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February 27, 2024

Written By Onyeka Daniel

Despite a change of manager, the results hasn’t been consistent for Italian defending champions, Napoli. After Rudi Garcia was sacked, Walter Mazzari was brought in and of course, some reinforcements during the January transfer window, but that has largely failed to change things.

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They lost to AC Milan in the 24th round of fixture in the Serie A and their manager, Mazzarri has defended his constant changing of tactics, and claiming that they ‘deserved’ better against Milan with a bold statement. ‘I am confident we will challenge for at least fourth place.’

The coach changed his tactics repeatedly at San Siro, moving from a five-man defence in the first half to a 4-3-3 with the introduction of Matteo Politano. Did he regret not starting with that shape?

“Milan had a ferocious pressing in the first half and fell back after the break. We did well, but could’ve done better to make the most of their dip in fitness levels,” Mazzarri told DAZN in his post match interview.


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“I don’t think the change of system was the key to playing better in the second half, we simply did better.” The decisive goal was scored by Theo Hernandez, who combined with Rafael Leao and Olivier Giroud breaking down the left flank. “We had worked all week on the movements to deal with Theo doing that give and go. I don’t like specifying who made the mistake.

“But we had prepared to deal with it and a mistake was made. It was a predictable move, because that is a classic Milan move, so we should’ve closed off the through ball earlier. That is all I will say.” This was another disappointing result for the reigning the Partenopei, who are now stranded in ninth place after 10 wins, five draws and eight defeats.

They are seven points adrift of Atalanta in fourth, and notably most of the teams in the race for Europe have a game in hand – the only exception being Roma in sixth. What is Napoli’s objective this season? “The objective is to win as many games as we can. It is possible. We had many injuries, missed important players, we had a great performance tonight and did not deserve to lose.

“We proved again tonight that we played well and could’ve taken three points if things had gone our way against one of the best teams in the league. “Many of those ahead of us have to come to Naples, so I have confidence we will challenge for at least fourth place.” Kvaratskhelia had been moved to a more central role to make him less predictable, but it did not seem to work too well.

“He is trying to find different spaces, but wherever he goes, there are three defenders waiting for him. Sometimes the challenges can be a bit rough and that ought to be punished. When he sees there is a cage around him, he can cut to a more central role, but he also needs help from his teammates to move the others with their runs. Kvara cannot always be expected to dribble past three or four.”

Mario Rui was suspended today and Mathias Olivera made his comeback from a knee injury in the final stages. “In modern football, a team must be able to interpret different tactical systems even during the same match. The players I managed to work with have memorised many of those movements, a three-man defence, a 4-3-3 and more.

“With a three-man defence we did well in the Supercoppa Italiana, dominating Fiorentina and then holding out for most of the match with Inter, who have a very similar shape. The principles are the important thing, not the tactical system.” Piotr Zielinski returned to the starting XI this evening, but has been excluded from the Champions League squad list for the showdown with Barcelona.

The club Insists it was not revenge for refusing to sign a new contract, but would it not be better to have Zielinski available in a short tournament where you need the best on the night? “I already explained this, when the Champions League squad list was settled at the start of the season, we have released three players, so could only change three. It is therefore better to rely on the players who could represent the future of Napoli.

“Unfortunately, Traore arrived having recovered from malaria, he needs to rediscover his fitness and only has about 25 minutes. He is the one with the characteristics most suited to replacing Zielinski. “This is all a fair evaluation, but Zielinski has not played that often lately and we did well in his absence. We have other options and there is no guarantee he will play the next few matches.” He further added.

Meanwhile…

After almost nine years, Milan claimed a home victory against Napoli, running out 1-0 victors on Sunday night. Hernandez’s moment of pure brilliance midway through the first half set the sides apart at the final whistle. Hernandez’s significance to Pioli’s tactical set-up has been immense, especially in times of great urgency.

With Milan facing a severe injury crisis at the back, the Frenchman offered to change his natural left-back position and play at the heart of the Rossoneri defense. Matteo Gabbia’s return to Milan in January has helped the ex-Real Madrid man return at left-back.

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It paid dividends against Napoli as the famous connection between him and Rafael Leao fired Milan to their first home league win against Napoli since 2015. Pioli praised his versatile defender in the aftermath, hailing his rapport with the Portuguese winger.

“Theo had put himself at our disposal as a central defender and he did it very well indeed, but naturally he has such a great rapport with Leao down the left, they know each other so well, can sniff each other out,” the Milan boss said after the win.

Hernandez’s goal inspired Milan to a ninth consecutive league match without losing, with two draws, maintaining their faint hopes of catching up with runaway leaders Inter, but first, they will have to catch Juventus in second position. Their next match takes them to Brianteo to face Monza next weekend.

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