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Know Thy Enemy: How Maurizio Sarri Completely Changed Napoli

New manager, new life. Napoli completely changed the way it plays thanks to Maurizio Sarri, and it seems that it is getting better game after game.

Maurizio Sarri has taken a different approach than Walter Mazzarri and Rafa Benitez as Napoli's new manager.
Maurizio Sarri has taken a different approach than Walter Mazzarri and Rafa Benitez as Napoli's new manager.
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Napoli has been in a tactical revolution since Maurizio Sarri's arrival as the new manager, and it looks like the team is adapting to the new style game after game. Despite the enthusiasm about Napoli's recent performances—especially the 5-1 victory against Lazio—the adjustment to the tactical changes isn't over yet, as proved by Napoli's struggles in away games.

Sarri's teams are tactical encyclopedias and are definitely worth a closer look at their organization.


Sarri has changed almost everything, from the tactical disposition to the style of play seen at Napoli under both Walter Mazzarri and Rafa Benitez. In effect, Sarri chose a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-1-2 as the club's main formation in order to have an additional man among the midfielders and have a more balanced team.

Napoli will play with a four-man defense this year since last year’s biggest issues were caused by the lack of the two fullbacks in the defensive line. The three-man midfield will provide additional coverage to the defense, thanks to Allan. At the same time, Napoli will be able to play the ball and attack in the spaces behind the three wide forwards.

Roster and Roles

Here’s Napoli current roster:

Goalkeepers: Pepe Reina, Rafael Cabral, Gabriel

Defenders: Vlad Chiriches, Fauzi Ghoulam, Henrique, Elseid Hysaj, Kalidou Koulibaly, Sebastiano Luperto, Raul Albiol, Ivan Strinic

Midfielders: Marques Loureiro Allan, Nathaniel Chalobah, David Lopez, Jonathan De Guzman, Jacopo Dezi, Omar El Kaddouri, Marek Hamsik, Jorginho, Christian Maggio, Mirko Valdifiori, Juan Camilo Zuniga

Forwards: José Maria Callejon, Manolo Gabbiadini, Gonzalo Higuiain, Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens

Napoli's depth at forward is almost scary. All five forwards would start in any Serie A team, and maybe in most European clubs. Unfortunately, their defense is not as solid as the "frontcourt" and Sarri will make them work a lot to improve.


Independently from their new formation, Napoli still has the same defensive fragility it showed last season, so Milan should take advantage of this situation. In particular, Hysaj and Ghoulam are two offensive fullbacks, and they are not natural defenders. Giacomo Bonaventura and Juraj Kucka should find some space if they play wide enough. At the same time, Koulibaly and Albiol might struggle covering two quick forwards like Bacca and Luiz Adriano, especially in case of counterattacks.

Napoli have been terrible in away games so far, and Milan should take advantage. If the Rossoneri are aggressive enough to slow down Napoli ball possession, they will definitely have a chance to win the game.