Tuesday January 28 2020
Gattuso outwits Sarri's Juve

Gennaro Gattuso overcame Napoli old boy Maurizio Sarri, recording a memorable victory over old rivals Juventus in the process, writes Elio Salerno.

The form book was ripped up at the Stadio San Paolo on Sunday evening as Gennaro Gattuso proved the doubters wrong by outsmarting Maurizio Sarri, sending his stale Juventus home empty handed. With Napoli struggling in the bottom half of the Serie A table and a mighty 27 points behind Juve prior to kick-off, a Bianconeri victory appeared the likely outcome. However, Gattuso’s players executed a simple but effective game plan to claim a morale boosting win.

An intense atmosphere in the stands was met by a subdued opening 45 minutes on the pitch. This encounter was very different to those we had witnessed in the recent past. It was not a thrilling 90 minutes with both teams grappling to grab control of proceedings. Instead, it had a tactical edge with Gattuso correctly choosing to stifle his opponent rather than take them on. His decision was vindicated by the result.

The Partenopei made their intentions clear early. There was little desire to press high, with Napoli instead opting to retreat into a compact 4-5-1 block and prevent Juve finding any space in-between or beyond their midfield line. The Old Lady duly accepted their host’s invitation to have the ball, but there was a severe lack of fluidity to their play and it quickly became apparent that the make-up of Sarri’s starting XI was not suited to this type of challenge. Juve’s play was sterile, Napoli were locking them out comfortably.

The home team’s midfield trio of Diego Demme, Fabian Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski prevented any ball progression and were quick to swarm the likes of Paulo Dybala, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain when they received possession in central areas. The away team probed away, working the ball to their full-backs, who often restored to crossing from deep areas. The results had little to no effect on the home defence. Napoli were drawing Juve in and it was working.

Napoli’s strategy was far from a smash and grab, they had that majority share of possession and Gattuso had constructed an idea on how to win the game, not just keep Juve out. Stretching the pitch, focusing the majority of their play through their full-backs and wingers was a clever ploy from Rino.

Mario Rui and Elseid Hysaj were the individual players with the highest amount of touches across the game with 102 and 82 respectively, whilst Mario Rui attempted the highest number of passes (89) closely followed by Hysaj’s 67. Gattuso knew Sarri would want his team to press, so the former Milan coach teased Juve into doing just that with those two playing a pivotal role.

From goal-kicks Napoli would have up to five players in their penalty box with Rui and Hysaj supporting near-by. This instantly sucked the opposition in and the spaces Napoli needed to attack were already created. The Italian champions simply didn’t have the energy or players to press effectively and prevent Gattuso’s team escaping. The Juve trident attack may look great on paper but out of possession their inability to cope with the demands of pressing causes their team a problem. 

Throughout the 90 minutes there was a theme to Napoli’s play, always tempting Juve to come and get them.  In possession they would use a number of sideways and backwards passes, patient possession that pulled Juve around exposing their biggest defensive weakness, trying to cover open spaces quickly. Napoli timed their use of long forward passes well and attempted nearly double the amount of long balls as their opponent. Just as Juventus began to creep up on play, an Azzurri attacker would spring forward to stretch Juve further. Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon and Zielinski were willing runners in behind all night. Arkadiusz Milik contributed by intelligently dropping off his markers as an alternative target for the direct pass.

Napoli handled possession well and played smoothly – sometimes easily - through Juventus. The same cannot be said of La Vecchia Signora. It was a lethargic, lazy display that Mister Sarri must take some responsibility for.  All of Juve’s play was in front of Napoli, there was little movement off the ball and no attempt to disconnect the defensive shield they were up against. Ronaldo’s goal was a rare example of a forward run that asked Napoli to defend facing their own goal.  

CR7 and co lost possession on 18 occasions, with 14 of them coming from a loose touch or bad pass. That number is double that of Napoli. Blaise Matuidi was his team’s biggest culprit handing over play on four occasions, including a poor cross that resulted in the counter-attack that lead to Zielinski’s opener. The continued inclusion of Matuidi is baffling to many Juventini.

Sarri bemoaned his side’s attitude, but when you have options in your squad that are fresh with a point to prove, you can be the person to inject the missing motivation into the team. In the end it was a deserved victory for Napoli and Gattuso, one they desperately needed with the hope that it will prove to be the catalyst for a strong end to the season.

As for Juve, they unexpectedly saw their lead at the top cut and questions around their performances remain. The title race is very much on in Serie A.

Have your say...
@Gino Esposito I totally subscribe, and would add that Napoli should also stop playing with 10 men against 12, as they have been in the last 8 years with Insigne, or against against 13 if one adds the referee of course.
Now most Agnlo-saxon commentators have started to see the blatant referees bias against Napoli, and always in favor of Robentus, contrary to their Italian counterpart, and even Neapolitan like Il Mattino idiots.
on the 5th February, 2020 at 10:12pm
@Joel Ciderman From your brainless and insipid comment, I can unequivocally conclude you lack a functional brain and also the basic ability to analyse a football club's shortcomings... This, despite the fact that you're not a Juventus fan, and de facto have no say about the opinions of an actual Juventus fan. Juventus being in running of all competitions does not preclude that the performance against Napoli does not bode well for chances of silverware.
on the 29th January, 2020 at 12:45pm
"All of Juve’s play was in front of Napoli, there was little movement off the ball." How long is the wait before we see even a little bit of Sarrismo? If there is no movement off the ball, surely there is no Sarrismo. Troubling that we are this far in the season and this team still looks so sterile. Pjanic continues to be played out of position because Juve insist on making him Pirlo when he is not! While Mautidi continues in a more advanced role as a playmaker! The backwards BS continues
on the 28th January, 2020 at 9:47pm
@Anonymous (on the 28th January, 2020 at 2:05pm)... I think they realized how disgraceful was their official! They already did the damage in two fronts, a draw and missing Lautaro for two crucial games, cool?
on the 28th January, 2020 at 8:21pm
Funny fact, find Juve fans in every article to mock (give their expertise) others but nowhere to seen in THIS article. Full of opinions for Milan, Inter, Roma and etc but no clue/idea/opinion about their team! @Pinturicchio your point for Juve midfield is spot on.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 8:14pm
La Vecchia Signora is looking old and playing like an old and tired team.Sarri stated that he played the trident because they were in form.!!!They may have scored against other teams with less to lose than Napoli but it was a stupid to think it would work against a team with a mission
like Partenopei.
Sarri also stated that he would prefer to concede a goal from a counter attack rather than playing more defensive.
If this is the case then Juve can say goodbye to winning any thing this season.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 7:27pm
One must admit that this article do make a several interesting points, but nevertheless, putting a title Rino outsmarted Sarri... well, I think it's kinda way off, wouldn't you agree? It was so obvious that Rubentus went into this game pretty much sure the win is delivered even before the match started, whilst Napoli players (who, although went through terrible period, surely hadn't forgot how to play over night) were smart, wanted to wi & went back on their old ways, of the days of Ancelotti!
on the 28th January, 2020 at 7:11pm
Who is this Pinturicchio clown? This odious individual sounds like they have been carrying a serious inferiority complex around with them all of their life. It's the kind of behaviour that you would expect from an overly spoilt prepubescent. Honestly, take a chill pill, your team is still fighting on all fronts.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 6:09pm
This game was a tale of missed chances. If Dybala scored on in the first half where the dummy from Pippta came it would be a different store. They were too narrow and didn't use the wings effectively. Even the introduction of Costa didn't address it. My other take away is Pjanic and Bentancur don't seem to work together.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 4:07pm
Describing tactical plans in football is an art and this writer did a terric job.
Additionally Rino had his team mentally ready for the game,a difficut issue for this team. Napoli made a few mental errors but recovered and Juve looked frustrated by Gattuso's plan as well as fatigued.
Juve can no longer overpower opponents simply by their presence and need to embrace Sarri's plan for the future. Juve needs a solid tactical midfielder to help unleash the trident, then Sarri and Juve will succeed
on the 28th January, 2020 at 3:38pm
Napoli gave Rubentus a proper lesson of Calcio.

Juve looked so average and out of sorts.

If they play like this V Lyon they will get whipped again.

On this occasion even the referee (juve's 12th man) could not change the outcome of the game with his decision not to give Napoli a clear penalty but no one is surprised in this Fiat/Serie Angnelli controlled league!

Napoli should have 11 more points which have been taken from them due to corrupt refereeing - oh well a proper lesson given!
on the 28th January, 2020 at 2:30pm
So Laturo was only banned for 2 matches. Rube must really fear Lazio if they want Laturo to be back for Inter against them. What he done was worth a 3+ match ban all day long.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 2:05pm
Interesting article, I can only agree though that Napoli were hungrier than Juve in this match. One could throw in the Pjanic injury having an impact of sorts but still Napoli were more focused and eager to make something out of this game.

As for whether Gattuso outsmarted Sarri? Well let us see if Napoli can perform the same against Barca so I can stand corrected lol.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 11:01am
The good analysis. I agreed the most of this. But it left unsaid that Sarri have no the plan B for his teams. Certainly, Matuidi and Pjanic are very poor in this season and I think that Sarri’s is not suitable for Juventus’ players because they are old and used to save their energy for all season, if not they are lazy.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 9:35am
I still believe sari is a mistake and a crash waiting to happen
I did not like him at Chelsea and you can see how he lost the players respect very quickly
I am not saying because he lost to Napoli bit look how juve are really struggling to win games or hold on to a win in 90 mins
Get lost Sarto ball. Best solution end of year pep quits Man City as they win nothing and
Jive hire him, not to go on a spend Crazy but work this team harder and built thier confidence back.
on the 28th January, 2020 at 8:54am
(Part 2 of 2) Pjanic, who is not even a poor man's Pirlo, he's a pathetic liability... Matuidi is a workhorse, so nothing else can be expected of him... Bentancur, Rabiot, and that overrated Ramsey are basically only worthy of being either backups or playing full-time at a mid-table Serie A club like Cagliari or Atalanta...

With such a horrible midfield, and pathetic service, what output do you expect from CR7, Dybala, and Higuain? Should they create chances and score them too?

Very poor...
on the 28th January, 2020 at 6:14am
It's not Sarri, or the trident, it's the effin' ridiculous team...

I've said this for many years, Cuadrado is simply a LOSER, a freakin' nobody who doesn't deserve to play for Juventus. He doesn't know how to attack, good crosses are bleepin' awful, and he's always a major liability whilst defending. The backups are even more awful, both the lackadaisical Brazilian and the injury-prone moron Italian.

The biggest concern, however, is the midfield. With that horrendous midfield: (Part 1 of 2)
on the 28th January, 2020 at 6:05am

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