In a game where Napoli had little to play for, you would’ve expected more from Inter. But as has been the story many times this season, Inter failed to meet expectations. With one game to go, Inter now face the challenge of hanging on to a top-four position heading into the last game of the season.
Perhaps that challenge might be made more difficult as Empoli who have won their last three games look to avoid relegation on the last day of the season. But before that, let’s look at the tactical analysis of Napoli vs Inter at the San Paolo Stadium on Sunday.
Both teams started using familiar team shapes. Inter positioned themselves in a 4-2-3-1 that has been a custom during Luciano Spalletti time in charge. Brozović and Gagliardini came in for Vecino and Valero in the heart of midfield. Otherwise, it was pretty much the team that beat Chievo 2-0 week. Spalletti positioned both men in front of the back four to screen the back four as well as impose themselves in midfield.
Napoli changed their shape back to a 4-4-2 for this game, following a 4-2-3-1 shape the previous weekend. Ruiz was pushed out on to a more advanced position on the left of a midfield four. This change would pay dividends during the game. Mertens played alongside Milik, displacing Younes who operated as left-winger last week.
Napoli’s high line
A key theme during the game was the high press by Napoli. Inter enjoyed large periods of the game with possession (57%). However, it was Napoli who capitalised on this. Napoli’s gameplan was designed for the players to work hard off the ball and force Inter into mistakes. As can be seen above, both the Napoli midfield and attack are close to the final third, pressing the ball. This technique made it costly for Inter if and when they lost the ball.
Inter’s midfielders were caught in possession a few times before the inevitable happened in minute 16. A misplaced pass by the error-prone Asamoah straight into the heart of midfield, allowed Zieliński to pounce on the mistake and fire a shot into the top corner passed Handanović.
During the rest of the half, it was more of the same. Inter’s passing lacked meaning and ideas as they failed to break through the lines of Napoli. They also lacked urgency which allowed Napoli to pick up all the loose balls high up the field. Ultimately this kept leading to dangerous attacks as Napoli found themselves closer to goal every time when in possession.
Inter’s change in shape
Politano was ineffective and lacked impact during the first half. This saw Icardi replace him at half-time as Spalletti looked for a second-half reaction. D’Ambrosio had to drop deeper and form a back three as a right-sided centre-half. Opposite full back, Asamoah now operated in a left wing-back position. However, it was more of the same from Napoli as they saw no change in shape, maintaining the 4-4-2.
As the second half went on and Napoli began to take control of the game with 3 goals, Inter really lost their shape. Above it is clear to see the inconsistent shape of Inter’s defenders. The vacated space meant Miranda had to defend on his own as a simple through ball put Ruiz through on goal.
Napoli constantly exploited the space vacated in the full-back areas during the second half. Perisic, the right sided wing back focused most of his efforts on the offensive side of the game. Add to this D’Ambrosio positioning and Ruiz can calmly smash home his second.
Napoli forwards stretching the line
Napoli’s Mertens and Milik really stretched the back three of Inter in the last third of the game. A simple ball down the line by Ghoulam puts Mertens through with acres of space and he takes Miranda with him. Milik does the same on the opposite side with Škriniar. This then allows Ruiz to exploit the space vacated in the middle. This happened on a number of occasions in the second half as Inter pushed forward for a goal. Napoli were patient and intelligent with their passes in the final third. Before finally in the 71st minute Inter got what they were asking for. A parry from Handanović gave Malcuit a chance to cross one back in and Ruiz to expertly finish.
As this tactical analysis has shown, Napoli displayed their quality as the second best team in Serie A for this game. Inter, however, made some basic mistakes in defence whilst not being clinical enough in front of goal. Against Empoli this week Inter have a chance to put things right and end their season on a high in front of their own fans at the San Siro. Certainly, the team will need up their game and avoid making mistakes early on if they are to qualify for the Champions League next season. This Inter team still have a lot to learn and this game against Napoli proved that.
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