So ragazzi, with all the madness of the World Cup, and the fever of the Fake News Cavani rumours, it can be easy to forget that Carlo Ancelotti is our manager. Myself and some of my Sempre brethren have spent quite a few hours stumbling down tactical rabbit holes working out how he might set gli azzurri up this season. The great answer is that he will probably have several systems to choose from. I thought it would be wise to look at all three of Carlo Ancelotti’s European Cup winning sides and think about how they could work with our squad. Yes, Carlo has won more European Cups than Juventus. Grande!
Option 1: 4-3-1-2 (2003-AC Milan)
This is a funny one to look back on. Wonderful to see Juventus missing out on a European Cup but it might be the most boring game of football I have ever seen – and I’ve watched quite a lot of Macclesfield Town in my youth.
Thankfully, out of the three formations, I’d say this is the one we will see the least over the season. Mostly for the reason that we have so many excellent wide players and we don’t have two natural strikers. Back in 2003, Shevcenko and Inzaghi started up front and neither Milik or the #9 version Mertens fit in to those moulds.
Having been down on this system – one thing stands out – Ancelotti won the cup. He won no fans for the style of football and the final is remembered as one of the worst ever. Do Milan fans really care about this when they look at stars above their crest? I doubt it. This game is indicative of the winning mentality which Mister Ancelotti brings to our club. I think we’re due a bit of this so bring it on!
Option 2: 4-3-2-1(2007-AC Milan)
Ancelotti’s classic ‘Christmas Tree’ formation and, from a Napoli perspective, this match got me most excited out of all of the three since it shows the tactical acumen that Mister Ancelotti brings to our side. On a basic level, in this match the formation shut down Liverpool’s main threats – Alonso and Gerrard – whilst giving Kaka (the best player in the world at the time) the freedom to float. This paid off most clearly with the second goal, set up with a sublime through ball by Kaka.
From a less technical perspective, despite a wobbly opening 44 minutes, a winning mentality was maintained and Milan sneaked a goal just before half time – doubly impressive considering the events in Istanbul two years previous. To lift the group of players from that disaster is seriously impressive and suggests that no more games are going to be lost in hotel rooms.
We’re spoilt for choice with the 3 deeper lying midfielders – although Allan is the only ‘enforcer’ that we have in the Gattuso role. More tricky are the two attacking midfielders. Mertens or Hamsik would clearly excel but Insigne would need to more consistently impress in a central position than he has so far for us as well as Italy. I would, like Kaka, give him freedom to float into wide positions to bring the most out of him.
Option 3: 4-3-3 (2014-Real Madrid)
Annoying people tried to sell the fact that Mister Ancelotti’s success all came in past: well his 2014 European Cup was very much a modern footballing story. Moreover, this formation is an easy system for our squad since it is very similar to Sarri’s football. Out of the three explored here, this brings the most out of wide players and my bet is that it is what Napoli will play for most of the season.
The big story from this game is Angel Di Maria: His MotM performance is a joy to watch and, having seen a few of our pre-season matches, I can see Fabian fitting into this role. They are by no means similar players but, with Ancelotti stating that he sees Hamsik in a deeper role means that the former Betis man could step up. I see Diawara as our Modric since his passing range and composure match but also his underrated shooting technique.
Bale and Ronaldo’s positional flexibility also maps on to versatile and smart players in our squad and Verdi, Mertens and Insigne could do well in the wide positions in the front three. Milik, in my opinion, is actually an upgrade from Benzema, too!
There you go, partenopei – so many options and I can’t wait to see how it all pans out. Bearing all this in mind, it’s great that ADL has focussed on squad building to give Mister Ancelotti space to play many different ways rather than blowing all his cash on one aging former superstar.