Napoli manager, Gennaro Gattuso, has revealed why he made radical tactical changes against Atalanta in the Coppa Italia semi-final.
The Partenopei shocked many by starting with a 3-4-3 formation, the first time Napoli have started a competitive match with three at the back since May 2013, and it successfully neutralised La Dea in a 0-0 draw.
“Nobody is the favourite going up against Atalanta. They press you all over the field, combine physicality with great technique,” the coach told RAI Sport.
“We moved to 3-4-3, but also had to make some choices, as we had Piotr Zielinski and Eljif Elmas who were exhausted and we have to rest them at some point.
“We did very well in defence, could’ve done more upfront, but then we know that we’re a bit short up there at the moment. I liked Victor Osimhen over the last few days, he’s getting back into shape.
“Our tests showed a lot of players are not 100 per cent fit. Tiemoue Bakayoko, Stanislav Lobotka and Diego Demme can’t play as a mezz’ala, so we had to do something.
“I’ve seen that Atalanta struggle a bit against a three-man defence, so we tried it out in one day in training and it worked pretty well.
“We could try it again in future, but it depends on who is available, what condition they are in and the characteristics of the players. We need to do more video session work. It gives us greater balance in defence, but we inevitably also lose something when going forward.”
Hirving Lozano started as a False 9 flanked by Matteo Politano and Lorenzo Insigne, but barely created any chances.
“I think Politano and Lozano should’ve been a bit closer to Insigne. I couldn’t start Andrea Petagna, if he gets hurt then what are we going to do? Will you and I put jerseys on and play? We’ve got nobody else left,” asked Gattuso.
“Insigne had this knock to the calf, it hurt and we’ll evaluate it tomorrow. Dries Mertens is in Belgium and it’ll take a while longer. Fabian Ruiz is still positive for COVID, but if I’m not mistaken tomorrow is the 21st day since he first tested positive, so he can ask permission to train by himself at the ground and leave his house.”
Gattuso was told that 0-0 in the first leg tends to be enough to qualify in a semi-final, as he avoided away goals and can qualify with a score draw in Bergamo.
“Don’t get me on screen, I am doing something for good luck…”
The one time the coach did seem truly irritated was when asked for his opinion on the tweet that President Aurelio De Laurentiis made assuring he didn’t want to ‘kick out’ director of sport Cristiano Giuntoli, not mentioning Gattuso by name.
“Let’s talk about football, that is by far the most important thing. Let’s focus on football, otherwise we’ll never hear the end of it.”