In the fifth round of Serie A 2020/21, Benevento hosted Napoli, with both of them aspiring to win. Napoli, who entered the match with their eyes set on achieving their fourth victory this season, and Benevento, who aspired to heal the wounds of losing their previous games against Roma and Inter with five goals.
In the end, Napoli were able to deepen the wounds of Benevento and seized a valuable victory with two goals, rising to second place behind Milan, while Benevento remained with six points in the 13th position.
This tactical analysis breaks down the tactics of the match between Benevento and Napoli. With the use of match footage and data, this analysis unpacks what happened in Napoli’s 2-1 win over Benevento.
Benevento started the match with a 4-1-4-1 formation, Lorenzo Montipò was the goalkeeper and the four-line defenders were Gaetano Letizia, Kamil Glik, Luka Caldirola, and Daam Foulon. Pasquale Schiattarella was the pivot with Artur Ioniţă and Bryan Dabo in front of him. Gianluca Caprari and Roberto Insigne were the wingers, while Gianluca Lapadula was the striker.
On the other side, Gattuso started the match with a 4-2-3-1 plan. Alex Meret was on goal with Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Konstantinos Manolas, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Mário Rui in front of him. Fabián Ruiz Peña and Tiemoué Bakayoko (who joined from Chelsea on loan) were the midfield duo with Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, and Hirving Lozano ahead of them. The 21-year-old Nigerian player Victor Osimhen led the attack.
Benevento’s defensive style and the issues
When the Benevento players were in a state of defence, they were lining up in a 5-3-2 deep block in order to prevent the players from penetrating or reaching the goal.
Here, for example, we can see the Benevento players standing well in a 5-3-2 formation. This plan enabled them to control the game in many times of the match and prevented the Napoli players from reaching dangerous areas often.
Benevento players usually suffer from repeated mistakes in many of their matches that prevented the implementation of the deep block correctly.
Benevento’s defensive players always suffer greatly from poor double monitoring of the opponents inside the box. This issue is considered a thorn in their back, as they still cannot overcome it. It is a fatal loophole that the opposition always exploit with passing deep inside the box or with overloading to confuse them and exploit that weakness.
Here, for example, two players from the Napoli team are inside the penalty area almost without supervision, while the rest of the Benevento players are watching.
If you look at the PPDA report of the Benevento team in every match, you will find that they always suffer from this problem. They do not press well or rather do not press at all. In the previous match against Roma, the number of passes without pressure in their defensive areas reached 54 passes.
In this match, and as shown in the PPDA statistics, it becomes clear that the weakness of the Benevento players is the lack of pressing efforts.
This big problem that the Benevento players have makes the opponent more comfortable in making decisions, whether by passing a lot until the defensive block becomes loose or by switching games on both sides of the field to escape from the defensive block.
Here, for example, Napoli’s players pass the ball between them almost without pressure, which makes it easier for them to make the best decision, whether by playing vertical in the back of the defense or switching the play to the other side.
Napoli’s attacking style
Napoli faced several problems at the beginning of the match. The players had difficulty penetrating and reaching advanced regions due to the large number of Benevento players in their areas.
This problem dominated the course of the match completely and this is evident in the xG report for the match. It did not rise to the required level as it barely reached 1.50 by the end of the match.
Gattuso was able to solve this issue by switching play on both sides. Napoli’s players accumulate play on one side of the field while the wing moves on the other side away from the agglomerated structures.
Here, for example, the Napoli players pulled out the Benevento players with short passes on the right side, while Mertens passes the ball to Insigne who is uncovered and stays away from the clumpy structures.
Here is another example of this method, but this time the Napoli players switched play to the right side, as Bakayoko passed the long ball to Lozano.
Also, the Napoli players were overloading the box so that they could confuse Benevento’s defensive block inside the penalty area. As shown below, there are five Napoli players inside the box who move freely without pressure.
Benevento’s attacking phase
The presence of Benevento in the offensive areas players was rare, but they relied on counter-attacks and exploiting the spaces behind Napoli’s full-backs. They relied on attacking on the left side only, and this appears below in the xG report for the match, where the percentage of goals expected from the left side represents 99% of the total expected goals for Benevento.
When Napoli’s players were in a state of attack, the full-backs to advance which leads to leaving spaces behind them that the Benevento players used in the transitions.
This was the only outlet for the Benevento players to attack, as they did it several times and resulted in their only goal in the match.
Here, in the Benevento attack, Caprari receives the ball in the space behind the leading back and passes it forward to the advancing Lapadula from the left flank.
Benevento’s players also used the space between the defenders to pass in and play through them to reach more dangerous areas.
Below, we can see this very clearly as Lapadula receives the ball on the left side behind the full-back and then crosses it into the gap between the defenders inside the box towards Roberto Insigne, who managed to score it successfully.
Napoli got three points in the team’s journey in the 2020/21 Serie A season, while Benevento suffered their second consecutive defeat and their third this season.
The two teams faced many problems on the field. Both teams dealt with them according to their capabilities, but Benevento suffered significantly from poor concentration by their players and poor press in their defensive areas. Even if they are playing a deep block, it is useless without applying pressure.
Napoli are on their right way to book one of the qualifying cards for the Champions League at the very least, while Benevento are still struggling against the big teams and they have to review a lot of things if they want not to come back from where they came next season.