In truth, the domestic dominance of Juventus belittles the quality of the Serie A and this is a situation neutrals and fans alike would like changed this season.
While we expect Juventus to cruise to the title as with the past eight seasons, we have taken a look at their stiffest competitions from the past few seasons – Napoli – and will analyse their chances of beating Juventus to this year’s Scudetto.
NAPOLI IN SERIE A
The Naples club aren’t the most successful side in Italy (two league titles, five Coppa Italia titles, and two Supercoppa Italiana titles only) but they have a rich history, and have fielded some of the most talented players of the sport in their 93-year history and this is what helps them attract the quality they keep attracting, despite their inability to win much in terms of trophies.
They have the fourth biggest fanbase in the country who are some of the most supportive fans in football. They are some of the most receptive fans in Italy, and there is rarely news about fan misbehaviour from the club. This state is what has endeared them to the rest of the world.
Their resurgence in the past few seasons was due to the management of current Juventus coach, Maurizio Sarri, who introduced a brand of attacking football never before seen at the club. “Sarriball” took them to back into the Champions League and helped them compete on the biggest stage of them all. Now managed by serial winner Carlo Ancelotti, the club has undergone even more evolution and have become more pragmatic in their approach to the game, and with the addition of electric players like Hirving Lozano and teenage prodigy Elif Elmas, amongst others, they look poised to take this challenge to the next level.
CARLO ANCELOTTI’S PLAYING STYLE
The good thing about Ancelotti with Napoli is that he has not altered the system Sarri put in place which made Napoli competitive in past season, but has built on it. At the start of last season, he only moved Lorenzo Insigne centrally and deployed the club’s top scorer, Marek Hamsik, in a more defensive role in the midfield.
He has been a staunch believer in the 4-4-2 formation from his early days as a manager and though he is pragmatic enough to choose different formations according to situations and opposition teams, he always reverts to a 4-4-2 when his team goes on defence. With Sarri, defense was positional, but with Ancelotti, defense is either zonal or one-on-one. He has successfully mixed both up in the one season with Napoli and his players have adapted to this style.
Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 is a fluid one, as he like his wide players to come inside and provide attacking threat, making his side very unpredictable most times when going forward.
Although his systems are not flawless – his team can get caught out in defence which tends to happen often – Napoli have adapted well and have used it to great effect, and the arrivals this season could see this setup evolve a lot more.
The new captain of the club, Insigne is going to have a key role this season following the departure to China of former captain and club record goal scorer, Marek Hamsik. Ancelotti will be looking to play him in a freer role across the attack this season, as seen in the comeback victory versus Fiorentina on match week one where he drifted across wings and even centrally.
Played more centrally last season by Ancelotti, he started this season on the left. His free role opens spaces in the opposition defense which can be exploited by Dries Mertens, Fabian Ruiz and Jose Callejon and this could work to great effect as they refine this style of attack this season. He does not provide much defensive cover though he is not one to shy away from tackles, but his form going forward is more than enough to worry opposition defenders and allow his defense settle down into proper positions.
The Brazilian is a tough tackling midfielder who can play as a central midfielder or as a libero. He is a very good box-to-box midfielder who, just like many Brazilians, possesses trickery and great dribbling skills.
He partnered Hamsik in the centre of the park in Ancelotti’s first season and formed a very good partnership with the Slovak as they both covered for each other when the team needed an extra push in attack and defence. With Hamsik gone, his game has to step up and Ancelotti must definitely have plans for him in the middle of the park.
We may just be witnessing a burst into the elites for the Brazilian this season, one which will get some much-needed results for Napoli in the Serie A.
Rated as one of the world’s top defenders after being handled by Sarri, Koulibaly carried his fine performances into the 2018/19 season.
He was on every top defensive attribute chart worldwide as well as on the radar of many clubs worldwide. His 6ft 5in frame helps him attack aerial balls well, and his imposing stature can prove too much for many attackers to deal with, which is why he is mostly avoided by the opposition as they look to exploit spaces behind him and between him and his centre back partner.
He rarely gets beaten in one-on-ones and likes to confront attackers head on, winning 80% of the tackles he goes in for on average. He will be a key part of Ancelotti’s defensive set up at Napoli this season.
Highly rated Mexican attacker Hirving Lozano is the star transfer for Napoli this season. The electric winger will add more pace to Ancelotti’s attack, as he’s a player who likes to run at defence and excels at pressing – qualities Ancelotti likes in his forwards.
Kostas Manolas is a centre back who excels in going forward, and he has been brought in to partner Koulibaly in defence. He is a defender who can start attacks from the back with his forward passes, the kind Insigne and co. would kill for.
Teenage prodigy Elif Elmas has been brought in to shore up the midfield, and while he might not be a starter immediately, he will bring his ball-playing ability to the team. Good with forward passes and long balls, he will be a great fit for the team.
In all, Napoli have done good business this summer and look poised to stave off challenges as they prepare to face off with Juventus for the Scudetto. Sari has made Napoli matches versus Juventus a lot more exciting and one to be looked forward to, and Ancelotti is sure to keep the tempo up this season.
PREDICTION AND CONCLUSION
Although Cristiano Ronaldo remains the biggest threat to every opposition team because of his immense winning mentality and maniacal drive for success which always places his teams some level above the rest in the leagues he has played in, if Napoli can perform equally well against the other teams in the league, they will give Juventus a run for their money this season.
PREDICTION: Juventus’ odds have not reduced greatly but have reduced nonetheless, as they will be adapting to a new style of football this season and this could afford Ancelotti and Napoli the chance to taste a third Scudetto in their history. They are very well ready for the challenge on paper, but football is played on the field.