The art of winning a championship is painted in a varied array of colors, styles and forms. All of which mirror the vast variety of coaching methodologies, player personalities and tactical game plans. Throughout sports we have seen the gamut of coaching philosophies from disciplinarian to game manager to brilliant tacticians, all winning championships. As fans we should identify with how our team’s coach envisions winning a title and the types of players and philosophies she or he will utilize to achieve that goal.
Mr. Ancelotti has a philosophical style that differs from the many other coach’s in world football today. After reading his book “Quiet Leadership”, one can gain an incite into how he will approach piecing together a winning team at Napoli. The foundation for Ancelotti’s style is treating those around him, from the staff that maintains the facilities, to the players, and up to the president of the club, as humans with dignity and respect. The idea of putting the human element first, building players up through positive reinforcement, emboldening their confidence and watching them develop and grow is how he constructs a winning team. This is not a style that produces a championship squad quickly as it takes time for players to change mentally. It can however, create a culture of positive long term success when allowed to develop uninhibited.
This year’s mercato has flowed quiet and peaceful for Napoli much like Ancelotti’s personal coaching style to the chagrin of some Napoli fans. They feel that Aurelio De Laurentiis has not done enough to improve the team and take the next step after an incredible 91 point run that left Napoli just four points shy of winning the Scudetto. I believe when there is a new coach, all is reset. I don’t think we as Napoli fans can look at the 91 points, achieved under a different philosophy and guidance with Sarri at the helm, and expect to improve that number after completely changing the culture and philosophy of the club.
This is a new team even though many of the same players are returning and it requires one to look through a different lens with refreshed eyes. Fans have been asking for a big name striker or goalkeeper, sighting the past injuries of Milik and Meret and having concerns over the depth at these positions. So why hasn’t De Laurentiis made these signings if they are believed to be deficiencies in the club? The answer is, it goes against Ancelotti’s philosophy of developing a player and giving them full confidence to grow and develop into the best player they can be.
If a bigger name goalkeeper were to come in, how would that affect the development of Meret? For some coaches they want to create competition and feel that it will improve the player. This is not Ancelotti’s way. Yes some players respond well to that type of motivation but yet some do not. Ancelotti wishes to instill full confidence in his young developing players by not bringing in a player that will take minutes from their development and cause concern and doubt over their ability. The same can be said for Milik. Money concerns aside, if Napoli were to bring in Cavani or even a Belotti, how is Milik given the opportunity to flourish and show that he is fully capable of being the next great striker in Serie A.
Yes it is hard as fans to sit and be patient. The big name striker is a sexy move and comes with a lot of applause and fanfare but is it in the best interest of the long term development of the squad? Ancelotti and De Laurentiis are not building a club to win the Scudetto or Champions League this year. They are building for long term success, which if given the opportunity to grow undisturbed, will flourish for years to come. That’s not to say that there is not reason for concern. There is always risk in any endeavor worth pursuing. Should these players not develop as planned, become injured or endure setbacks, then Napoli’s season and long term plans could be in jeopardy if by season’s end they find themselves outside the top four in Serie A.
A look at Napoli’s transfer window reveals that a player has been brought in at every position group to add depth and help build for today and the future. Verdi, Fabián, Malquit and Meret represent depth at forward, midfield, back-line and goalkeeper respectively. It also cannot be overstated the importance of renewing the contracts of Napoli’s best player in Koulibaly, and promising talents Zielinski and Hysaj.
Ancelotti further demonstrated his confidence building philosophy by convincing Hamsik of his importance as a veteran and leader of the team to remain and not leave for the bigger payout in China. This instills confidence in not only the player but the team as well. Furthermore, past loaned out or overlooked players have been given a vote of confidence by earning a spot on the roster such as Ounas, Luperto and Maksimović and bench players Diawara and Rog are receiving a larger role in the week to week game-plans.
Everywhere one turns Mr. Ancelotti is making his mark with positive reinforcement. The eternal optimist, Ancelotti is creating an environment and culture that current players can develop and flourish in and others will want to be a part of. We owe him as fans the opportunity to exercise his philosophy and prove that he can create a successful winning culture at Napoli as he has implemented at other clubs throughout his managerial career.
Let’s all have patience, stay the course and encourage our team with positive passion. Forza Napoli!