Napoli took a huge loss in the transfer market with the abrupt departure of Gonzalo Higuain, but they responded well and while their attack looks a lot different now, it’s still plenty potent. So what kind of attack does Napoli have now? Read on.
This includes all incoming and outgoing moves, including expired loans in either direction.
In: Arkadiusz Milik (center forward), Emanuele Giaccherini (right/left wing), Marko Rog (right/left wing), Roberto Insigne (right wing, loan return)
Out: Gonzalo Higuain (center forward)
At the start of the summer, this was Napoli’s depth chart in attack:
LW: Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens
CF: Gonzalo Higuain, Manolo Gabbiadini
RW: Jose Callejon, Omar El Kaddouri
And now, after their summer transfer window:
LW: Lorenzo Insigne/Dries Mertens, Marko Rog
CF: Arkadiusz Milik/Manolo Gabbiadini
RW: Jose Callejon, Emanuele Giaccherini, Roberto Insigne, Marko Rog
It all starts with the departure of Gonzalo Higuain. While the loss of the Serie A single-season goalscoring record holder stings, Napoli are aggressive and decisive in quickly signing Milik. While many fans were initially disappointed — €32 million seems like a lot to spend on a Polish striker from the Eredivisie who had just struggled in Euro 2016 — there are a lot, a lot, of reasons to like Milik.
While he’s not the outright, all-out goalscorer Higuain is, Milik offers several aspects of his game that Higuain did not on a consistent basis. Milik’s style is a hard-working, team-focused one; instead of always demanding the ball and moving primarily into positions that will give him more scoring chances like Higuain does, Milik will look to get into supporting positions and pull defenders out of place to give his teammates more opportunities.
That’s not to say that Milik won’t look out for himself when the opportunity is there — we certainly saw that against Milan last weekend — but Milik’s main strength is still in his ability to facilitate play. While that doesn’t sound like a great thing on the surface from a center forward, you want goals from the position after all, it’s a trait that works well for Napoli. Often playing with two wide forwards and a midfielder pushing up to support the attack, Milik’s style helps bring other players into the attack more, instead of starving them of chances like we saw so often the last couple of years. Milik may not be the same goalscoring force Higuain was, but he can score plenty of them and he’ll help others score more often — he makes for an excellent player up top.
We should also see plenty of midfield signing Marko Rog in the final third, playing on either wing or, depending on any changes in shape, in his stronger position behind the striker. He’s a talented playmaker with a decent nose for goal of his own, and he’s going to make his presence felt in a lot of ways for Napoli in the coming years.
As for Emanuele Giaccherini, he’s not a player who should start a ton of games, but he gives Napoli a veteran, creative presence they can rotate in when needed and provide a solid option off the bench. He’s not a flashy signing by any means, but he brings a solid option to the team that they previously lacked, something they very much needed with the Champions League coming.
The other intriguing addition isn’t a new signing, but rather a player finally making the senior squad full-time after years of developmental loans. Roberto Insigne, Lorenzo’s little-but-bigger brother, is a right winger who Maurizio Sarri has said glowing words about recently, and drew rave reviews during his loan at Pro Vercelli last season. He has a very similar playing style to Lorenzo, just preferring to play on the other side of the pitch. He likely won’t start a ton of games far Napoli this season, but he can still play a big role off the bench when called upon.