Luciano Spalletti tends to look for a balance between how the team sets up in defense and what shape they attack in, so he has chosen a 1-4-2-3-1 formation that allows Napoli to defend in compact and close lines and when they receive the ball they opt for a 1-4-3-3 formation that ensures they control the game by keeping possession.
When they defend deep in their half they keep a compact and fairly narrow shape. They like to compress space in the centre. When they lose the ball in the opponent’s half they zone pressure with the whole team. Each player aggressively presses the opponent with the ball when the opponent is in their zone. If the opponent builds their attack from the back, then Napoli press higher and look for 1-on-1 marking with two strikers pressing very high on the rivals’ defenders. If the opponent breaks the pressure they go down to a lower block in a more traditional 1-4-4-2 formation. Less often their defensive shape takes the form of a 1-4-1-4-1 which is due more to the way their rivals attack than their own choice.
Spaletti’s players utilise space in line with positional play, but they like to stretch opponents vertically and horizontally when they switch positions so they actively rotate out of the zones their positioning dictates.
They try to maintain a numerical advantage by leading out a deep attack thanks to a trio of defenders and a pivot (Ruiz). This increases space and gives them more room to play the ball between the opponent’s lines, but also allows them to play vertically, which is a major tactical consideration. In attack Napoli switch between different formations depending on the area they want to attack which is also due to the different alignment of the rival, hence their attacking shape can go from 3-2-5, to 3-1-2-4, to 2-4-4.
They create and exploit the space between the defensive line and the rivals’ midfield by entering the spaces behind the midfield line and taking control of the ball. The central midfielders positioned vertically dictate the tempo of the game and are central figures during playmaking (Zielinski, Ruiz).