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Tactical Analysis: Roma vs Napoli 3-1 Serie A 1o/15/2016 Spalletti “out-Sarri” Napoli


Napoli fielded its usual 4-3-3 formation. The only notable change was Nikola Maksimovic replaced injured Raul Albiol. Roma played seemingly a 4-2-3-1 formation. In the offensive phase of the game, they switched to a 3-4-1-2 formation, with Alessandro Florenzi taking the wing back position on the right-hand side.


In this game, Luciano Spalletti out-coached Maurizio Sarri in his own game. Roma had an adamant tactical performance.

Spalletti’s tactics

Lure trap

Under Sarri’s guidance, Napoli has become one of the most entertaining teams in Serie A. They play with a quick and successive passing games from the defense all the way to opponent’s goal. Their players often position themselves in a triangle or rhomboid shape about their teammates, facilitating multiple passing lanes. However, one of the most important tactics Sarri employs is the “lure” set up around Jorginho and their two center backs.

Jorginho has excellent passing ranges and has to be limited. Therefore opponent’s first line defenders will often attack him once he receives a pass. If Jorginho cannot find the time or space to turn or dribble, he will mostly place a quick back pass to either Kalidou Koulibaly or Albidol (Maksimovic in this game). All of these three center backs are excellent and comfortable with the ball. When the opponent closes down Jorginho quickly, it often opens a gap in their first defense line, and one of these center backs will bring the ball forward to create overloads or pass to Marek Hamsik or Allan. Jorginho and the two center backs often play these kinds of passes to each other even deep in their box. If the opponent commits multiple players to close them down, it risks leaving a lot of open space for Jose Callejon, Lorenzo Insigne, and co. to roam. In this way, Jorginho ‘lures’ the opponent defenders.

In this game, Spalletti employed ta very similar “lure” tactics during the offensive phase. In the initial build-up, Roma players would not pass the ball forward immediately. Their three center backs, Kostas Manolas, Fazio and Juan Jesus often passed to each other. Their aim was to lure Napoli’s players to pressed them. If they were not successful, Daniele De Rossi and Leandro Paredes would also join these passing games. They waited until Napoli’s three forwards pressed and attacked them. Therefore, Roma players “lured” Napoli’s players out of their position.


With five Roma actively participated in the lure trap, Napoli often committed at least five players in their high press. By luring five players out of their positions, such strategy often left only four or five players in their half.

Roma’s ball outlets

Roma is not afraid of being pressed even deep in their half. First of all, De Rossi, Paredes, and their three central backs are superb with their feet. They were comfortable to pass the ball even in pressured environment created by Napoli’s press. More importantly, with Florenzi and Perotti as the wing backs, Roma had two players who had an advantage in a 1v1 situation. Roma often passed to immediately once Napoli players were lured in.

Passes received by Florenzi:


Passes received by Perotti:


Both players are good with the ball, fast and can dribble. They can get pass the opponents very quickly. With multiple players lured deep in Roma’s half, Florenzi and Perotti caused a lot of problems for Napoli in this game.


Radja Nainggolan’s excellent performance in defending Jorginho

The most successful tactic Spaletti employed in this game was to assign Nainggolan to play a space-oriented man coverage on Jorginho. He was responsible for covering the zone where Jorginho operated in the offensive phase. When Jorginho entered his area, he would man-mark him. Nainggolan was excellent in this game because he was disciplined. A lot of time he would deny Jorginho from receiving the ball.


If Jorginho found the space to receive a pass from the center backs, Nainggolan would immediately attack/tackle him.


He kept a very high pressure on Jorginho in the whole game. And it resulted in a lot of lost possessions by Jorginho.




In this match, Jorginho lost four possessions. For comparison, he only loses 1.5 possession in average this season.

Normally with Jorginho tightly-marked, Napoli will have their two center backs to carry the ball forward to create overloads. However in this game, before conceding the first goal, Napoli was very conserved. They did not want to commit their center backs to Roma’s half because Roma was very dangerous with counter attacks. Florenzi, Perotti and particularly, Salah are very fast and dangerous when given space. Couple with Roma’s strong defensive presence of De Rossi and Paredes in the midfield, it was tough for Napoli to penetrate Roma.


Roma played one of the best game in this season. Spaletti outcoached Sarr with his tactics. With two consecutive strong showings against Inter and Napoli, Roma announced to the league that they are the genuine Serie A contender. I did not mention Dzeko in this game, but he is playing like the best striker in the league.

My man-of-the-match is Nainggolan. He puts in excellence performance both offensively and defensively. His performance reminds me of Arturo Vidal.

All data are from www.fourfourtwo.com statzone & www.whoscored.com

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