Napoli completed the transfer of Kostas Manolas, paying £33 million to Roma and Carlo Ancelotti finally took the player he wanted to strengthen the team’s defence. The Greek defender had the ambition to play in a team who are aiming for the title and Napoli is just the team to do it.

Manolas spent five years to Rome, he was the leader of the team’s defence. He was left out of the starting line up just a handful of times because of injury. He played over 150 games in those seasons and he scored some important goals like the one against Barcelona in the quarterfinals of Champions League. He also was one of the best defenders in Serie A over the last two seasons, putting in some memorable performances.

That’s the reason why Napoli wanted to strengthen the defence and pay his release clause to acquire him. Ancelotti wanted to bring together two defensive behmouths in Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas.

In this tactical analysis and scout report, we will do an analysis of his style of play, his ability to build-up the game from the defence and also his defensive tactics.

Passing accuracy

He is a central defender who can help the team’s build-up. Teams are basing their tactics on build-up play and how possession will transition between lines. It is so important because the players can keep the ball at their feet, control the rhythm and allow the midfielders to get the possession in good situations and make key passes.

Kostas Manolas 2018/19 – scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Manolas is taking the ball from the goalkeeper and can help the build-up of the team.
Kostas Manolas 2018/19 – scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Despite the pressing of the opponents, Manolas finds the pass to his free teammate.

If anyone notices Manolas’s statistics they will understand why he is so important in the team’s build-up. He makes an average of 36 passes per 90 minutes and his correct passes are 33. That means he has a 93% passing accuracy. He makes three long passes per match with a success rate of two. He also tries to make 3.4 passes to the final third of the pitch with a 2.5 accuracy rate.

During the game, he also makes 14 forward passes on average which shows that he likes to move the ball forward. His reading of the game and looking for free teammates is a by-product of this. Almost 13 out of the 14 passes he tries are accurate and that’s important because as a defender he is not supposed to lose the ball or make bad passes. This would see the opponent dispossess him and launch a counter-attack against an unorganised defence.

To conclude, Manolas makes an average of 2.7 back passes with a 90+% accuracy rate. Looking at his statistics from the past season it is shown that he had 96 of 98 correct passes.

Defensive abilities and positioning

Manolas has a lot of defensive abilities that are rarely found in other centre-backs. First of all, he can read the game and the opponent’s movement well. That’s why some of the top strikers in Serie A cannot pass him. He anticipates well, tackling the opposition with precision timing. His jump reach is also high making him very strong in aerial duels. He has strength and aggression in his style of play. Also, in the 36 matches, he played the past year his team had 30% clean sheets.

Kostas Manolas 2018/19 – scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Kostas Manolas has the right position to block the opponent’s shot.

The most important ability in Kostas Manolas‘ style of play is his positioning and that’s the reason he is one of the best defenders in Serie A. He can read the game and take the right position when the opponent attacks, he is taking good positions and he blocks shots, makes interceptions and tackles.

Kostas Manolas 2018/19 – scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Kostas Manolas is getting towards the opponent and making the block in his shot.
Kostas Manolas 2018/19 – scout report - tactical analysis tactics
An opponent is making a long ball to the back of the defense but Manolas is the right time on the right way and doesn’t allow to create a chance.

The comparison to Albiol

Carlo Ancelotti must integrate him perfectly in Napoli’s line up and he has to help him adapt to the team’s style. He chose Manolas because he has different characteristics from Raul Albiol who was one of the two centre-backs with Koulibaly. Albiol is a defender who is much slower than Manolas. The two players are comparable in heading and aerial duels but Manolas is better in the build-up as we explained before. Ancelotti wanted to have a player who can help the teams build-up and also wanted to create the fastest defensive duo in Serie A in Koulibaly and Manolas.

Also, Ancelotti wanted a defender who can play in most of the matches. Manolas is not injury prone whilst Albiol had knee surgery and played just 20 matches in Serie A. So, Napoli paid the release clause to Roma and took Manolas, while Albiol was sold to Villarreal.

Fast & furious

Another one of Manolas’ strengths is his speed. He is one of the fastest defenders in Serie A and that helps him face the opponent strikers and midfielders. His speed is high and comparable to the strikers! His high sprint speed and acceleration are rarely found in the league. This is one of the reasons that most coaches in Roma used him as a duo with slower centre-backs such as Federico Fazio or Juan Jesus.

Kostas Manolas 2018/19 – scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Manolas catches Douglas Costa who is one of the fastest players in Serie A.

Offensive abilities

Despite the fact that he is a defender, Manolas can create dangerous situations in the opponent’s box. His main strengths include creating chances from set-pieces because of his positioning. He is also an excellent aerial presence so he can be dangerous from the static phases. In five years at Roma, he created only one chance in open play and one from a direct free-kick.

Kostas Manolas 2018/19 – scout report - tactical analysis tactics
Manolas scores against Torino with a header.

He does not score often but he can contribute to attacks with his headers and his shots within the penalty area. Last season he scored one goal and had one shot off the woodwork, while his other attempts missed the target or were blocked by the defenders. He finishes mostly from the penalty area making him dangerous at set-pieces.

Kostas Manolas 2018/19 – scout report - tactical analysis tactics
The green circle is the position where Manolas scored his only goal, the little yellow the shot in the post, the red circles are the shots missed and the purple circles the shots blocked in the past season.

Conclusion

Kostas Manolas is a defender who can help Napoli create a defensive partnership with Kalidou Koulibaly. This would rival Juventus’ duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini. He is a leader who can adapt to any style of play and any teammate because of his technical and mental abilities. He has some special qualities like his positioning, jumping, interceptions, marking, precision tackling and his reaction to the dribbles.

The transfer of the Greek centre-back would be effective for Napoli. Ancelotti can solve his defensive problems and create a strong Napoli that can now challenge for the Scudetto.


Total Football Analysis Magazine #11: July 2019 - tactical analysis tactics
Artwork by @chapulana

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