Both Bologna and Napoli came into this game missing key players through a combination of Covid-19, general injuries and AFCON duty. Bologna lined up in a 5-3-2 formation while the travelling Neapolitans deployed 4-2-3-1.
After the early minutes the game settled and the pattern of play became obvious . Bologna were happy to drop back into two narrow banks of five and three, inviting Napoli to attack the flanks. When they won possession Bologna sought to create counter attacks with quick vertical passes. However, their consistent inability to play the ball out of defence and through midfield meant these counter attacks broke down quickly. Instead Napoli controlled the first half, finding it easy to dominate the space between Bologna’s attack and midfield. Through regular switches of play they created overloads out wide and duly scored the opener via this method through Lozano.
In the second half Bologna displayed their intent to press higher by substituting the immobile forward line of Arnautovic and Sansone for Skov Olsen and Falcinelli. Despite this, there was minimal method or conviction to Bologna’s pressing which only left them more exposed. Napoli played through Bologna with ease and punished them just two minutes into the second half with another goal for Lozano. Through a combination of their own inability to build from the back and Napoli’s effective forward pressing Bologna were unable to craft any meaningful chances and salvage the game. With 15 minutes remaining Napoli eased off and Bologna had a few half chances with the two best being fired over by Nicolas Dominguez. Late on Mattias Svanberg cracked the post with a well struck free-kick but following that the game petered out, consigning the home side to a 2-0 defeat, a sixth in seven games.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2- Strong potential to play higher
- B1- Good, strong player at level
- B2- Potential to be strong player at level
- C- Average for the level, re-watch
- D- Below average in this match
- Nationality: Scottish
- Age: 19
- Date of Birth: 10/6/2002
- Current Club: Bologna
- Career: Hearts, Bologna
- Position: Left back/Left wing-back
- Preferred foot: Left
Hickey started as Bologna’s left wing-back and was a small bright spark in a drab team performance. Defensively, he was left exposed by the teams system which encouraged Napoli to attack out wide. As such, he found himself caught in a few unwinnable situations where he was doubled up on by opposition winger and full back.
Although, in 1v1 situations Hickey was strong. He managed to ward off Lozano and Di Lorenzo when they attacked him one on one, standing them up well and forcing them backwards. Lozano failed to get the better of Hickey in a 1v1 all game and instead had to exploit the spaces between centre backs to find some joy. Despite his slender build the young Scotsman was strong in any tackle he had to make. He looked more than comfortable when competing with physically bigger players, largely due to the excellent timing of his tackles. Additionally, he was always checking his shoulder for any opponent lurking behind him, allowing him to track any runners effectively. Bologna may have been poor defensively as a team but individually Hickey gave a good account of himself.
With the ball the wing-back showed glimpses, but his forays forward were limited by the fact Napoli had 60% possession in the game. Hickey’s confidence with both his left and right foot is immediately noticeable. He was never afraid to use his weaker foot and regularly came inside from the left when he had the ball at his feet. Although, not all the passes with his right came off as intended it is promising to see such a young player display such confidence and ability with both feet.
His touch was consistently reliable and he was assured driving his team forward with direct runs. Hickey even managed to get two shots on target during the game. Both of which were hit with good technique and power but were not at a range or angle to trouble Meret. Hickey has already netted four times this season from just 0.56xG so clearly his striking ability is in no doubt.
Overall, Hickey had a good game and demonstrated a lot of good elements to his game. He was quieter in the second half as Bologna became more disjointed and demoralised. The only side to his game he was unable to demonstrate was his crossing as he never had the chance. But, if Hickey can be an effective crosser of the ball then the has all the attributes to be a top modern full back.
- Nationality: English
- Age: 20
- Date of Birth: 2/10/2001
- Current Club: Bologna
- Career: Tottenham (Youth), CF Montreal, Bologna
- Position: CB
- Preferred foot: Left
Luis Binks made just his third start of the season operating in the middle of Bologna’s three centre backs. He played a little deeper than his defensive companions acting as more of a sweeper. Although, at times, this hindered Bologna’s ability to hold a strong defensive line, leading to Binks playing opponents offside.
Generally, Binks had a quiet if uninspiring game, reflected in the fact he had the least touches of any outfield player to complete the ninety minutes. Being the sweeper he was quick to drop back and let others engage opponents first. However, there were instances where Binks seemed unsure whether to push onto an attacker or drop back into shape. This was more evident in the second half when Bologna attempted to press higher and more frequently. Binks found himself being drawn to the ball in situations when he perhaps would have felt more comfortable retreating towards his own goal. On one occasion this led to Binks leaving his man and then almost giving a penalty away in his attempt to recover.
These issues continued in other scenarios such as when to play attackers offside and when to drop back, leading to some messy defending. There was clearly a lack of natural understanding with his defensive partners which is indicative of his limited game time and experience. Physically, he is tall at 6’3 and so is effective in the air and during duels, but could be a little clumsy with pulling and grabbing of his opponents. He looked more comfortable after Victor Osimhen came on who is much more of an out and out striker than Mertens. He seemed content marking Osimhen and engaging him physically, which he had reasonable success in, than playing against Mertens who would drop deep leave space and defensive decisions to be made for Binks.
On the ball Binks did struggle and was part of the reason Bologna had such a difficult time progressing the ball. He is incredibly one footed and would do anything to engineer a situation so that the ball was on his left foot. This often left him under pressure and on one occasion he almost giving the ball away inside his own box. He never appeared to enjoy being on the ball. He played simple passes as often as he could and rarely put himself in a good position ,relative to his teammates, to receive a pass. This not only hampered his teams ability to progress the ball effectively but also showed the limitations to his game.
- Nationality: Belgian
- Age: 21
- Date of Birth: 25/5/2000
- Current Club: Bologna (Loan)
- Career: Oostende, Bologna (Loan)
- Position: Centre Back
- Secondary Position: Left Back
- Preferred foot: Left
Theate played on the left side of Bolgna’s three centre backs and has been regular feature for the side this season. However, today he struggled against a strong Napoli forward line, albeit one with a few key players missing.
Like Binks, he was poor when in possession and contributed to Bologna’s general issues in progressing the ball. He looked clumsy on the few occasions he carried the ball and generally appeared sluggish when changing his body shape. His passing was sloppy throughout the game and they were regularly under-hit, which not only slowed the teams play down but also put his teammates in trouble. To compound this he rarely made himself available to receive a pass and on several occasions this left his teammates with no option but to clear the ball out of play. He was very unambitious with his passing almost always going sideways and backwards which only invited further pressure from Napoli’s attackers and often led to turnovers of possession.
Defensively Theate was average if not below average today. At 6’1 he is not the tallest or stockiest centre back but against Mertens and Lozano for the majority of the match this was not really an issue. He positioned himself relatively well in the left channel to make a few good interceptions but was susceptible to being dragged out of position when Napoli played their quick interchanges out wide. For the opening goal he was caught on his heels ball watching by Lozano who came from behind to reach Elmas’s cross first. This demonstrated his lack of awareness and questionable decision making which was present all game.
The second half was no easier as Bologna overall became more exposed. He had some success pushing up onto attackers as they received the ball but this was largely in the latter stages of the game as Napoli eased off the pace. Late on he was booked for a clumsy stamp which seemed to sum up his days efforts.