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Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

Serie A 2022/23: How Stefano Pioli masterminded a memorable 4-0 victory in Naples against the in-form champions elect – tactical analysis

With four goals scored and no goals conceded, AC Milan smoothly defeated Napoli in the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

It was exciting to witness the future generation of players in the Milan team together to surprise the league leaders Napoli at every turn of the game. Brahim Diaz, a young player for Real Madrid, and Rafael Leao, a phenomenon for Portugal, were both excellent throughout.

Luciano Spalletti opted to make just one and only one significant alteration to his team. Napoli were without the Nigerian international and goal-scoring stalwart Victor Osimhen who was sidelined with an injury.

After all, he is a striker, so it seemed logical that they failed to score, but allowing four goals on their own ground was horrific.

In this tactical analysis, we’ll primarily examine why Napoli’s offence was not so effective after the impeccable season. Both managers’ tactics will be dissected in this analysis.


Spaletti reverted to the tried-and-tested 4-3-3 formation he’s been utilising well all season. More than two-thirds of the time, he has favoured the formation.

Alex Meret began in goal, with Kim Min-Jae and Amir Rrahmani manning the middle back positions. Mário Rui and Giovanni Di Lorenzo, the captain, played left and right fullback, respectively.

Stanislav Lobotka began as the lone pivot in a consistent midfield three with Zambo Anguissa and Piotr Zielinski slightly above. In the absence of the injured Osimhen, Giovanni Simeone started for the 18th time in Serie A this season, with the Georgian marvel Kvicha Kvaratskhelia and Matteo Politano on the wings.

Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

Stefano Pioli opted for the 4-2-3-1 formation, which he likes because of its balance and its emphasis on aggressive play. This season, Pioli has favoured it 59% of the time, making it the most-used formation by a wider margin than any other.

The starting lineup for this match was goalkeeper Mike Maignan, right centre back Simon Kjaer, and left centre back Fikayo Tomori, a young English defender. Tje fullback spots were occupied by the team captain, Davide Calabria, and the Frenchman, Theo Hernández.

Rade Krunić and Sandro Tonali were the two pivots for their respective side, while Ismael Bennacer of Algeria played further up in the offensive midfield. Skilled wingers Diaz and Leao played on the flanks, whereas veteran French striker Olivier Giroud was the team’s lone forward.

Why Napoli fell behind in the build-up

It was vital for the home team to calm down and discover the spaces in the opening few minutes in order to generate a more convincing build-up pattern. The catch was that there was one.

The match pace and the average number of successful passes were both substantially higher for Napoli. What went wrong, and why Napoli’s attacks were not a danger to the away team, will be dissected in great detail.

Although Lobotka was the only true central player, Anguissa and Zeilinski often dropped deep to support the action and open up space for the ball inside.

Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

The eventual shape that the team’s midfield settled upon was obviously hefty and not compact. After Kvaratskhelia came down in the first five minutes, Anguissa stepped in and did the right thing.

On the other hand, there’s a picture of Zielinski and Lobotka standing side by side. Instead of only two lines, a triangle would be desirable. As a result, none of them saw the openings to cut inside or drop down and help the struggling teammate who was forced to return. The presentation by Napoli’s midfield was identical to how Liverpool managed to nullify their build up too .

Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

After thirty minutes, Milan’s pressing structure began to take the form of a flower. Bennacer presses the ball carrier from a great height, while Giroud and Leao descend to cover his push and react when the ball is played farther.

The most surprising statistic was Milan’s 15.67 passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA), which was much worse than the host team’s 7.58 PPDA.

Despite being outnumbered significantly, Milan triumphed thanks to a great performance from their mid and low block which will be discussed in the upcoming section.

It was notable how well the team’s front seven understood and communicated with the midfield. Everything was completed efficiently and sensibly.

Lobotka and Anguissa had a tough time getting the ball from Zielinski in the middle of the field just before halftime. From Anguissa’s vantage point, there seems to be enough room for a first-time pass, but Rui appears to have been unconcerned and unable to recognise the need to advance up the pitch to receive the ball.

It’s fairly obvious that Lobotka, like Anguissa, is annoyed by how little space he gets in Milan’s press.

Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

Even Di Lorenzo is seen as being in a suboptimal situation, with the up-and-out being the less-preferred option. The best and most of the time spent off the ball would be on finding the space and searching where to go.

If it doesn’t work, we need to have a look at your off-ball positioning. The red lines show possible routes for Napoli’s midfield and fullbacks.

Milan went wild on the road to defeat the league leaders despite having just 40% of the ball. Even with 60 percent possession, Napoli was unable to unlock Milan’s defence.

How Napoli’s final third attacking was cut off

The early course of the game was determined by the outcome of the battle in the middle of the field. On the outside looking in, the fight in the middle seemed fierce and beautiful to witness.

The 22-year-old Tonali was the most diligent member of the midfield three and was able to easily track down most of the players he encountered. Milan’s greatest strength was his ability to hunt down the evading players.

Tonali’s defensive style is reminiscent of Barcelona‘s Franck Kessie. Both players share similar physical attributes and skill levels in terms of their approach. Most of the time, Krunić played as a quiet midfielder instead of engaging in the many duels he was capable of.

Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

If the ball were to be played, we might easily see the two of them standing extremely near to one another, with one following the runner and the other keeping an eye on the Georgian.

It was encouraging to see the kid put breaking the defensive chain as a top priority. Anguissa’s confidence to penetrate was perfectly timed, as Tomori and Hernández were separated by a wide gap.

Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

Tonali’s tight marking made it impossible for Anguissa to get a touch on the ball and attempt a first-time cross. By the time the ball reached his feet, he would have already collided with the midfielder.

Kvicha essentially repeated the same action this time around. Tonali sees his move in the depth and holds tight after realising there is no more room on the inside. The offensive midfielder picked up on Kvicha’s intentions, and the three in the middle of the pitch were tight and compact.

Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

Tonali was always in Anguissa’s affairs, much to his dismay. He anticipated all the possible outcomes and responded quickly enough to win the combat.

Tonali saw that, despite Tomori’s proximity to him, the latter paid little attention to his responsibilities. Even though he made a timely initial pass, Anguissa was caught with both of them on him this time.

So to wrap things up, this was one of those few occasions when Milan’s midfield was not extremely tight and Kvicha had more room to manoeuvre than he ever had previously.

Serie A 2022/23: Napoli vs AC Milan

Krunić was relatively higher than Tonali, but his stance gave him an advantage in anticipating the ball. It was smart of him to go on all fours and be ready to act quickly.

As soon as Bennacer spots the passing line, he makes moves to cover him. Also aware of the situation is Calabria, who takes care to close the gap between himself and Kvicha.

Consequently, there were three of them who noticed the pass inside, just at the Georgian prodigy’s feet. The best passing alternative was swiftly identified and eliminated, so credit where credit is due.


That was Milan’s night in the end, and Napoli now has something to examine and deal with. We all know that in football, one side might win today while the other can win tomorrow.

Milan’s xG of 1.3 was fairly matched by Napoli’s xG of 1.26. Napoli wasn’t wasteful in generating chances but were in front of the goal due to the injured Osimhen.

Napoli had 17 shots, but only 4 were on target, while the away team had 14 shots and 8 were on goal. It was amazing to see how well Milan attacked. Well with just six attacks, Milan’s counterattacks sent shivers down the spines of the home team’s defence.

How the two sides distributed their positional attacks had a major factor in the outcome of the game. Napoli managed 11 shots from 39 positional attacks, whereas Milan just needed eight shots from 16.

If the Nigerian steps up after his injury, it would be an intriguing sight to see whether the seen difficulties persist.

After seeing the gaps and miscalculations being made by his players, Spaletti now has the opportunity to patch things up and maintain the greatest accomplishment in Italian football.