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Napoli Season Review: A sensational Scudetto-clinching campaign

Sometimes, you can write hundreds of words trying to review a team’s season, but sometimes, a few visuals can tell the whole story.

Naples turning blue with everyone on the streets celebrating can only mean one thing – Napoli had a great season.

It is absolutely safe to say that, as they ended a 30-year Scudetto drought in some style.

Team Performance and Tactics

Napoli were brilliant last season. Their points tally of 90 and 16-point gap to the side in second place should paint a pretty clear picture of how they were a class apart in the league, but here’s an xG trendline for good measure:

They were particularly outstanding before the World Cup break, when they remained unbeaten in 15 matches and amassed 41 points after scoring 37 goals.

Napoli only slowed down after the title was all but sealed, so they might have had the potential to come close to 100 points had they been pushed until the end.

One of the keys to their success was they had a set first-choice XI that operated in a consistent formation.

Luciano Spalletti exclusively used a 4-3-3 formation, where the players were given a great deal of freedom. Their profiles complemented each other very well, leading to the creation of a great system.

This average position map sums everything up very well. The full-backs generally started fairly deep and helped progress the ball before supporting the attackers in the final third.

In midfield, Stanislav Lobotka provided excellent security and circulated possession very well as the number six, while André-Frank Zambo Anguissa thrived in a box-to-box role and Piotr Zieliński operated slightly higher.

Up front, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was sensational on the ball, often starting out wide to isolate and then humiliate opposition defenders, whilst the right winger provided more of an off-ball threat.

Golden Boot winner Victor Osimhen was the best striker in the league, and his threat in behind helped stretch opposing defences and make space for the rest to work their magic.

With everyone playing their part, Napoli implemented and executed a patient possession-based style of play that no one could combat in Serie A.

Out of possession, Napoli tended to defend in a 4-4-2 block that stepped up to press at times. They were never tested too much in this way, so they did very to keep with the best defensive record in the league both in terms of goals conceded and xGA.

For all their brilliance, though, Napoli’s season might have ended with a tinge of disappointment over not having gone further in the Champions League.

Yes, they made the knockout stage of the competition for the first time in their history, but they would have fancied getting the better of domestic opposition in the form of the two Milan clubs on the road to Istanbul.

Key Players

Napoli’s two most important players were undoubtedly two of their attackers.

Osimhen had a historic season as he became the first African player to win the golden boot in Serie A, netting 26 times at a rate of about a goal every 100 minutes.

He was great in every other aspect, from his off-ball movement to hold-up play to defensive contribution.

One of his most reliable suppliers was Kvaratskhelia, who only joined Napoli last summer. He has proven to be one of the best transfers of the window, returning with 12 goals and ten assists in the league to more than compensate for his €10-12 million transfer fee.

Beyond the numbers, he was mesmerising to watch thanks to his sensational dribbling ability that made him capable of beating any defender on his day.

And it seemed every day was his day.

Another summer signing worth highlighting is centre-back Kim Min-jae, who has also proven to be a bit of a steal for a transfer fee of just around €18m.

Replacing Kalidou Koulibaly, he stood out with his on-ball qualities and especially ball progression ability, while also looking very sturdy when tested defensively.

What Next?

Despite enjoying their best season in at least three decades, Napoli’s future has a bit of uncertainty surrounding it.

This is going to be a crucial summer for them, as they might have to replace a lot of the people who were key to their success.

One person they will undoubtedly have to find a replacement for is manager Luciano Spalletti, who announced that he was leaving just before the end of the season.

He deserves credit for the freedom he gave his players that enabled them to perform so well, so it should be interesting to see whether they look to appoint someone similar or go down a different route.

Among the players, Napoli could lose two of the three we highlighted. Osimhen is the subject of big-money interest from various major European clubs who have the potential to put in offers that cannot be refused, so Napoli might have to go looking for a striker again.

They might also need a centre-back, as Min-jae is already on the shortlist of clubs of the stature of Manchester United.

Napoli should be able to get a pretty good transfer fee for him, which they can then reinvest for a replacement.

It will be crucial for the Neapolitans to get those investments right, and while they consolidate, the other major clubs in Italy will look to bounce back from a poor season and mount a more serious challenge for the title. Without a doubt, 2023/24 should be a tougher campaign for Napoli.

Stats courtesy Transfermarkt, Stats Perform via Fbref and Vizz App.

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