An Analysis Of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli

Napoli made a potentially historic decision last summer in hiring 57-year-old former banker Maurizio Sarri as head coach to fill the void left by Rafa Benitez, who departed for Real Madrid. Last season the club finished fifth in Serie A but currently they sit second, nine points behind reigning champions Juventus. For much of this season they looked capable of ending their long wait for a scudetto, which they have not won since 1990, though a recent loss of form appears to have put paid to that ambition. (more…)

Helenio Herrera: Underrated Moderniser

Helenio Herrera is regarded as one of the greatest managers in football history, but his name is also frequently tarnished by a perceived link to the most unfashionable system: catenaccio. The word catenaccio has come to mean something more than that which it originally described: negative, cynical, overly-defensive. It is used by many as a convenient insult to throw at Italian teams, even when their play has nothing to do with the tactic. Owing to his success at Inter in the 1960s, Herrera is often referred to as the man behind the system. (more…)

Leonardo Bonucci: The Soldier

Being confronted by an armed robber is the type of occurrence that generally offers only negative outcomes. Rationally, with the alternative being hurt or even killed, the immediate reaction would be to hand over whatever is asked for, without question. It’s the sort of traumatising experience that would seem impossible to prepare for, unimaginably difficult to deal with. The notion of confronting the robber wouldn’t cross the minds of most, yet this is exactly what Leonardo Bonucci did. (more…)

Juventus 1-0 Napoli: Little To Separate Two Sound Defences

Juventus hosted Napoli last Saturday night in what amounted to a crucial clash of Scudetto contenders. Going into the match, Napoli topped Serie A on 56 points, while Juventus sat just below them on 54. The most important news in the lead-up to this game was that Giorgio Chiellini would be out through injury. The left-sided centre-back is not only vital to Juventus’ defensive line but also to their possession game. Hence, his absence was agonised over. (more…)

Juventus vs. Napoli: Daniele Rugani Pass

Massimiliano Allegri had doubts about including Daniele Rugani prior to Juventus’ hosting Napoli on Saturday night. He shouldn’t have been concerned. (more…)

Gonzalo Higuain: Functional, Conventional And The World’s Best Number Nine

We live in a footballing epoch of false everything. The game’s progression has given rise to strikers, wingers and advanced playmakers who aren’t really just strikers, wingers and advanced playmakers. At the highest level, purity within an attacking position is increasingly rare as forward players become more intelligent in their movements and more organised in their defensive work. In these circumstances, the more conventional are often underappreciated. Perhaps that is why Gonzalo Higuain, a number nine so true as to be borderline unfashionable, has been disregarded in comparison to his more sophisticated peers. (more…)

Federico Bernardeschi: Fiorentina’s Inverted Wing-back

Fiorentina’s ascent in Serie A this season has been a surprise to many. Under the guidance of Paulo Sousa the club has reached new heights in their performance, winning nine of their opening 14 fixtures and playing some wonderful football along the way. (more…)

Fiorentina 1-2 Roma: Wingers Crucial To Roma Win

Fiorentina hosted Roma on Sunday, 25 October in what was considered a crucial match in the Scudetto race. Going into the game, Fiorentina sat top of Serie A on 18 points, while Roma were right behind them in second place on 17 points after eight rounds of fixtures. (more…)

Juventus, Cuadrado And The Case For 3-5-2

A fourth consecutive Scudetto; a Coppa Italia success to achieve a league and cup double for the first time in 20 years; a Champions League final. Massimiliano Allegri packed a lot into his first season at the Juventus helm. Still, football is fickle and just weeks into the 2015/16 season he was being questioned not only by those on the outside of the club looking in, but by those in the stands who had been in delirium not so long ago. (more…)

Internazionale 1-4 Fiorentina: Interconnectivity And Inside Forwards

Last Sunday’s Serie A top-of-the-table clash between Inter Milan and Fiorentina was billed as ‘beauty and the beast’. Inter represented the beast with Roberto Mancini’s predilection for midfield bulwarks, physical strength and tight one-goal victories, while Paulo Sousa’s Fiorentina brought beauty in the form of high-tempo, fluid passing football. (more…)