Roma 0-2 Napoli: two more for Cavani
Napoli recorded an important win to maintain their challenge for Lo Scudetto.
Claudio Ranieri had a shortage of centre-backs, so Marco Cassetti moved across into the middle, with Aleandro Rosi coming in at right-back. Francesco Totti and Jeremy Menez were both left out.
Walter Mazzarri used his expected starting XI.
The first half of the game was dominated by the referee - both sides were committing too many fouls, and the match quickly became stop-start and lacked rhythm or outright goalscoring chances.
Napoli’s system was the same as ever – 3-4-2-1. Roma’s shape was strange, however – Mirko Vucinic played wide to the left of Marco Borriello, and in midfield a central trio was complemented with Rodrigo Taddei out to the right – almost as a carrilero. This made for a slightly disjointed performance from Roma, and they struggled to get the ball up to their forwards.
Regardless of what you want to call the formation, it produced a neutral game. To break the systems down, Roma had 4 v 3 at the back, Napoli had 3 v 2 at the back, at it was broadly 4 v 4 in the centre of thepitch.
Napoli more promising
Still, the midfield battle favoured Napoli, as their four were spread acrosss the park, and they expanded the active playing zone when they had the ball, stretching Roma and forcing the home side’s midfield to get through a lot of running. Walter Gargano had a good game in the centre of the pitch – he played a couple of misplaced passes, but he broke up play well and spread the ball from side to side, encouraging the Napoli wing-backs forward.
Napoli’s particular area of joy looked likely to be down their right, where Christian Maggio was able to outpace John Arne Riise. On the other flank, Roma had Taddei dropping back to help Rosi with Andrea Dossena, but down Napoli’s right it was 1 v 1, as Vucinic stayed high up the pitch against Hugo Campagnaro. In a rare threatening moment in the first half, Riise had to perform a desperate late tackle on Maggio inside the box.
Ranieri made a change at half time, with Taddei making way for Jeremy Menez. The Frenchman interpreted the position in a different way – Taddei had stayed disciplined and relatively deep, but Menez played higher up the pitch and went wandering much more – sometimes looking like a winger, sometimes like a trequartista. He was Roma’s most promising player in the second half, but by moving across the pitch he didn’t do Roma’s shape any favours, and the rest of the side looked increasingly clueless with the ball.
There was only one noticeable change in Napoli’s shape – with Maggio causing Riise enough problems on the flank, Marek Hamsik played more centrally, and higher up the pitch. This had an almost immediate effect upon the game – he chased a ball over the top and was brought down by Juan, with Cavani converting the subsequent penalty.
Ranieri took too long to change things, waiting until the the 77th minute to bring on Francesco Totti. Roma continued in a shape that wasn’t working, and Napoli became increasingly defensive – looking like 5-4-1 for much of the second half, as Mazzarri replaced attacking players with more defensive-minded ones.
The second goal was assisted by an unlikely player – Paolo Cannavaro found himself up the pitch following a set-piece, and provided perfect cross fro Cavani to bundle in. That goal owed little to tactical design, but wasn’t unfair based upon the run of play.
Napoli were better in attack, midfield and defence. they were more comfortable in their shape. Whereas Roma struggled to get the ball forward quickly, Napoli had two clear players – the wing-backs – who made the transitions from defence to attack possible.
This was Napoli’s ninth clean sheet in the last eleven games, a tremendous record and a huge credit to the back three. On paper, the defence is the weakest area of the side, but they have such a good record at the back because of tremendous organisation and a willingness to change how they defend to suit the particular game.