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Assessing Napoli’s transfers: The midfield

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Napoli made more signings in midfield than anywhere else, completely reshaping their depth chart.

Dinamo Zagreb v Salzburg: UEFA Champions League Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

The area of the pitch that Napoli are most aggressive in adding to during the transfer market was in midfield, and their efforts certainly look promising. They added youth and quality in abundance by adding Marko Rog, Piotr Zielinski, and Amadou Diawara, three promising players

The Transfers

This includes all incoming and outgoing moves, including expired loans in either direction.

In: Amadou Diawara, Piotr Zielinski, Marko Rog

Out: David Lopez, Mirko Valdifiori, Alberto Grassi (loan), Josip Radosevic, Jacopo Dezi (loan), Jonathan De Guzman, Eddy Gnahore (loan), Nathaniel Chalobah (end of loan)

At the start of the summer, this was Napoli’s depth chart in midfield:

LCM (playmaker): Marek Hamsik, Allan

CM (regista): Jorginho, Mirko Valdifiori

RCM (box-to-box): Allan, David Lopez

And now, after their summer transfer window:

LCM: Marek Hamsik, Piotr Zielinski, Marko Rog

CM: Jorginho, Amadou Diawara, Piotr Zielinski

RCM: Allan, Piotr Zielinski, Amadou Diawara

While the starters are the same, Napoli’s situation in midfield is undeniably better than it was a season ago. They’re deeper, and their reserves offer greater quality and, importantly, more tactical diversity than they had before.

Piotr Zielinski offers Napoli a true backup for Marek Hamsik, something they’ve been searching for for years. His skillset is well-rounded enough, though, that he can replace Allan relatively effectively. He doesn’t offer the same defensive solidity, but in matches and situations where Napoli are chasing a goal or just want a more attacking look without sacrificing too much defensively, it’s a valid option.

Rog is an even more attacking option. Honestly, he probably won’t spend a ton of time in midfield for Napoli — while he’s played deeper in central midfield in the past for Dinamo Zagreb, his skillset tends to push him higher up the pitch to more attacking areas. In fact, if Napoli ever decide to play with a creative midfielder behind a striker like they did under Rafa Benitez, that player will almost definitely be Hamsik or Rog. But he can spell Hamsik when needed thanks to his audacious creative skills — which are quite advanced for his age — and offer a go-for-broke attacking option to the bench.

Diawara is the least-developed of the three new acquisitions, but that doesn’t mean his raw potential can’t help Napoli a lot. While his skillset best matches Allan’s box-to-box role in the long run, for now he might be the best option to spell Jorginho when needed at the base of midfield. While he’s not the calm presence on the ball that Jorginho is, he does offer a similar creative spark and a more aggressive style that can give Napoli a different edge.

The variety of skills the new arrivals bring and the skills they have give Napoli a marked upgrade in central midfield and so much more versatility than they had before. If that’s not a recipe for improvement in the side, for better rotation and better quality overall, then there’s not much that is. Yes, Napoli could have added a bigger impact player to the squad, and they tried to do just that with Axel Witsel and Hector Herrera, but this isn’t a bad consolation price at all.

The best part? All three of Rog, Zielinski, and Diawara are 22 or under. They can be a big part of Napoli’s team now, but with their youth and upside, they can be an even bigger and even better part of the team in years to come. It’s a fantastic set of signings for the long term, and Napoli’s future looks very, very bright.