With Napoli winning the first leg at the Stadio San Paolo 3-1; Walter Mazzari’s side are favorites to progress to the quarter-finals of the Champions’ League.
Fortunately for the Blues, there is still hope for AVB’s crew, and they will look to turn their fortunes at Stamford Bridge.
With our tactics seemingly encouraging Napoli to thrive in the various "holes" we left uncovered, we have to admit they failed. What tactics should we use to beat the Naples side?
NAPOLI TACTICS AND FORMATION
NAPOLI TACTICS AND FORMATION
Napoli’s formation is a rather unusual 3-4-2-1
DEFENCE : Napoli’s back line consists of a 3 man defence: Campagnaro, Cannavaro and Aronica (from right to left). That defence sits very deep, and all three center backs are OK in the air, but their biggest strength is the fact that defence always has a spare man at the back, which is fundamental for Mazzari’s side. Paolo Cannavaro (brother of World Cup Winner Fabio) is having a poor season, and Salvatore Aronica is the weak link of that rather meager back line. RCB Hugo Campagnaro is the best of the bunch, and one of his biggest assets is that he is decent at getting forward to limit spaces for a playmaking Attacking Midfielder (ie limiting Toni Kroos’ influence against Bayern in the group stage).
MIDFIELD : The central midfield tandem is formed by Walter Gargano and new boy Gokhan Inler. These two players are very defensive-minded, and play an energetic game from one end of the pitch to another for 90 minutes. The two players are essential for Napoli’s pressing game in midfield, as they recover the ball to launch the counter-attack, doing so by passing the ball to the wing backs or kicking a long ball to the forwards. Swiss midfielder Inler is the more attack-minded of the two.
They are flanked by two wing backs. The most famous (and the better one) is former Sampdoria RWB Christian Maggio; and his companion on the other flank is one of Dossena or Zuniga. Their game is very energetic too, as they provide the width to Napoli’s attack as well as having to retreat when the opposition has the ball. Most of Napoli’s play is generated by the wing backs’ overlapping runs, base of Napoli’s play.
FORWARDS : Center forward Edinson Cavani needs no introduction. He is a natural goal poacher and can finish with literally any part of his body. He is most of all an aerial threat and a very physical presence in the box, similar to Drogba in his prime.
Left forward Ezequiel Lavezzi is a fox and his tricky and intelligent runs (as Ivanovic surely found out) were a major pain in the arse. He likes to hug the touchline, waiting for the wing backs to overlap to then sprint goalwards ; instantly becoming a larger threat.
Right Forward Marek Hamsik is the creative spark of the team and likes to drop a bit deeper (as all playmakers do) to extend hi vision. He usually disappoints in big games, but Chelsea will have to contain him because he is rather unpredictable.
The front three functions in a very fluid way, and their telepathic understanding of each other’s game is astounding. I assigned them to fixed places, but they usually interchange positions.
That deadly combination of a creator, a dribbler and a finisher proved to be the downfall of Chelsea at the San Paolo.
SYSTEM : Napoli are a hugely counter-attacking teams, being one of the very best in Europe. Thus, they sit very deep when not in possession; waiting for the opposition to come out of their half and have a go at them. Then, an active pressing game starts: the front three and the midfield tandem try to gain the ball from the opposing fullbacks and center mids. When the Italian side regains possession, the two wing backs break away from the compact defensive group to form overlapping runs and stretch the opposing defence, leaving Lavezzi and Hamsik to exploit the holes.
Possible 4-3-3 to neutralize Napoli
First of all, we should have similar players to face Gargano and Inler. In that case, Ramires and Essien should have the duty of picking them up to neutralize them and create a clear 2-vs-2 battle in midfield. The winners of that battle would be the best players; and I personally believe the Bison and the Jaguar can neutralize Napoli’s pressing and box-to-box work in midfield, as well as try to penetrate Napoli’s defence.
To occupy all three defenders, we need a striker with a physical presence: Didier Drogba. On his day, he is simply unplayable, and let’s hope he shows Napoli how he annihilated Valencia.
Now, let’s talk about Mata. Having the little Spaniard as a trequartista in Naples seemed to be a great idea, but he didn’t have such a good game (despite his lucky goal). I’d very much like him to return to the LW. There, with his constant buzzing and movement, he should confuse Campagnaro/Maggio/Inler and drag them out of position, especially Maggio who would be annoyed at the sight of an unmarked threat behind him.
On the opposing wing, I’d play Danny Sturridge VERY HIGH AND WIDE UP the pitch. This move should push Napoli out of shape: by doing so, Sturridge will oblige Zuniga/Dossena to follow him, therefore negating one Wing Back’s effect. Adding to that, Sturridge would have the perfect opportunity to showcase his dribbling ability as well as his pace against that veteran backline and most of all the poor defender Aronica.
To mark Hamsik effectively, we should incorporate Mikel back into the side and tell him to stick to the Slovakian for the full 90 minutes.
And now the back-line: our best left back at the moment is Cole. Let’s hope he doesn’t fuck up against Maggio, but he should be capable of containing him as he did against Cristiano Ronaldo three years ago (remember the good times?). And if Mata effectively confuses him, the left flank would be free, and Ca$hley could create an overload on Napoli’s right side.
Despite his torrid game at the San Paolo, Ivanovic is a sure starter over Bosingwa. His mistake in Naples is that he was too high up the pitch, thus being constantly beaten by the tricky Lavezzi. This time, he should stay deeper and closer to the CBs; and the back line should play a narrow defence to give less holes away to exploit.
Against Cavani, we have three more capable defenders in Ivanovic, Cahill and Luiz. The first two are aerial beasts, while the last two are good at making interceptions.
Finally, Napoli usually don’t press center backs, assuming they don’t have the technical quality to start an attack. Consequently, Xabi Luiz’ tremendous ball playing ability and vision coupled with Napoli’s usual reluctance in pressing the CBs should give us a huge advantage against the Partenopei.
Finally, the path to victory has to be accompanied by patience. We must be calm to avoid conceding a goal through a fast Napoli break. After the hour-mark, if needed, we should hasten ourselves a bit.
Let’s go blues! Keep the blue flag flying high!
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