Luciano Spalletti’s 2021/2022 Napoli was a team changed. At the heart of these improvements were the manager’s tactics. Here are 5 of the key tweaks and strategies that helped Gli Azzuri to one of the most convincing seasons in a while.
Luciano Spalletti is an old-school manager that has had a lot of success. One of the key tenets of his philosophy is maintaining possession as a way to foil the opposition. Simply put, having less of the ball leaves teams fewer opportunities to score.
Throughout the season, Napoli bossed possession in most of their Serie A games. Most of the early games in the campaign saw Gli Azzuri end the match with 60-65% of the time on the ball. In fact, the only exceptions occurred in games against Fiorentina and Atalanta. This positive trait, of course, was encouraged by Napoli‘s excellent and robust midfield line led by Fabian Ruiz.
Favoring the 4-2-3-1 formation
Luciano Spalletti is a consistent, and conservative manager. Throughout his tenure with Napoli, he has experimented with various formations. The one that has worked the best has been the 4-2-3-1. This is the reason he has used it in more than 50% of games this season.
While his preferred formation brings out the best qualities of his available squad, Spalletti is also willing to adapt. At times, the manager has played a 4-3-3. And, often, during games, he has set up his team in a 4-4-2 when facing tough opposition that enjoyed attacking.
Encouraging full-backs to attack
Napoli could depend on two of the best-attacking wing-backs for much of the season. Both Mario Rui and Giovanni di Lorenzo had spectacular campaigns. Because of this, it only made sense for Spalletti to encourage their attacking potential. Many of Napoli’s attacks were developed on the wings. Together, the two defenders provided 11 goals in Serie A.
Furthermore, Marui Rui and Di Lorenzo are able to play both on the outside, and on the inside of the pitch. Generally, when the team is attacking they will alternate between the two roles. this offers Napoli both width and additional passing opportunities.
As mentioned, Luciano Spalletti came in at Napoli with his ideas of management fully established. This has not meant, however, that he has been unwilling to make changes to his style. The 4-2-3-1 allows Napoli the luxury of shielding the back-four with two strong, hard-tackling defensive midfielders.
However, when not in possession, The Partenopei will often switch to a 4-4-2. Napoli like man-to-man defending, not often seen these days in the Top 5 European leagues. Still, when the opposition is able to play between the lines, they will drop further down and embrace their counter-attacking capabilities.
Playing between the lines
In terms of their attacking threat, however, Napoli embraces modern tactics. One of the strategies that Spalletti’s men will most often use is exploitation of space in the midfield area. This is achieved, primarily, through two players. Fabian Ruiz has the vision and technique to play as an attacking midfielder capable of dropping in between the midfield and defensive lines.
Piotr Zielinski also needs to be mentioned in this context. His stamina and willingness to run at defenders are often enough to put Napoli’s attackers into good positions.
Napoli enjoyed a good 2022/23 campaign. The overall feeling at the club is that even more can be achieved this season. Most of the reasons for this optimism have to do with Luciano Spalletti and his tactics.