Lorenzo Insigne is currently in the midst of what could be his best season in a Napoli kit. The Partenopei’s hometown hero currently has 10 goals in 15 games across all competitions and it doesn’t look like he’ll be letting up anytime soon. Carlo Ancelotti has managed to constantly get the best out of Insigne this season, something past managers were never able to fully achieve.
Carlo’s deployment of the diminutive forward as a secondary striker is very reminiscent of Dries Mertens’ breakout season as a striker in Maurizio Sarri’s system. Both were great players that just needed that extra push to be even better. For Dries, it was Sarri, and for Lorenzo, it’s Ancelotti. Let’s take a look at what Il Mister has done to help Lorenzo ‘Il Magnifico’ become the current best Italian calciatore.
Less Defensive Responsibility
Sarri’s Napoli relied heavily on the capability of the two wingers to track back and defend. This meant that if Insigne and Callejon weren’t moving the ball up the pitch, they were in our own half of the pitch helping out on defense. For players like Callejon who can go full throttle the whole 90 minutes, this isn’t an issue. But, for players like Insigne who are heavily relied on for offense, this sacrifices efficiency going forward. More energy spent on executing defensive duties means less energy for where it’s needed most, in front of goal.
Without having to play such a major defensive role, Insigne is able to take up a more advanced position on the pitch. This helps him in finding himself in more goal-scoring positions. Whether it’s drifting to the top of the box to curl in a shot, or sliding in for the easy finish, the lessened defensive responsibility has put Insigne closer to goal and given him more opportunities to score.
With Ancelotti at the helm we’ve seen the team alternate between a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2 when taking the field. Insigne’s role in the latter is what provides the most to be discussed. In a 4-4-2, Insigne plays as a second striker that has the offensive freedom to roam across the front-line. Also, the option to run up top with either Dries Mertens or Arkadiusz Milik allows for variety in his play.
When paired with Milik, the two often split the role of dropping to receive the ball, which keeps defenders guessing on who will be the one to make a dangerous run in. Additionally, Insigne has the ability to drift wide and take the attention with him. Doing so allows for two things: more opportunities for Milik to score (primarily by meeting a cross from a teammate), and space for Insigne to cut in and shoot or play that famous ball over the top for Callejon.
With Mertens, Insigne remains more central. In this pairing Lorenzo is often the one to create the link between the midfield duo and he and Mertens up top. This allows for a more fluid style of play when on the offensive, frees us space for Dries to make piercing runs behind the defensive, and allows for more involvement from the midfield.
Following the 2-0 win over Sassuolo, Insigne discussed Ancelotti’s decision to move the him closer to goal.
Rest has become a recurring topic this season, and Ancelotti has done an amazing job of making sure that no player’s energy is overexerted. Insigne is no exception. While he has only appeared as a substitute once, Lorenzo is no stranger to making way for one of his teammates. Insigne has only gone a full 90 minutes eight times in 15 games this year.
After doing some math, Insigne has played 181 total minutes less than he did at this point last season. Right now that doesn’t seem like a lot, but with Ancelotti rotating the squad more often, this difference will become even more noticeable towards the end of the season. This extra rest has been important for Insigne’s consistency, and it will only help him going forward. At the end of last season, the diminutive winger only contributed to six goals in the last three months of the season, a run of play that doesn’t seem likely to occur this year.
Insigne has reminded us this season that he’s one of the best players in Serie A and one of the best players in football today. Let’s hope that he can keep up this form the whole season, because if he does, us tifosi are in for a treat.