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Author: Flavio Fusi

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Preparation for the match takes on a fundamentally important role for achieving the end result. In a sport with such reduced margins, observing your opponent in order to learn strong and weak points constitutes a potential competitive edge that no team can do without.

In Udinese‘s win over Napoli, it was precisely by studying Sarri’s defensive system mechanisms that allowed De Canio to make the difference. Udinese earned the penalty kick that gave them the initial lead with a strategic adaptation intended to strike a blow to one of Napoli‘s weak points.

Napoli’s zonal defence uses teammates and the ball as reference points, maintaining excellent horizontal and vertical compactness. Each time the ball moves toward the wing, Napoli’s lateral slides snuff out the opponent’s play, with midfielders cutting off any passing options for the ball carrier.

To find an opening in this type of defence, the best way is to try to make it move, constantly changing the play to the other side, in order to isolate one of the defenders or spread out the defensive line horizontally.

And so De Canio asked Kuzmanović, the central midfielder in his 3-5-2 formation, to switch play direction as frequently as possible, especially toward the right in Widmer‘s direction.
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In the 13th minute of the match, the Serbian midfielder received the ball on the left half-space with Napoli’s lines quickly shifting in the same direction. Kuzmanović, without any pressure, immediately passed diagonally toward the right wing where Widmer received the ball.
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The Swiss wide midfielder cut toward the centre of the pitch, taking advantage of Ghoulam‘s isolation, left without the support of Koulibaly and Insigne, due to the speed and accuracy of Kuzmanović‘s pass. Napoli‘s defence had no time to shift back to the left.
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Widmer, on the other hand, did have support, given the fact that Badu joined the play after Insigne, arriving late, had tried to stop the Swiss player. The Ghanaian midfielder continued attacking the same space as his teammate and he entered the penalty area where he was taken down by Koulibaly, earning the penalty kick that Bruno Fernandes converted.
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Flavio Fusi
Flavio Fusi studies economics and writes about tactics on his blog Trovaspazi. He is an author for l’Ultimo Uomo
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