Gennaro Gattuso showing signs of growth at Napoli

From coaching under immense financial hardship at Crete and leading Pisa to Serie B promotion to taking up one of football’s most difficult bench jobs at former club Milan and missing out on a UEFA Champions League spot by one point, Gennaro Gattuso has experienced more than the average boss at just 42. His coaching career to date has been a roller-coaster, the kind where you have everyone sending mixed signals on how frightening it can be and how you contemplate stepping out of line to sit it out. But for the fierce Calabrese general, he has never been the one to turn back and run away from his battles. Instead, he has always stared his fears square in the eyes, no matter the circumstances.

When Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis came calling for the Italian to replace Carlo Ancelotti last December, a man he holds in high regard, another new challenge awaited him at the Casa Volturno training ground. Aware of what he was stepping into upon putting pen to paper and accepting the job of bringing balance at the San Paolo, Gattuso knew if he was to succeed in this new role, his group were going to have to fight, sacrifice and spit blood to revitalize the Partenopei.

Initially, Gattuso seemed in over his head, failing to disguise his flaws and those of the current squad this season, losing 4 of 5 in the league and falling into the bottom half of the table. However, he has completely reversed this downward spiral, winning 7 of 10 in all competitions, including wins over Juventus, Lazio and Inter – the latter two which have them one result away from clinching a Coppa Italia berth.

Throughout this stretch, Gattuso has been able to elevate those who were otherwise fumbling and struggling for form under Ancelotti, including Spanish international Fabian Ruiz.

The 23-year old broke out in a big way in his first season at the club, eventually earning regular runs in the starting XI after moving from strength to strength and having a tremendous impact. Yet, too often he was used in areas under Ancelotti where his best talents failed to shine through. Recently though, he has found the magic wand of a left foot he wields and the vision to split lines which has put him back on track as one of Italy’s brightest midfield players, something which will certainly sound the alarms for clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona who have been linked extensively with a summer move for the ex-Real Betis man.

Newcomer Diego Demme, who has seemingly taken Allan’s starting spot after the Brazilian came under criticism of Gattuso after his training approach failed to meet expectations, is also providing the kind of balance in the midfield that frees up Ruiz and Piotr Zielinski to have a real say in attacking areas.

But Gattuso’s impact has sparked more than just a few, with his presence having a trickle down effect on the entire squad who are not only putting in solid collective efforts, but also buying into the way their new boss wishes to perform with the ‘grinta’ for which he personified throughout his own career. Now that he has his squad fighting and willing to get their hands dirty, Gattuso has shown improvement in the tactical aspects of his job, just as we saw in the 1-1 draw with Barcelona.

His 4-1-4-1 operated by design, allowing Napoli to play with numbers behind the ball as Barcelona expectedly held the upper-hand in possession and strike the Catalans on the rare counter-attack just as Dries Mertens did. Many will argue Napoli hunkered down and absorbed too much, and preferred to have been the aggressor as Barcelona’s been susceptible to getting split open on many occasions this season. Nonetheless, it was a solid tactical display from a manager whose main critics have always lamented his limitations and it is a result that suggests he can do more than motivate.

Gattuso has never been one for excuses. He has always honestly addressed the media and never deflects blame onto his players. There is accountability, ownership of any wayward results and off-kilter performances. He demands professionalism, and equal commitment to the cause. As a result of this, he has won over the Napoli fans and is beginning to get the best out of an underachieving squad who are now working to correct the wrongs of the earlier season to get back where they need to be amongst the Serie A elites.

Is he tactically limited? Perhaps. Does he have the CV of a top coach or one that proves he can hold down a job? No. Does his football style look pedestrian at times? Certainly. But is he evolving as a manager in this game? We think so.

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UCL Group Stage: Liverpool 1-1 Napoli, the Partenopei player ratings

Liverpool and Napoli played to a scrappy 1-1 draw at Anfield Wednesday evening. Dries Mertens opened the scoring with a lovely bit of finishing towards Alisson’s far post, while Dejan Lovren’s header led the attacking assault in the second half, but it was not enough for Jurgen Klopp’s men to pick up all three points.

Here are the Partenopei player ratings on the night. Continue reading

Napoli Player Ratings vs Cagliari

The Round 5’s biggest upset arrived in Naples Wednesday evening as substitute veteran Lucas Castro’s header in the 87th minute dealt Napoli a gutwrenching 1-0 defeat.

Spoiling far too much of their chances in the opposition‘s third, this one showed shades of the 2018/19 season for the Scudetto contenders as they too often struggled to pull ahead and put this one to bed. Throw in the fact both Juventus and Inter managed to come out with wins despite the quick turnaround in the schedule and this one will certainly leave a sour taste in Napoli’s mouth as they head into the next phase of the campaign.

Here are the player ratings for Carlo Ancelotti’s men in the defeat. Continue reading

Napoli Player Ratings vs Juventus

Serie A’s marquee matchup of round 2 lived up, then exceeded, all hype and expectations as Juventus and Napoli played to a theatric 4-3 result, with the Bianconeri managing to come out on top after squandering a three-goal lead in the second half.

Here are the player ratings for Carlo Ancelotti’s Partenopei on the night in Turin. Continue reading

Five Napoli players with something to prove in 2019/20

As the clocks ticks away on Italy’s transfer window, several of Serie A’s biggest clubs remain active on the market, including Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli who, with an additional signing or two, will be well positioned and poised to give eight-consecutive title winners Juventus a real run for their money.

In the meantime, while business continues to be sorted out off the pitch, action returns on it with round 1 of the 2019/20 campaign to commence this weekend. Let’s assume the Partenopei remain as is for a moment with the current squad intact. Here are five players poised for solid seasons and with something to prove for the Scudetto contenders.

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Four Takeaways From Napoli’s 0-0 Stalemate with Milan


Familiar faces met yet again last night at the San Siro as Gennaro Gattuso and his mentor Carlo Ancelotti squared off in a clash between Milan and Napoli.

The first half of action saw the Rossoneri assert themselves and threaten to go ahead, while the visitors swung momentum in their favor after the break only to see several attempts go awry.

In the end, the two played to a 0-0 draw. Here are four takeaways from the Partenopei’s stalemate in Milano: Continue reading

Colombia’s thrashing of Poland delivered wake-up call to Poles


Poland crashed out of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, just as quickly as they returned after 12 years away from the competition.

The Poles entered the tournament as FIFA’s 8th ranked nation, a position most felt they weren’t entirely deserving of when you consider their WCQ opponents. Perennial powers like Spain (10), England (12), Uruguay (14), Mexico (15) and Colombia (16) – who delivered the fatal blow to the Biało-czerwoni’s World Cup hopes last Sunday 3-0 – sat behind Poland in the rankings, perhaps showing the flaws embedded in FIFA’s ranking process.

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Poland, Adam Nawalka must consider tactical alterations vs Colombia

Polska - Litwa

Poland came out extremely flat in their Group H 2-1 defeat to Senegal – and it showed from the opening whistle.

Aside from Grzegorz Krychowiak’s back pass into ‘no mans land’ that allowed an alert M’Baye Niang to spring into action and pounce on the loose ball quickly before beating both Jan Bednarek and Wojciech Szczesny for the decisive goal, the Poles overall performance simply did not meet the expectations that come with being FIFA’s 8th ranked nation. Continue reading

Group H: Lackluster Poland fall to Senegal 2-1 in opener – the Biało-czerwoni player ratings


Poland’s return to the World Cup after 12 years away did not go according to plan as their Group H opener resulted in a 2-1 defeat to Senegal, with manager Adam Nawałka’s side looking less than impressive.

Here are the Polish player ratings from the match:

Wojciech Szczesny (GK, 5.0): The Juventus keeper wasn’t tested all that much in this affair, but was caught out in no mans land on the back pass from Krychowiak which led to the eventual winner from M’Baye Niang.

Lukasz Piszczek (RB, 5.5): Poland’s veteran right-back offered very little going forward and was uncharacteristically sloppy with his passing.

Michal Pazdan (CB, 6.0): Of the four defenders, Pazdan performed the best, although he endured his own share of troubles in the build-up from the back. It is quite clear that Poland’s backline does not operate with the same confidence and solidity without Kamil Glik.

Thiago Cionek (CB, 4.5): Filling in for the injured Glik, Cionek was granted the opportunity to prove he can hold his own on this stage, of which he failed at it. Lackadaisical, and with little urgency to move the ball around, the SPAL defender should probably have been benched in favour of Bednarek.

Maciej Rybus (LB, 6.0): Early on, Rybus seemed determined to plunge forward and serve as an outlet in the build-up which Poland struggled mightily to get going at times. However, he spent the majority of the match just trying to keep to his defensive duties and not let Senegal get in behind.

Grzegorz Krychowiak (MID, 5.0): A disappointing display from Poland’s veteran destroyer. Far too error-prone and surrendered possession in areas of the pitch where it proved costly – especially the mistake which put both Bednarek and Szczesny in a bad spot.

Piotr Zielinski (MID, 5.5): As Poland’s main playmaker, Zielinski did not enjoy enough of the ball at his feet in more advanced positions where he could be that supporting player Lewandowski and Milik needed. Instead, the Napoli man was assisting in the midfield, leaving a void in the final third where it was desperately needed.

Jakub Blaszczykowski (MID, 5.0): A very quiet day for the long-serving Polish international on his 100th appearance for country.

Arkadiusz Milik (MID, 5.0): Milik, like Lewandowski, was often very isolated and unable to operate centrally or combine with other teammates to leave his mark. Just 35 touches in total for the young Pole who is expected to play a big role in this tournament. Nawałka must find a way to get Milik on the ball more and able to influence like we are accustomed to seeing at Napoli.

Kamil Grosicki (MID, 6.5): Hands down, Poland’s most energetic player. Grosicki made several runs down the left channel early on in this one, and looked lively. To no surprise, the 30-year old was the supplier of Krychowiak’s headed goal. However, if Poland are to advance from this group, he can’t be the most influential player in the side.

Robert Lewandowski (ST, 5.5): The Bayern Munich star was starved of service throughout, often just being closely man-marked by Kalidou Koulibaly who did well in blanketing him from getting involved. Zielinski and Milik will need to ramp up their play and ensure that their captain can get the goalscoring chances needed to mirror his WCQ exploits.


Jan Bednarek (CB, 6.0): Perhaps he could have done better to keep Niang in front of him on the second goal, but Bednarek was overall pretty solid off the bench for Poland – and probably would have served as a better partner for Pazdan in the back based off his form in the friendlies leading up to this competition. Expect the Southampton defender to get the starting nod over Cionek vs Colombia should Glik not be ready.

Dawid Kownacki (ST, 5.5): The 21-year old relieved Milik with roughly 15 minutes to get his feet wet. Kownacki saw a fair amount of the ball, and looked confident which bodes well for the next time he is called upon.

Bartosz Bereszynski (RB, 5.5): Sampdoria’s starting right-back came on for Piszczek in the 83rd minute with Poland chasing the game and finally playing with some urgency going forward. Bereszynski could very well find himself starting in the next match vs Colombia should Nawalłka elect to tinker his tactics, because after this collective effort, it is most definintely required.

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Seven Polish internationals from Serie A to feature in World Cup

Polska - Litwa

After 12 excruciating years, Poland have made it back to the World Cup, returning as a dark-horse in the competition after topping their group in WCQ and currently being ranked 8th in the FIFA rankings.

The Biało-czerwoni have the most Serie A representatives (7) among the 32 nations heading to Russia for the 2018 edition of the tournament, and since 2008 when there were 0 Poles plying their trade in Italy’s top flight, 14 are now active on the Peninsula in what appears to be an evolving trend by the year.

Here are those seven Polish internationals manager Adam Nawałka has called upon to make the trip to Russia. Continue reading