in midfield and the more attack-minded Kevin Malcuit at full-back, the assumption was they’d overwhelm the Rossoneri defence. Instead, they seemed crowded and confused, with massive gaps opening up between the lines as forwards tried to occupy the same cramped spaces. It seems three tenors is the perfect fit, but four is overdoing it.
Insigne was the most visibly struggling Napoli man and he seemed like a shadow of the player we saw at the beginning of the season. Throughout the match, Insigne was unable to capitalise on any of the chances he was given. Whether it was delivering the final pass or shot, things just weren’t happening for Lorenzo ‘Il Magnifico’.
Insigne finds himself in the midst of a scoring drought that stretches back to the beginning of November 2018, and his struggles have impacted the overall play of his side. Returning him to a wider role in a 4-3-3, or even a 4-4-2 against Milan, made him even less effective, not in good enough shape to handle the added defensive duties and work-rate.
There is, however, a bright light in the Napoli attack that has shown itself recently. Arkadiusz Milik has enjoyed a much-needed scoring run as of late, one that ground to a halt against Milan. The Poland international is a striker that is at his best when those around him are on form.
When playing with Mertens up top, he often relies on his Belgian teammate to act as the connection between the midfield and frontline. Although we’ve seen improvement in his link up play, Milik still isn’t the greatest when it comes to being a node between himself and those servicing him.
Napoli’s struggle in the final third was a clear case of choosing quantity over quality. By going with more strikers within a single match, you try to involve too many play styles and it doesn’t allow for any sort of consistency up front. It also leaves the team terribly unbalanced and, as we saw against Milan, open to devastating counter-attacks.
Going forward, choosing to focus on quality over quantity can rejuvenate Napoli’s attack.