Wednesday January 15 2020
Bringing balance to Napoli

Diego Demme and Stanislav Lobotka should bring much-needed balance to the Napoli midfield, explains Vilizar Yakimov.

If someone says that they know what’s been going on at Napoli during the last couple of months, you’d probably be smart not to trust them. The way some of the players switched off was truly astonishing and whether this was because of Aurelio De Laurentiis’ ritiro attempt or something else, it matters little now.

The President tried to pick up the pieces by replacing the surprisingly neutral Carlo Ancelotti with Gennaro Gattuso, but even the hot-headed 2006 World Cup winner hasn’t managed to get into his players’ heads yet.

It’s obvious that Napoli needs a spark and with the club bringing in Diego Demme and Stanislav Lobotka, the Vesuviani hope that some fresh blood might wake up the rest of Gattuso’s squad.

Adding two defensive midfielders in just one week speaks clearly of the club’s intentions, as although they created enough chances, the Napoli players risk far too much when they go forward.

Strikers can be blamed for missing some sitters for sure, but whether it’s a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 formation, Napoli’s midfield has lacked balance ever since Ancelotti took over and that’s an issue that hasn’t been addressed properly until now.

Fabian Ruiz, Piotr Zielinski, Allan and Eljif Elmas are very good players, but all of them like to venture forward, which often leaves huge amounts of space behind their backs and leaves the defence without any protection.

While the Napoli defenders keep making inexplicable individual errors, some of them could be spared with the presence of a man who sits right in front of the back four and that’s exactly where Lobotka and Demme can fit in.

The Slovakia international, who arrived from Celta Vigo for €24m, has been the main figure in the Spanish side’s midfield ever since he joined them in 2017. An interesting fact about Lobotka is that he hasn’t scored a single goal in each of his 83 appearances for Celta, which, as strange as it may sound, is good for Napoli. The reason for Lobotka’s lack of goals in Spain is his position on the field, as he is tactically disciplined and rarely drifts into unnecessary runs forward.

The 25-year-old is very capable on the ball and has good technique, which allows him to distribute the ball quickly, but also to hold it up and dribble past a player, if necessary. He has averaged 89% passing accuracy during his 17 appearances for Celta this term, while defensively he rarely dives into tackles and prefers to stay at his feet, which is confirmed by his average of just one tackle per game.

While Lobotka is often cautious in his defensive approach, the same cannot be said about his new teammate Demme, who arrived in Naples for €12m from RB Leipzig.

The 28-year-old has averaged 2.5 tackles per game in the Bundesliga this season, but he is tidy and efficient in possession, just like his new teammate. Both players have a rather low key passes per game ratio of 0.6 for Demme and 0.5 for Lobotka.

Demme ranks fourth of all players in the Bundesliga for total passes, so just like Lobotka, he’s a player who’s comfortable on the ball in difficult situations, as while he can’t really shine with his creativity and many vertical passes, he can distribute the ball and pass it to a more attacking-minded player.

Luckily for Gattuso he has a number of those, as Zielinski and Fabian Ruiz both average more than one key pass per game, while Lorenzo Insigne and Jose Callejon average more than two. In that regard, Lobotka and Demme cannot improve Napoli defensively, but also when in possession, as currently the Partenopei lack a player who is reliable on making simple short passes.

However, Demme’s also quite impressive with his long passing, as he has completed 65% of his 85 attempts in the Bundesliga this term and that indeed is a solid number.

In conclusion, we can say that both players will arguably be very useful when Napoli are transitioning from defence to attack, as the lack of balance within the current crop of players means that the team is having difficulties regrouping when the ball is lost.

At the same time, both Lobotka and Demme are pretty efficient ball distributors and can be used as a pivot in the middle of a 4-3-3 or as a more conservative option on each of the two sides. However, what’s arguably most important for Gattuso and Napoli is that the two players have been vital parts of two teams that’ve been trying to play good attacking football in recent years.

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Have your say...
I am disgusted Napoli wasted 8 year, and so many brilliant players just to make sure a 3rd rate player who cannot play Football plays no matter what, that surely has its toll on the team's moral, no one can win anything with 10 men against 12,Insigne has been,is,and will always be a liability every time he plays.
on the 18th January, 2020 at 10:57pm
Afraid to say that the brilliant Napoli team we've seen for the best part of a decade, starting under Mazzarri with that front 3 of Cavani, Hamsik and Lavezzi, is finished. The club is currently broken.
on the 18th January, 2020 at 10:52pm
Gattuso said this week there are no "Untuchables" at Napoli", but he forgot to add except for his Majesty Lorenzo il santo intoccabile, no matter how much abysmal and embarrassing he is, it is always others who pay for his awful performances. For me it has always been very clear the Camorra imposes him on all coaches,Ancelotti the only one who dared put him on the bench was out within 2 weeks.
on the 18th January, 2020 at 10:45pm
Beloved Napoli,
Just too many mental errors, too many missed chances. Why?
Great players and great teams finish, win and play with confidence.
Confidence breeds success and more winning

I think Rino can lead this club, he wears his desire on his sleeve (so does Conte ) Often great tacticians are not great leaders it is rare to have both.
Hopefully these new players will bring the discipline Napoli needs and leadership on the field, something they sorely lack.
Top teams need field leaders.
on the 16th January, 2020 at 4:25pm
Does not matter how many great players the club signs, the coach needs to lead the line from the front and I am sorry to say that Gattuso is not cut out to be THAT coach (not yet anyway). He can't read the game. He behaves like an out of control rabid dog on the touchline. He calls it passion - I call it someone who loses the plot every two minutes. Napoli's problem is the coach.
on the 16th January, 2020 at 10:11am
Napoli having balance died when they signed Manolas. Teams will continue to target him. Napoli is stuffed as long as he's playing.
on the 16th January, 2020 at 2:46am
I agree with Dimitri's comments on Gattuso, great player, don't think he'll ever be a very good coach. Napoli seems to have so many midfielders, I assume these signings pave the way to sell Allan for big money when they don't make the Champions League next year.
on the 15th January, 2020 at 5:43pm
AS long as there's Gattuso, you'll see NOTHING good for Napoli! I'm a Milan fan & followed his 18 months in Milan very close! His intention to play with one strong forward, 80% of the time with his back turned against the opposition goal, is devastating! Also, his lack of judgment when to make the right subs, is crucial! HAve u noticed how he always changes players after 78+ min & ALWAYS puts in the VERY SAME TYPE OF PLAYER he's changing! He's got no sense of reading the game & make changes!
on the 15th January, 2020 at 3:37pm
Now what are Napoli going to do to address their almost total lack of scoring? If they're going to get to fourth place by the end of the season (Doubtful in my view.), they need to put goals in the net.
on the 15th January, 2020 at 2:52pm
Do Gattuso & these players bring Napoli to European level? No. Watch closer Conti & Inter, pls.
on the 15th January, 2020 at 11:18am
Nice Article, Good Read
on the 15th January, 2020 at 10:52am

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