Sunday June 14 2020
Coppa Final vindication for Gattuso's Napoli

Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli revival continued by pushing past Inter to reach their first Coppa Italia Final since 2014, writes Kaus Pandey.

When Rino Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti in December, things looked pretty bleak for Napoli, but he has turned their season around and could win silverware by taking them to their first Coppa Italia Final since 2014. Under Don Carlo, the dressing room was fractured and the players were openly rebelling against the club.

On the pitch, they hadn’t won a game in nine outings and were dropping away from European qualification. The defensive midfield issue was exposing the team’s backline on a weekly basis, as they leaked goals.

On Saturday though, Napoli fans realised that Gattuso has given them something to be proud of. Inspired by David Ospina in a rather ironic manner, the Partenopei held Inter to a 1-1 draw, winning the semi-final 2-1 on aggregate. It wasn’t the most impressive of performances from Gattuso’s men, but that is what they’ve largely been doing since the Italian took charge.

Ospina’s heroics were perhaps a coming together of Gattuso’s firm decision-making in more departments than one. Having sacrificed the promising Alex Meret for the former Arsenal man since he took charge, Rino had left many wondering why he’d switched the hierarchy in goal. The coach said he wanted a goalkeeper who could play out from the back and was good with his feet. Ospina showed exactly what that meant with a precise 60-yard pass to Lorenzo Insigne, setting up the goal that would make Dries Mertens the all-time top Napoli scorer.

Ospina’s ability on the ball was one thing Gattuso really liked, but it was also his shot-stopping that kept Napoli in the game. Considering he conceded directly from the corner flag within three minutes, the former Arsenal man showed great mental strength to react with a series of decisive saves.

What also shines through is the manner in which Rino has made his Partenopei side gutsy and it doesn’t have the soft underbelly that was so evident under Maurizio Sarri and Ancelotti.

The 4-3-3 shape hasn’t just allowed Gattuso another man in midfield compared to Ancelotti’s 4-4-2. He identified the area of concern - defensive midfield - very early on. The club roped in Diego Demme from RB Leipzig and Stanislav Lobotka also came in from Celta Vigo. Demme’s regular presence in front of the back four has given the team immense stability in that role for the first time since Jorginho left for Chelsea.

It has given the team a structure that is similar to Sarri’s Napoli side, but it is vastly different from a stylistic perspective. Last night was a fair reflection of that, as both Kalidou Koulibaly and Nikola Maksimovic dominated Inter. The idea was to catch Inter on the break and take complete advantage of three v two situations with the pace of Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens. There were three or four occasions where a final pass was lacking when Napoli caught the Nerazzurri on the break, but the plan was clear and it was to defend stoutly and take whatever chances came their way.

This has become a bit of a hallmark of the Azzurri under Rino. They don’t fancy too much possession, but they are direct in their approach. The fact that they made it to the Final without Kostas Manolas or Fabian Ruiz starting is worth noting too.

Both of them have been instrumental in 2020 and have been key to Napoli’s mini-revival under Gattuso. Fabian finally has his best position figured out under Rino and there now seems to be zero confusion about whether he should play deeper or perhaps out wide. He is now the most advanced midfielder, with Demme and Piotr Zielinski behind him.

Some results have of course been frustrating against the lesser sides like Lecce, Fiorentina and Parma. But the flipside presents wins over Inter, Juventus and Lazio - the three Scudetto contenders.

There is of course work to be done, but Gattuso has managed to keep the club in the European race. They’re still in the Champions League and have a cup final to look forward to. Few could have expected this to happen and Gattuso deserves much of the credit.

Have your say...

lol whut? (again)

I dont know what you are watching but it sure aint the game from earlier this season.
on the 19th June, 2020 at 4:52pm
also one of the "gifts" was a 110km rocket shot that bruised Meret so bad he missed the next game didnt he? Not so much of a gift...
on the 18th June, 2020 at 11:46pm
@partenopei - literally watch the extended highlights. The fact that 9 minutes of highlights shows 3 genuine chances against about 8-9 shows the difference. And even if inter got gifts, they missed some absolute easy chances. Easier than when napoli hit the post. its not weird, your just being one-eyed. of course you had a ton of shots, you were losing. Most were from distance and were never even close. But congrats on the victory was glad to see you guys win aginst juve!
on the 18th June, 2020 at 11:41pm

All three goals for Inter that night were gifts.

Napoli had more shots, more possession, hit the woodwork.

Was not "stroll" for Inter. They deserved and got the win as they took their chances. Napoli did not.

Don't know why you regard these as easy games for Inter.

Kinda weird tbh.
on the 17th June, 2020 at 1:56pm
@partenopee now you know how juventus fans feel hahahahaha hahahah
on the 16th June, 2020 at 5:47pm
Ah my bad - 3-1 not 4-1. Point I was making was inter played significantly better. I just watched the highlights again to make sure I wasn't dreaming.. Inter strolled to win the game, scored good goals (yes a goal came from a slip but then Lukaku still ran half the pitch) and tbh missed a handful more easy chances. Napoli barely created anything. Not sure how you got even. Inter again created a lot in the last game, just couldnt score. Candreva and Eriksen both had very easy chances.
on the 16th June, 2020 at 5:42am
Did Antonio Conte lose another Coppa Italia match against Napoli ? well it's not the first time! Antonio Conte got kicked out of CL after not being able to beat the Barca B team at home ? well it's not the first time he blew it in CL either ! Do you see what Inter is getting for 11 mill a season ? not much at all !!!!!
on the 15th June, 2020 at 5:42pm

lol whut?

Inter won 3-1 in the league game, not 4-1 and it was a very even game that was decided by individual errors by Napoli players.

and if this game was a stroll for Inter, maybe they should have tried harder so they could have beaten Napoli?
on the 15th June, 2020 at 2:18pm
Tbh there wasn’t a huge amount of difference between the game inter won 4-1 and the semi final, except for inter goals. Regardless of result it was a stroll for inter and shows how far inter have come, poor against Napoli in recent years, big gap now
on the 15th June, 2020 at 11:53am
I thought Inter looked quite 'ready' and could have scored a couple goals.

Napoli attack looked very rusty and we just didnt get enough players in the area on attacks.

Ospina, K2, Maksimovic, Insigne and Mertens carried us over the line and we will have to do much better on Wednesday to have any hope.
on the 14th June, 2020 at 5:48pm
Lots of rustiness in this game as well. Lots of woeful shooting, bad touches and misplaced passes. To be expected under the circumstances, tempo was better than the 1st semi though.
on the 14th June, 2020 at 2:58pm
Well done Napoli, seemed like a decent game.
on the 14th June, 2020 at 10:28am
Gattuso’s team is more counter attack rather than aggressive and it is a two blade sword. Yes, it’s hard to beat them but vice versa. Napoli won’t be in top 4 next season either by parking bus.
on the 14th June, 2020 at 10:24am
Nice read, grazie, keep up the good work man
on the 14th June, 2020 at 10:04am

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