The Coolest Soccer Team in Europe

“Napoli’s startling 3-1 upset of Chelsea in the Champions League last Tuesday accomplished three important things. It put a formal timestamp on the moment everyone realized that Serie A had caught up to the Premier League. It launched a thousand ‘Andre Villas-Boas DeathWatch’ columns, to the point that became a vital resource for soccer journalists. And it cemented Napoli’s status as the coolest club in Europe and the default answer to the question, ‘If you’re an American looking to get into European soccer, which team should you support?'” Grantland – Run of Play

Napoli 3-1 Chelsea: Ivanovic plays high up and Napoli exploit the space in behind him
“Napoli played their classic counter-attacking game to put themselves in a strong position going into the second leg. Walter Mazzarri was suspended from the touchline, so assistant Nicolo Frustalupi took charge. Morgan De Sanctis returned in goal, Hugo Campagnaro was fit to start, and Juan Zuniga was picked rather than Andrea Dossena on the left. Andre Villas-Boas left out Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole, though the latter replaced Jose Bosingwa early on at left-back. Florent Malouda got a surprise start (though he has played the majority) of games in Europe this season. As expected, Didier Drogba played rather than Fernando Torres, while John Terry was out.” Zonal Marking

The Question: Why is the back three resurgent in Italy?
“Given everything in football – tactically speaking – is relative, perhaps nothing can ever truly be dead. Systems and styles of play that have seemed to have outlived their usefulness drift away, fade from consciousness and lie dormant, waiting for the game to forget about them so they can be triumphantly reintroduced. For a long time, playing three at the back seemed finished, but Napoli’s victory over Chelsea on Tuesday night was just part of a wider resurgence.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

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