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Sunday January 5 2020
Re-Gennaration of Napoli

Gennaro Gattuso must build the new Napoli around their latest talent and usher out those whose time has come to an end, argues Elio Salerno.

Following his recent appointment as Napoli coach, Gennaro Gattuso will perhaps see the New Year and now open January transfer window as the ideal opportunity to refine his squad. A stuttering domestic campaign has thus far left the Partenopei down in eighth position and reviving their league form will be top of Rino’s agenda.

The expectation coming into this season under the guidance of former boss Carlo Ancelotti was that this could finally be Napoli’s time to claim the elusive Scudetto they have been chasing since Diego Armando Maradona’s day. However, following a string of poor results and off the field disagreements with President Aurelio De Laurentiis, 2019 ended on a sour note, rounding off a decade of not quite being good enough.

Cementing their status as the peninsula’s second team, they won two Coppa Italia titles and a Suppercoppa Italiana, along with recognition from across Europe for their brand of fluid and exciting attacking football. Last summer’s acquisitions improved the quality of the squad, adding weight to the argument that Napoli could topple Juventus at the top. Yet whilst the likes of Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Kostas Manolas and star signing Hirving Lozano have not been failures, their performances have been inconsistent.

Having regularly used 4-4-2 under Ancelotti, Gattuso has the players at his disposal to make his preferred 4-3-3 succeed, but he will want to make subtle changes in order to put his stamp on this Napoli team. Major sales are not expected at this moment, further major disruption is the last thing the club need and Gattuso will look to the squad’s big hitters in order to help push them up the table.  

The former Milan tactician will have highlighted two, potentially three key areas that need addressing in his starting XI. The majority of the back four should pick itself, but it is fundamental that Manolas improves and creates a formidable partnership with Kalidou Koulibaly.

Left-back is the area of the defence that could do with a refresh. Mario Rui is currently occupying that spot in less than inspirational fashion and with Faouzi Ghoulam likely be shown the door, a new dynamic full-back would be a positive move. Out of favour Milan player Ricardo Rodriguez is an obtainable option and a player Gattuso has worked with previously, but Sampdoria’s Nicola Murru would provide an interesting alternative should he be available.

Since midfield metronome Jorginho left in 2018, Napoli have found him tough to replace. Spanish talent Fabio Ruiz is more than capable of playing that pivot role, but restricting him in a deeper position takes away from his game as an influential box-to-box midfield technician. Napoli have been linked with 25-year-old Stanislav Lobotka, a player that is much better suited to being Gattuso’s midfield controller. Excellent in possession, the Slovak is a player capable of dictating the tempo of a game, crucially providing the balance that Napoli require in this area.

Signing a player in the mould of Lobotka would provide Gattuso with variety and flexibility. Fabian Ruiz and Allan would be the obvious choices to flank the Celta Vigo man, but Polish international Piotr Zielinski is also a strong candidate here. With Zielinski also able to play in a more advanced role, this starts to open up options for Gennarino.

Napoli are still a team that have the majority of the possession on a weekly basis, but are only the ninth top scorers in Serie A, despite averaging a league high of 20 shots per game. Arkadiusz Milik is the centre of the attack, but his supporting cast is flexible. Jose Callejon and Dries Mertens have been great servants and fantastic players for Napoli, but there is an argument to be had that their time is done and ushering in the Lozano era is paramount if the club are to maintain their standards of years gone by.

Captain and hometown boy Lorenzo Insigne is another that divides opinion, but remains the Napoli player with the most decisive attacking output, contributing three goals and four assists so far. However, with Napoli reportedly on the hunt for winger, Insigne could be another that is deemed disposable.

Linked with Inter’s Matteo Politano and Yannick Carrasco, it would appear that Gattuso wants to add speed to his front three. An attack comprised of Milik, Lozano and potentially Politano or Carrasco would be hard working, direct and dangerous. Providing further dynamism to his line-up and complimenting the quality coming from midfield, it would be a team capable of creating and scoring goals, but with added physicality.

Napoli’s struggles are not due to a lack of quality, but they need to be taken in a new direction. Sticking by a few players that aided Napoli’s growth is admirable, but it can have an adverse effect when they are no longer hitting the same heights. Gennaro Gattuso needs to be ruthless, he has no ties to this group and could be the ideal man to make those tough decisions. 

Have your say...
@William Gagnon absolutely right, these people incessantly try to pervert reality to suite their fantasies , with the view to promote their hero Insigne, a 3rd rate player lacking quality in so many departments. For them Mertens has always been a big threat, that’s why they always lobby heavily to sacrifice him for the sake of the “he Totti of Napoli, il Magnifico , bla bla bla”. Not because you’re from Naples everything is due to you. Insigne has been the cause for Napoli not winning anything, since he joined 8 years ago.
on the 14th January, 2020 at 10:40am
Thanks, William Gagnon. Amost all presstutiutes, and fervent Insigne lobbyists are shamelessly at it, they will find any stupid excuse to try to exclude Mertens whom they see as the biggest threat to “His Majesty the untouchable Lorenzo Il Magnifico”, who just can never, ever be a great player, simply because he t hasn't got it, you can lobby as much as you want, he is just a 3rd rate footballer, just accept reality, and shut it forever, will you people?
on the 14th January, 2020 at 2:01am
Replacing Mertens with Carrasco, taking your worst performing player from your previous club (Rodriguez) with you, wow Gattuso you really keep amazing me every day lol. January and already joke of the year, incredible.
on the 10th January, 2020 at 4:33pm
Hahahaha replacing Mertens with Carrasco, wow that would be the joke of the year!

And yeah go ahead, buy the worst performing left back in the league (defensive wise): Ricardo flippin' Rodriguez!

Here's an idea: keep your soon to be all time top scorer (Mertens) and get a coach that actually knows something about football.
on the 10th January, 2020 at 4:30pm
There is no doubt that Napoli must reinvent itself. The team as is cannot win the Scudetto, changes must be made to compete with the northern giants.
A new modern stadium would be ideal, ushering in a new era. But can it be done?
The psychology of Naples must embrace a vision of a future city that is part of Italy and Europe, eliminating the beauracracy and corruption that restrains its people, they deserve as much. Then the team then can lead this great city into a bright competetive future.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 7:55pm
Napoli need a new stadium or they risk being overtaken financially by 4-5 other clubs and miss out on CL.
on the 9th January, 2020 at 12:45pm
I'm sorry but the Napoli player with the most decisive attacking output is Dries Mertens by far. Whenever he comes on, he sort of acts like that spark needed to push further. IMO

Fabian unfortunately still is a bit of a wild card. He turns as slowly as a snail and is a non-factor defensively. In the last third, he often resorts to hopeless finesse strikes with half the pace needed to trick grown adults in the net. If Zielinski could keep most of his shots at reasonable height, he'd be lethal.
on the 8th January, 2020 at 3:04pm
Give gattusso some gattuso wise signings. Can have bakayako, another defender nacho possibly and di maria?
on the 6th January, 2020 at 12:18pm

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