Napoli's newest defender is Ivan Strinic, a Croatian international left back who signed on a free transfer. He's a player that a lot of Napoli fans don't know a lot about, mostly because who actually watches Ukrainian football, right? That's what we're here for, though, and as always with new signings we've got the full breakdown for you.
Strinic most recently plied his trade with Ukrainian side Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, where he made 112 appearances over four seasons. He's also a regular with the Croatian international squad, where he's made 33 appearances since breaking in to the team in 2010, including setting up Croatia's goal in their 1-1 draw against Italy in Euro 2012. Even this information just tells you what he's done, though. You want to know what kind of player he is, right? For that, all you need to do is read on.
DOB: July 17, 1987 (27) | Height: 6'1" (1.86 meters)
2014 Season: 14 appearances (14 starts)
0 goals, 1 assist
Strengths: Strinic is an excellent one-on-one defender, using good awareness, quick decision making, and his athleticism to quickly close down and shut down attackers coming through his area of the pitch. He has a very good burst of acceleration to help him close down space, and while he doesn't quite have the fluidity of movement that Faouzi Ghoulam uses to such great effect, he's still quite fast at changing directions to help him stick with trickier attackers.
In attack, Strinic is also a fantastic crosser of the ball with his very strong left foot. As long as he gets a clean hit on the ball, he can ping the ball around wherever he wants to. Even better, he's very quick to get those crosses off, needing much less time to set and fire than most players seem to. He's also a good passer in tighter areas, using the awareness that helps make him strong defensively to find gaps in the defense to exploit.
Weaknesses: Strinic isn't gifted with great open-field speed, making it harder for him to keep up with faster wingers in a footrace. Fortunately not a lot of teams in Serie A have wingers who can exploit that, but it's still something to keep an eye on, especially on counters. Strinic's strong work rate help makes up for that to some degree, but past a certain point, speed is speed.
That lack of speed added to a lack of a quality shot limits Strinic's utility in attack as well. He's a willing runner to help support things, but if you don't have the shot to capitalize on chances, you just don't have the ability to cause a goalscoring threat. Admittedly, you don't rely on your fullbacks to score, but it'd be nice to have the option, ya know?
Summation: On a whole, Strinic looks like an excellent fit for Napoli. He's a prototypical Rafa left back with his strengths, and his weaknesses can be lived with. The fact that he comes for free and on perfectly reasonable wages makes this signing something of a coup for the partenopei.
It's also a very necessary signing; Napoli don't have a backup left back worth the title, and Faouzi Ghoulam will soon go missing for a month or more of African Cup of Nations duty with Algeria. Getting Strinic signed so early in the window (and in training last week) is vitally important, as Napoli have some tough matches coming up while he's gone. Plus, Strinic isn't just a fill-in, he's a really good left back in his own right. Ghoulam may have to fight for his job when he gets back.