Luciano Spalletti is a football tactics innovator. The experienced manager is not afraid to take chances, not least of all with the formations of his teams. The 4-3-3 formation has worked out the best for Napoli during the early 2021/22 season. Let’s find out why.
Spalletti’s experiments and consistent choices
Luciano Spalletti has brought in a great amount of experience to the Napoli bench. A winner of Coppa Italia and the Russian Premier League, the manager knows when to be consistent and when to take chances. This has shown as Napoli registered one of their greatest starts to a Serie A season.
In terms of formation, for example, Spalletti has shifted between three styles. Napoli’s squad has been fielded in a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3, and a 4-4-1-1 formation. All of these setups, however, have similar tactical principles.
However, in terms of squad selection and, even substitutions, Spalletti has been, generally consistent. He’s used, whenever possible, the same group of players, and even made nearly the same substitutions from one match to another.
The 4-3-3 formation has yielded the best results
According to the website Understat, Napoli has used the 4-2-3-1 in 585 minutes of football across the current season. The 4-3-3 has been used in 471 minutes, while the 4-4-1-1 has been identified in only 71 minutes.
When using the 4-3-3 formation, Napoli has scored the highest number of goals (14), had the highest number of shots (93). Furthermore, the team registered the largest xG (expected goals) and the great xA (expected assists), meaning that the team has been able to create more chances.
The 4-3-3 formation and defense
While the use of two midfield pivots may sound like the most considerate defensive plan, this has not been the case. When using the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, Napoli has been scored against twice in either scenario. (The team kept a clean sheet when briefly experimenting with the 4-4-1-1).
Furthermore, the team had fewer shots against when using the more attacking approach. In the 4-3-3 formation only 42 shots trouble David Ospina or Alex Meret. By contrast, 63 shots were taken in the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Does this mean that Luciano Spalletti should opt for a 4-3-3 in all of Napoli’s matches? It remains to be seen what tactical tweaks he will decide to make when Napoli takes on Inter on Sunday.