Growing excitement over Gattuso’s Napoli

“Nobody gave me anything,” is reportedly the mantra Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso is trying to instil in his players.

The former Milan legend understands this better than most. As a player, Gattuso wasn’t blessed with the divine talents of his partner-in-crime, Andrea Pirlo, or even with the skillset of vastly underrated teammate Massimo Ambrosini. Gattuso was a fighter, someone who wasn’t going to pick out a rampaging right-back with a sumptuous 40-yard diagonal pass or produce an outrageous piece of skill, he was the player who did the grunt work, who took the ball from the opposition and gave it to his more talented colleagues. The Calabrian-native made a career out of it, and won a flurry of accolades as a result.

And in his short stint as Napoli coach, he’s succeeding in transferring his ethos to the players. Gattuso has brought a tighter cohesion to the team, installed a more diligent work ethic than had seemingly been evident during the final months of the Carlo Ancelotti era.

Gattuso guided the club to the Coppa Italia title in June, beating Juventus 4-2 on penalties. It was their first piece of major silverware since lifting the same trophy in 2014. It must also be remembered that Napoli beat Lazio, Inter and Juve en route – three of the top four sides last season – and conceded a single goal.

Going into this season, the club has almost gone under the radar. The €60m signing of Victor Osimhen hasn’t received the coverage that a signing of that expense should garner. Much of the focus surrounding the club has been on the potential departures of Kalidou Koulibaly and Arkadiusz Milik.

Eight goals in their first two Serie A games without reply suggests that Gattuso’s side mean business. They looked sluggish in the opening half against Parma on the opening day, and didn’t spring into life until the introduction of Osimhen in the second half, who caused havoc with his mere presence.

The Nigerian was granted his first start against Genoa at the San Paolo, and was instrumental in Napoli’s 6-0 demolition job, including a deft touch for Piotr Zielinski’s goal. Whilst Osimhen hasn’t got on the score sheet himself, it’s evident that he offers more to the Partenopei than Milik, who’s more static and less nimble than the 21-year-old.

Furthermore, Chucky Lozano has impressed Gattuso with his start to the season following a disappointing debut campaign in Italy. “I’m not giving anything to him,” said Gattuso following the 6-0 win. “He’s a different player now, he’s got great strength in his legs, and doesn’t fall to the ground like a kid when he gets kicked.” Lozano has inherited the departed Jose Callejon’s position on the right flank in Gattuso’s 4-2-3-1 system, and with the pressure of being the club’s most expensive signing lifted due to the arrival of Osimhen, the Mexican is beginning to look like the player Napoli shelled out €42m on a year ago.

During the Maurizio Sarri reign, the point was always argued that Napoli had a great starting XI, but little in the way of players that could’ve come off the bench and made a difference. However this is no longer the case. The January signings of Diego Demme, Stanislav Lobotka, Matteo Politano and the summers arrivals of Andrea Petagna, Amir Rrahmani and Osimhen have given Gattuso a far greater squad depth than either of his two predecessors were afforded.

In addition to having a bigger squad, with Serie A allowing five substitutions for this season only, Napoli could be one of the main beneficiaries of the rule, as Inter exemplified in their 4-3 win against Fiorentina last weekend.

Whilst yes, one could argue that their two wins were only against Parma and Genoa and that it’s very early in the season to be making grand proclamations, but, whisper it quietly – Napoli look a formidable opponent, and are in with a strong chance of securing Champions League football next season.

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Crotone 0-2 AC Milan: The positives for the Rossoneri as winning streak continues

Milan continued their winning streak earlier this evening by beating Crotone away from home, scoring two goals just like in the league opener. Once again, the performance wasn’t spectacular from the Rossoneri but they did the necessary, keeping a clean sheet as well which is important for the defence. 

Franck Kessie gave Milan the lead in stoppage time of the first half, safely converting a penalty after Ante Rebic was brought down in the box. The Rossoneri also had a few chances prior to that, including a Simon Kjaer header that struck the bar after Hakan Calhanoglu picked him out from the corner flag.  Continue reading

Crotone vs. AC Milan: Serie A Round 2 – Team news, stats and prediction

Milan have started the season well with three wins out of three, albeit facing a few smaller teams in the Europa League qualifiers. Those games are known to be tricky, though, and the Rossoneri have certainly managed to build on their impressive form from last season despite several key absences. 

Alessio Romagnoli is still recovering from his injury, Ante Rebic has been suspended in the Europa League and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is currently in isolation due to COVID. These are just a few of the blows that Stefano Pioli has had to deal with, highlighting that there is still some work to be done on the transfer market.  Continue reading

AC Milan 3-2 Bodo/Glimt: Defensive flaws exposed as Calhanoglu saves the Rossoneri

Milan secured yet another win this evening – although it was anything but easy – and thus advanced to what is the final round of the Europa League preliminaries, namely the play-offs. Hakan Calhanoglu and Lorenzo Colombo were the goalscorers as Stefano Pioli lacked several key men. 

In addition to Alessio Romagnoli and Ante Rebic, the manager was forced to deal with the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose Coronavirus test came back positive a few hours before the game. The rest of the squad were negative and this allowed them to go ahead with the encounter this evening.  Continue reading

AC Milan 2-0 Bologna: Ibrahimovic decisive once again as Rossoneri secure three points

After beating Shamrock Rovers by 2-0 in the Europa League qualifiers, Milan secured the win in the league opener with the same scoreline this evening. Bologna never really threathend the Rossoneri, who relied on their foundations and their key players, most notaby Zlatan Ibrahimovic this time out. 

The Swede managed to get on target, not just once but twice, and even came close to scoring a hat-trick as his teammates picked him out in good positions. Stefano Pioli will surely be happy with the performance as a whole, especially considering that they have had little time to prepare for this season.  Continue reading

AC Milan vs. Bologna: Serie A Round 1 – Team news, stats and prediction

After kicking off their season on Thursday with the Europa League clash against Shamrock Rovers, Milan are now preparing for what will be – as always – an interesting league opener. Bologna will visit the San Siro and for Stefano Pioli’s men, it will be important to start on the right foot. 

The Rossoneri comfortably secured their spot in the third round of the Europa League qualifiers, beating Shamrock Rovers with minimum effort. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Calhanoglu picked up where they left off last season and combined very well throughout the game, both getting on the scoresheet.  Continue reading

Shamrock Rovers 0-2 AC Milan: Important duo delivers yet again as Rossoneri advance to next round

Milan grabbed their first official win of the season this evening as Hakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic delivered once again. The duo was essential for the Rossoneri towards the end of last season, registering many points between them, and it looks like this will be the case this term as well. 

Stefano Pioli’s side was, obviously, the favourites heading into tonight’s game. Although Shamrock Rovers are sitting first in the Irish league, it’s an opponent that Milan should beat quite easily on paper. And just like expected, they managed to seal their ticket to the third round of the Europa League qualifiers.  Continue reading

Milan prepare for important clash against Shamrock Rovers – team update and more

It feels like the season just ended, but now Milan are gearing up to start the new one. These are certainly strange times and as the opener is just one day away, the Rossoneri have only had a few weeks – including four friendly games – to prepare for what will be an important season. 

On the other hand, the players were forced to give up long vacations and thus will be in somewhat good shape from the previous term. One can only hope that the preparation Stefano Pioli opted for was enough to restore most of the fitness levels they displayed this summer. That being said, all teams are in the same situation. Continue reading

Pre-season concluded for Milan as season opener is just four days away

As there are just four days left until the start of the season, Milan completed their pre-season tour yesterday with a 3-1 win against Brescia. The preparations have certainly been a bit unusual, due to the lack of time, but the Rossoneri handled it well by scheduling several friendlies. 

Novara, Monza, Vicenza and Brescia – one Serie C side and three Serie B sides – faced Stefano Pioli’s men and the latter managed to beat all of them convincingly. Sure, the defending perhaps could have been a bit better at times, but that is what you would expect in pre-season and especially due to the makeshift backlines. Continue reading

Bennacer, Kessie, Tonali and Mr. X – Milan will finally have a competitive midfield

Following the successful ending to last season, with Stefano Pioli’s side proving just how well they can do, Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara are working hard to build on the momentum by bringing in some signings. Inevitably, they have decided to focus a lot on the midfield, which is the key to the game. 

Ismael Bennacer and Franck Kessie, who was exceptional in the second half of the season, ultimately need competition in order to improve and grow. Furthermore, it’s too big of a risk to play them each and every game from start to finish, taking injuries and other aspects into consideration. Continue reading