June 29, 2020 / 12:54 PM / a month ago

Gattuso becomes an unlikely convert to possession football

MILAN (Reuters) - Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso is usually associated with grit and determination, yet the famously combative former midfielder says that possession and patience have been the keys to his team’s revival in the last few months.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Champions League - Round of 16 First Leg - Napoli v FC Barcelona - Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy - February 25, 2020 Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File photo

The 43-year-old, coaching his second Serie A club, is generally seen as a motivator rather than a tactician, mainly due to the fearsome reputation he built up as a player.

But that perception is slowly changing as Gattuso adopts a style of football that seemed to him like a different sport during his playing days.

“The first few times I faced Spanish teams who played it (possession football), it did my head in,” he said after his side’s 3-1 home win against SPAL on Sunday.

“I used to go and press them on my own and they’d put me in the middle and pass the ball around. When I finished the game, I would say that in Italy we played another sport. I used to suffer in those games.”

However, Gattuso — who inherited a Napoli side in disarray in December — now sees things differently.

“Football has changed in Italy and there are lots of teams who pass the ball around well,” he said. “I now see football differently to when I played — I like us to have possession and avoid taking risks.”

Despite his new outlook, Gattuso still places a big emphasis on work ethic.

“You need continuity, you have to work hard during the week and the match is a consequence of that,” he said. “The path we have to take is the one we started this month after the lockdown.”

Napoli who have won their last five league games and beat Juventus in the Coppa Italia final, on Thursday visit a rampant Atalanta side, who have won their previous six Serie A games and scored 21 goals in the process.

Atalanta are also Serie A’s most prolific team with 80 goals.

Although neither side are in the title hunt, with Atalanta fourth and Napoli sixth, it promises to be the highlight of the 29th matchday which will be split over three days.

The games start on Tuesday with leading pair Juventus and Lazio facing away games.

Juve, four points clear as they chase a ninth successive title, visit Genoa while Lazio travel to Torino. Third-placed Inter Milan host Brescia on Wednesday.

Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris

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