Last season under Maurizio Sarri, Napoli finished third in Serie A but scored a league-high 94 goals and only finished five points behind champions Juventus. The Naples club reached the semi-final of the Coppa Italia and the last 16 of the Champions League before losing to eventual winners, Real Madrid. This season, Sarri and Napoli will be hoping to go a step further and secure a trophy. The Serie A title is currently in their sights.
Napoli have won the Serie A title twice in their history, but not since 1990, when they were aided by the South American greats Diego Maradona and Careca. Six times they have finished runners-up, most recently in 2015-16, once again behind Juventus. They have won the Coppa Italia five times with their last success coming in 2014 when they defeated Fiorentina 3-1. Their greatest European triumph was in 1989, when they lifted the UEFA Cup after beating Bundesliga team Stuttgart 5-4 on aggregate in the final.
Born in Naples, the 58-year old is a sought-after coach due to his success in Italy. Taking over from Rafael Benitez in 2015 after leading Empoli to Serie A and a 15th place finish in his first season, Napoli have been improving each year. So far during his time with the club, he has achieved a 67.29% win rate. Sarri has grown thrown the ranks of management and stated:
“For me, it has been gratifying to have had a long career starting from the bottom,” he said. “It’s been educational, particularly because certain levels teach you more and make you grow more. I think it’s a path which, generalising, everybody should do, but then there are big exceptions.”
Sarri likes to play a fluid 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder, two attacking midfielders and three narrow forwards. This provides opportunities for the full-backs to get forward and offer width. He likes his teams to counter-press and focus on regaining possession. When Napoli experience pressure, Sarri ensures his team have excellent positional play. They can use each other to play out of possession. The team never look panicked when teams press them and have impressed many opponents in Europe with their quick passing and combinations.
Sarri has several key players at his disposal including Dries Mertens, who scored 28 goals in Serie A last season, Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik, Italian striker Lorenzo Insigne and Spanish international Jose Callejon. Napoli have numerous striking options despite selling Gonzalo Higuain to Juventus for €90 million in the summer of 2016. In addition, Kalidou Koulibaly, one of the most valuable defenders in the world, found himself linked with all number of big clubs across Europe.
Sarri is yet to win a major trophy with Napoli, but with their excellent personnel and his outstanding tactics this might be their year. They deserved to be considered one of the favourites for the title.
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