Wednesday January 22 2020
Napoli combine coaches for success

Napoli turned a corner in the Coppa Italia by blending Gennaro Gattuso’s grit with Carlo Ancelotti’s tactical versatility, argues Kaustubh Pandey.

The Coppa Italia clash at the Stadio San Paolo could have been very different, if some crucial moments could have gone the other way. While Napoli did run out victors who will go through to the semi-finals of the competition against either Inter Milan or Fiorentina, they barely deserved to win the game by a tight 1-0 margin. They had to ride their luck big time and beat the team that has been adept at scoring late goals this season.

But this year isn’t meant for Napoli to win games by playing a bright brand of football. It has been a rather forgettable season - one that Partenopei faithful would not look back on too kindly. The side hasn’t won a game by a convincing margin since their 4-1 win over Lecce on September 22, as the season has been littered with instability at the club and unbalanced showings.

At the back of a disappointing and a rather deserved 2-0 loss to Beppe Iachini’s Fiorentina, any sort of win would have worked wonders for Rino Gattuso’s men. It would have been unfair to expect them to beat the most in-form team in the division while playing attacking football. Anything could have done a job for them and progressing into the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia will indeed do a lot to bring at least some feel-good factor back at the club for the first time in many months.

We cannot underestimate the importance of the ultras returning to the stands after suspending their protest against restrictions within the Stadio San Paolo. Napoli need their fans behind them more than ever, as there’s nothing more soul-sapping than a practically silent arena.

Gattuso’s men did benefit from Lazio missing a host of chances, including Ciro Immobile’s missed penalty. If not for the sending off of Elseid Hysaj and Lucas Leiva, things could have been different for either team. But Napoli did show grit and a tactical versatility to somehow grind the result out.

A lot of how they adapted comes from how Carlo Ancelotti added flexibility to their side. The ability to use different formations saw the midfielders play various roles and the wingers like Jose Callejon play deeper to allow the team to play three at the back shapes in Champions League games.

Gattuso had to use Arek Milik as the sole forward many times, adding an extra defender at the back while Callejon almost played as the wing-back for a vast majority of the game. Sebastiano Luperto added some extra security, while the side constantly changed from a 4-4-1 shape to three at the back. It was the adaptability that Ancelotti had brought to the side that helped them massively to win the game.

But having said that, Diego Demme enjoyed a rather impressive debut start. His performance was a reflection of exactly what the club has been missing in this whole season - that prolific ball-winner who can shield the back-four and not allow the opposition to play through the Azzurri. And in a crisis situation, the German proved crucial in helping the defence and allowed the midfield some solidity.

Stanislav Lobotka’s debut lasted a little over 20 minutes due to Hysaj’s red card. As much as it was a harsh decision on the former Celta Vigo man, who was good at recycling possession from deeper midfield in the time he played.

The win comes at the right time for Gattuso’s men. Not just because their last Serie A win came on December 22 against Sassuolo in stoppage time, but because of what is to come. They face Juventus next, with the Bianconeri now looking like a much better side than they have ever been in the Scudetto race this season.

The confidence they took from the beating the Biancocelesti, albeit in controversial circumstances, can potentially prove to be a game-changer in what is left out of a disappointing season. When fans could already be preparing to forget about the existence of this campaign, it is providing them much-needed hope and gratification. And perhaps, that is all they currently need.

Have your say...
To do what Ancelotti has done will take a many years. What a fraud he is. Many of us saw it.

Gattuso is not the right guy. Napoli need a top coach like Sarri or Gasperini.

In nay case priority should be to change owner because ADL is widely hated and not the right guy.

The game was embarrassing. To think that over a year ago Napoli played the best football, and now they look garbage.
on the 24th January, 2020 at 11:17am
Most foreign commentators seem to rely too much on the Italian establishment media's views (Gazzetta, Tutto Sport,Sky,etc)instead of making their own form what they saw, if they really do watch whole games. No one mentioned the blatant penalty Napoli was denied, not called neither by the VAR, nor by Massa, just before Hysaj sending off, of course there's no conspiracy against Napoli,it's just me suffering a wee bit from paranoia
on the 23rd January, 2020 at 9:35pm
@Anonymous - You are a very angry person. Need to calm down. These articles are written to provoke and you just proved that point.
on the 23rd January, 2020 at 4:38pm
Very funny article. lol
on the 23rd January, 2020 at 6:01am
How can this author say napoli did not deserve to win if you write something like that then write about juve and how they should be last place barely scraping by and stealing game and don't forget Ronaldo worthless as he is score a few goals and you all write and rave. You all need to perform some real journalism not this rubbish that you write and are probably paid to say.
on the 23rd January, 2020 at 12:16am
on the 22nd January, 2020 at 4:53pm
Bravo Napoli;
They played hard and managed to find a way through even though Lazio was unlucky.
Having the fans behind the team was instrumental in their success and it was a tremendous boost and wonderful to see and hear.
With the return of Koulabaly and Mertens this team can still make some noise in the Champions league and in Serie A. Playing in Naples can be tough for opponents in last nights atmosphere and if they renew their confidence they are still dangerous.
Bravo Napoli ,fight on!!
on the 22nd January, 2020 at 1:32pm
Disgraceful refereeing from Massa last night. He has previous with Lazio and didn't disappoint with a total horror show. Didn't want to send of Hysaj, had to be persuaded by the 4th official who reminded him that he'd already been booked. Then decided to even things up by completely fabricating a yellow on Leiva who admittedly fell for it and told him where to go. The pitch was also a total disgrace, with Immobile (penalty), SMS (red card incident) and Strakosha all slipping over.
on the 22nd January, 2020 at 10:46am

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