It is a new look Napoli this season under Rafa Benitez as the former Inter boss has got rid of the 3-5-2 formation preferred by his predecessors Edy Reja, Roberto Donadoni and Walter Mazzarri. Under Rafa Napoli has been playing his preferred 4-2-3-1 system and the early results have been encouraging.
“This is Real Napoli” wrote La Gazzetta’s Nicola Cecere touching on the ex-Madridistas Albiol, Callejon and Higuain’s part in a 3-0 win at home to Bologna. “What a debut, people. Benitez’s version promises to be better than the one rightly celebrated, signed by Mazzarri. The system changes, the protagonists change too, but the result remains identical.”
There’s been talk about a Rafalution. It’s a very very small sample size, but his Napoli are averaging more possession [61.9 to 54.2%], more shots [17 to 15.2] and more pass attempts [622 to 428.8] than Mazzarri’s did last season.
That doesn’t mark a transition from a defensive to an offensive side. Lest we forget, Mazzarri’s Napoli were top scorers in Serie A last season. But it does demonstrate a change from a reactive set-up, formidable on the counter-attack, to a more proactive game, in which Napoli look to unlock opponents with passing and movement.