As both Napoli and Torino went into the tie, a lot was at stake. While it may seem like a trivial match, this game had important motives for both teams. On one hand, Napoli were trying to close the gap between them and Juventus.  With Juventus blowing past opponents, it was critical for Napoli to not lose steam and let Juventus have an easy win. On the other hand, with five teams breathing down Champion’s league spots, Torino could not lose. With a resurgent AC Milan, the competition for Torino had only gotten significantly harder. Additionally, with the threat of Belotti being sold, Torino needed to secure a spot in either of the European leagues. This would allow them financial stability and most importantly, allow for the attraction of young talent. Thus, as both sides went in, the Italian league offered its viewers a potential feast of a match, with everything at stake.

Teamsheet

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[Credit : WyScout]
Napoli lined up in their standard 4-4-2, the only change being Elseid Hysaj for Faouzi Ghoulam, the later being rested after Napoli’s game against Zurich. An important detail pertaining to Napoli was the loss of their all-time record goalscorer Marek Hamsik. Torino had a change in their lineup, going from their 3-4-2-1, used against Udinese, to a 5-4-1 (alternatively 3-5-2). Nicolas Nkoulou was brought in for Koffi Djidji. Additionally, Lorenzo De Silvestri was brought in for, Iago Falque, the former taking the role of the right wing backs.  

In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Napoli were held to a draw against Torino. Additionally, we tactically and statistically analyze the approaches and the drawbacks to each teams’ playing style.

Approaches From Napoli and Torino

Napoli were dominant in their possession, having 65% possession. They were also remarkably great at creating chances and shots for themselves. They would go on to create 26 shots to Torino’s 10. Napoli’s main approach was to attack from the left side. Approximately, 48% of their attacks happened on the left side. Like their style with Sarri, their attack involved the same automatisms of vertical combinations.

From the teamsheet, the most creative players can be seen on the left side, with Hysaj, Piotr Zielinski, and Lorenzo Insigne all resting on that side. While under Maurizio Sarri, intricate passing combinations would be made, leading to the goal, here Napoli relied mainly on the crossing. The crosses found themselves on the foot of Milik but it was the lack of finishing that frustrated Napoli.

On the other hand, Torino relied on set-pieces to start and engage their attacks. With a polar opposite approach, Torino attacked mainly on the right side, with 42% of their attacks stemming from there. Andrea Belotti and Berenguer found themselves combining with Silvestri and Ansaldi. Additionally, for Torino, it was the use of long and through balls that started and brought their attack to Napoli.

First Half Analysis

The first half was purely dominated by Napoli. For both sides, their first touches and passes were pretty poor but Napoli found themselves with the ball, consistently. This was due to the extremely poor usage of possession by Torino. Additionally, the passage of attack, as discussed before, was entirely focused on the left. Napoli stubbornly persisted in playing on the left side. Another thing to note here is the usage of Napoli’s two forwards, Insigne and Milik. Both of them were tasked in order to occupy two Torino’s centre backs. Their diverting runs along with the overlapping wing back often left a 2v1 in the halfspaces. The same action was repeated on the right-hand side, which meant that near post runs were being made. Often times, there was a 3v2, in Zone 17, which allowed for low crosses. This was the main attacking plan for Napoli’s perspective.

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The Napoli player’s body is shifted/turned towards the right-hand side. Instead, the player ends up cutting back and passing to the left. This is in spite of the fact that the Napoli right back, Malcuit, is in acres of space. [Credit: WyScout]

Torino attack on their right-hand side, meaning that both attacks of the two sides were happening on the same side of the pitch. In terms of tactics, the front two FWs were always at a numerical disadvantage. Even then, in the luckiest situations, the Torino forwards found themselves in a 2v2. To reduce the numerical disadvantage, the wing backs would start moving upfield, attacking the zones on the wing.
The problem was that Torino were very wasteful with their possession. The Napoli players would employ pressing traps, in which the area for the play would be restricted. Any loss of possession would lead to the wingbacks being exploited. Thus, there would be an abundance of space left behind the wingback. For this reason, Napoli chose to attack the left side. Thus, Napoli’s golden chances came through them defending Torino’s transitional attack and counter-attacking:

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Berenguer has just lost the ball and Malcuit is now striding forward. The space between the midfield and the defence is massive, with three Napoli players occupying the space. Callejon and Insigne are positioned as to directly receive the ball and attack the concurrent space between their respective wingback and centre back. [Credit: WyScout]
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As we can see here, the above-mentioned counterattack leads to a 3v3 situation for Napoli. Additionally, as we can see, all three Napoli players are attacking zones 16, 17, and 18. A low cross to either Milik or Callejon can result in a goal. This was the major attacking plan in the first half. Most of the crosses that were being made were low drive crosses to the far post [Credit: WyScout]
One of the mechanisms that Napoli accomplish creating space behind the wingback was through the usage of a 4v4 on the wings. Napoli would have one of their CBs, a CM, one of the FWs, and the respective WB. The forward would drop in deep, attracting Torino’s wing back (and in this picture, up to three Torino players). This would create space between the defensive line which was then exploited by the running wing back.

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As we can see here, Milik drops in deep, which attracts up to three Torino players. This movement is important as space created behind the two Torino defenders. Additionally, space is created in the middle, for quick flicks. [Credit: WyScout]
In regards to pressing, both teams pressed high. Napoli pressed through man-marking. Each one of the defenders was met with an accompanying Napoli attacker. Napoli were also aggressive in their approach, often doing anything to win the ball back. This was seen in the number of yellow cards (five) given to Napoli. The pair of Fabian Ruiz and Allan were handed the task of blocking potential passing lanes while the two wide wingers fixated on controlling the wingbacks.

This pressing approach was very effective by Napoli as it isolated Berenguer and Belotti against the pair of Nikola Maksimovic and Manchester United target Kalidou Koulibaly. On the other hand, Torino’ pressing was not as complete. Often times, only the wing backs and forwards would come to press the build-up play. Neither the midfield or the defence would push up, which would leave acres of space after the first wave of press.

Not only that, Torino’s pressing was not effective as they were not aggressive with their counterparts and did not block any passing lanes. Thus, Napoli got around Torino’s passing through the quality of passes and numerical superiority

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As seen here, Torino were pressing in the first half but there pressing was largely ineffective. Most of the passing lanes are intact. Additionally, lobbed balls/passing combinations can eliminate five Torino players, leaving little chance for an accurate defence [Credit : Wyscout]
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The result of the pressing from Torino leads to one passing leaving 5 (one not in screen) players behind. Napoli has their fullbacks in the correct position. Runs from Malcuit and Hysaj into space to the left and right flanks can be devastating and this pattern was routinely seen from Napoli. [Credit: Wyscout]

Second Half Analysis

The second half started with almost the same tempo as before. Napoli dominated possession and Torino kept chasing shadows. Walter Mazzarri did improve his team as Torino held onto the ball much better. The problem of attacking for Torino still existed. The main culprit was that the whole team was not attacking. Only a few of Torino’s players would be near the attack. The midfield support was nonexistent. This meant that numerical superiority were still intact which worked against Torino. In terms of positional play, the positions occupied by Torino were not correct. Most of the positions did not provide width to the team. Additionally, the positions taken up by Torino were often blocked by the defenders’ positions.

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As we can see, there is a 5v4 and even then, the Torino players are too spread apart. The linkup between the players is impossible and thus a potential breakthrough is spoiled due to lack of support from the midfield. [Credit: Wyscout]
Even when some time was provided, the Torino players did not come close to the ball to provide support. At times, there were exchanges on the wings but they did not accomplish direct chances at the goal. At most, the chances for the Belotti were far and few. Even then, when the chances came, either they were poor quality or were received with a poor touch.

Napoli, in terms of their defensive structure, kept their shape of the 4-4-2. The wingers and the full backs would tuck in, keeping the passage of the play as narrow as possible. Still, their defensive structure was not perfect as Torino did find Napoli out in some counterattacks. For the main part, the midfield line was not as compact, allowing for spaces to generate between the lines. Ideally, Torino should’ve made diagonal runs into zones 16 and 18. This would’ve created potential 1v1 scenarios.

Instead, Torino players were static, which allowed Napoli to trap them near the flanks and create numerical superiority. This would lead to a loss in possession and counterattacks would be started.

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A few minutes later, and still there is no support from Torino. In fact, the numerical superiority of Napoli has increased. The situation is now 8v6, working against Torino. Additionally, the lack of positional awareness can be seen here from Torino as none of the players move inward to offer support. [Credit: Wyscout]
There were many times in the game where Torino got into good positions. While they weren’t able to penetrate into the critical zones, they were able to position themselves near zones 13 & 15. From an attacking perspective, these zones are good for crossing as they allow for deep penetration into the defence of the opposition.

While they would get into those positions, support would still be lacking as they would be outnumbered 3v2. While Torino’s wingbacks and centre midfielder would assume their positions, Napoli would push their wingback guarding the opposition wingback. Additionally, two players would push out to press the Torino centre midfielder

Even then, the quality on the ball from Torino was inferior to that of Napoli. Additionally, overloads nor supporting runs were made. There are also no players that are in a blindside position, which would make Napoli have to defend with more concentration. Thus, this made it much easier for Napoli to close down any balls inwards.

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When Torino did have men up front, they were very wasteful in possession, as shown by Aina. Instead of passing to the nearby wingback or center midfielder, he loses the ball which leads to a very dangerous counterattack from Napoli. [Credit: Wyscout]
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Here is the result of the counterattack. While Napoli were very efficient at transitioning, the same could not be said about the decisions in the final third. As we can see here, there is a 3v2, in favour of Napoli, with an abundance of space. However, due to sloppy touches and indecisive passes, this counterattack does not come to vail. [Credit: Wyscout]
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Yet another example of Napoli’s wastefulness. Here, Allan wins the ball very high up and spots Callejon’s run. Unfortunately, the ball’s trajectory (shown in purple) is way over where Callejon reaches. [Credit: Wyscout]
Torino was very lucky that Napoli did not score because many opportunities arose. Thus, the game ended goalless, with a defensively stubborn but toothless Torino holding out to the attacking Neapolitans

Lorenzo Il Magnifico

In a game that consisted of many opportunities, it was “Il Magnifico” that brought Napoli’s attacks to full fruition. While he was paired up with Milik in a 2 man attack, the reality was that Insigne was given a free role. Insigne frequently was present on the left-hand side, operating on the halfspace:

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[Credit: WhoScored]
His role wasn’t only restricted to just attacking. He was also involved in recycling of the possession and aiding the midfield, as also indicated by his heatmap.  The most lethal component of Insigne was his diagonal runs and diagonal passes. These passes split up Torino and the runs opened space for late midfield runs from Zielinski and Allan.

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As we can see here, the red shapes are the spaces created through Insigne’s diagonals runs [Credit: WyScout]
His diagonal passes created quite a few big chances such as this:

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[Credit: Wyscout]
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[Credit: Wyscout]
Jose Callejon should have scored. Aside from that, Insigne had another impact, the effect of occupying Torino defenders. This space holding allowed the likes of Callejon to run and strive forward, as we saw here.

Insigne (along with Milik) contributed to a lot of Napoli’s shots:

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[Credit: WhoScored]
The chances that were given to Milik were given on a silver platter. If Milik had converted his chances from Insigne, the board would look very different.

Final Thoughts

The title race in Serie A is increasingly becoming a dream for Napoli. Today was a perfect chance to close the gap and advance forwards. However, their wastefulness in front of the goal has cost them dearly. If they are to contend for the title, they must win these sort of games. Milik’s lack of finishing will surely be giving Carlo Ancelotti some thoughts. Additionally, as this tactical analysis has shown, Mazzarri still has a lot to do if Torino are to fight and compete for the Champions League spot. The sheer lack of direction of Torino going forward will be stressful enough and Andrea Belotti’s waning influence on the game will surely see some sort of changes. Both teams had a lot to show for in this game and both disappointed.

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Abhishek Mishra

Writer at Ronnie Dog Media
Hi, I’m Abhishek. I am a current student and come from India. I am interested in providing and improving tactical analyses.