It wouldn’t be harsh to say that Carlo Ancelotti’s reign at the helm of Napoli ended in a disastrous way. Carletto might be one of the most decorated coaches in the history of the game, but his soft approach proved to be highly ineffective for the rough reality of the south.
Ancelotti’s refusal to pick a side during the row between the club and players played its part in the complete collapse that followed and, by appointing Gattuso, it really seems Aurelio De Laurentis was well aware that he needed a strong character who could pick up the pieces.
In order to do that, ‘Ringhio Starr’ – like De Laurentiis called him – needs to earn the players’ respect and reestablish the common rules in the dressing room that were lost under Ancelotti. Doing that between a team full of characters as strong as his own and a President who would do anything to make his word final clearly won’t be easy for the new man at the helm.
However, Gattuso has already proved that he has what it takes to work in a similar environment, given he led Milan to consecutive top-six finishes and two cup Finals, while in the middle of an ownership crisis.
His experience on the Rossoneri bench might come handy in another challenge that he now faces at Napoli. In the following months, Gattuso will have to find which players are dedicated to the Napoli cause and worth keeping, as well as help De Laurentis weed out those who think they are bigger than the club.
While Gattuso cannot be compared to his predecessor tactically, Ancelotti’s choices of formations and personnel often left a lot to be desired, so an improvement can be done there too.
Ancelotti’s insistence on playing a 4-4-2 proved to be highly ineffective as, most of the time, one of Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski had to play as a left midfielder. While both players have the technical skills and ability to deputise occasionally, fielding one of them out wide week in, week out simply didn’t work.
Napoli mainly played with only two central midfielders and, during most games, the increasingly-undisciplined Allan was sat alongside the defensively-ineffective Fabian. This often left huge spaces in the middle of the pitch and resulted in many avoidable goals.
It will be interesting to see how and if Gattuso will be able to solve this problem as his unspectacular-but-solid 4-3-3 generally worked very well for him at San Siro. At one point, Tiemoue Bakayoko was considered to be among the best midfielders in Serie A and Gattuso should take huge credit for that
Considering Rino’s familiarity with 4-3-3, it was no surprise to see the Milan hero using the same formation on his Napoli debut against Parma. Although the Partenopei lost after another pair of inexplicable individual errors at the back, there were some positive signs. Indeed, it was clear that the players knew the formation well and - with some work - can rediscover their balance as a team.
Challenging for the Scudetto is clearly now out of the question so, just like at Milan, a top-four finish remains the objective for Gattuso. Considering that Napoli are currently 11 points behind Roma, that seems difficult to achieve, but they are obligated to try.
The coach and players are comfortable with the same formation, which should prove to be enough for the Partenopei to climb the Serie A table significantly. At the same time, Gattuso’s character should fit just fine in the tense atmosphere at the San Paolo and this should help him resolve some issues that were neglected under Ancelotti.
Overall, it can be concluded that Rino’s limited tactical repertoire and lack of managerial experience on the biggest stage mean his odds of succeeding in Naples in the long term are not very good.
However, his bravery, passion and ability to get the best out of his players, make him a very good solution for Napoli short term, given the situation isn’t that bad.