On Tuesday, Aurelio De Laurentiis talked to the media in Italy. That’s not a particularly unusual occurrence — Napoli’s owner likes to talk — but some of the things he said are raising eyebrows. When talking about Napoli’s recent struggles, De Laurentiis had some surprisingly specific things to say about how to fix it.
Everyone is crucifying Gabbiadini, but he’s not to blame. He’s playing in a role [as a lone striker] he’s never done before, he’s been out and that hasn’t helped him from a psychological point of view.
I think he should be given more space, but I won’t presume to make suggestions to Sarri. That said, perhaps he could benefit from the 4-3-1-2 so dear to our Coach?
-Translated quote source: Football Italia
OK, let’s get this out of the way first: De Laurentiis is not entirely wrong here. Gabbiadini has never shown himself to be particularly good at being a lone central forward. In most situations, how he looks to receive the ball and the way he wants to move both on and off it just don’t translate well to being alone up top. If Napoli want to get the most out of him until Arkadiusz Milik returns to health, Maurizio Sarri should consider changing to some kind of two-striker system.
But why is De Laurentiis talking about this in the media? It’s not productive for a club owner to talk about on-field tactics in the media, and to basically demand that his manager change tactics will only make it look like there’s discord and disagreement between the two behind closed doors, whether there actually is or not.
Plus, the snark about a formation “so dear to our Coach” is just tacky. Yes, Sarri used the 4-3-1-2 heavily at Empoli, and started out using it at Napoli last season. But he used it at Empoli because that best fit his players, and he thought it would fit well with his Napoli squad as well. Once it became clear it did not -- and it still does not — he quickly switched to a 4-3-3 setup that fits the team much better.
Unfortunately, right now the 4-3-3 doesn’t quite work because they don’t have someone who functions well in the middle of the front three. Gabbiadini doesn’t work as a lone striker, Dries Mertens isn’t a good false nine, and Jose Callejon has struggled in the role when called on in emergencies in the past. Switching to some form of two-striker system would be more likely to get the most out of the team right now, the question is what kind of shape that can take, as much of Napoli’s midfield isn’t well suited to the kind of high work rate defensive work needed from them in the 4-3-1-2.
But that isn’t the kind of thing that De Laurentiis should be talking to the media about. He’s an owner, not a coach, and he needs to be supporting his manager in a time of poor form, not telling him how to do his job.