The Rise of Napoli: The Champions’ Season by the Numbers

Learn more about the rise of Napoli and explore their title winning season by the numbers.

In the heartland of Naples, where passion runs deeper than the Tyrrhenian Sea and the spirit of football reverberates through the ancient streets, a glorious feeling of resurgence was brewing among the local people. Fueled by the passion of their supporters and the burning desire to return the Scudetto to Naples, the 2022/2023 Napoli team produced one of the most legendary football seasons in modern Italian history.

The Thrill of Victory

To truly appreciate Napoli's remarkable season, one must delve into the annals of the club's storied past. Prior to their ascend to cultural notoriety, Napoli was a mid-table team that could not break the performance barrier and compete with the “giants” of Italian football at the time. This all changed in 1984 with the arrival of what would become Napoli’s most prominent historical figure - Diego Armando Maradona. The Argentinian was the spark of creativity that the Neapolitans needed to ignite the Serie A and win the club's first ever Scudetto during the 1987 campaign. Having tasted the feeling of glorious success, the city of Naples was anxious to replicate their triumph. And so they did. In 1990, lightning struck twice and Napoli was once again crowned champions of Italy.

For the last 33 years, the city of Naples has been patiently waiting to return the scudetto back to the “Città del Sole” and experience the thrill of carrying the Scudetto across its historic streets. For the city of Naples, Società Sportiva Calcio Napoli is so much more than just a football team. It is a modern-day legend whose significance transcends the physical realm of rationality and meshes with the primal passion and dedication of its supporters.

The echoes of Diego Maradona's magic still resound within the walls of the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, as his unforgettable reign as a Neapolitan deity left an indelible mark on the club's identity. The current generation of players donned the azure blue jersey with reverence, driven by a burning desire to restore Napoli to its former glory.

During the 2022/2023 season, under the leadership of coach Luciano Spalletti, Napoli finally managed to put the pieces of the puzzle together and embark on a remarkable journey that would culminate in their triumphant return to the pinnacle of the Serie A. Reminiscent of their legendary team of yesteryears, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and company managed to rekindle the flames of greatness and dominate the league with their mesmerizing play.

A Season for the Ages

The 2022/2023 season proved to be the canvas on which Napoli painted their masterpiece. As if touched by the spirit of Maradona himself, they dazzled both fans and pundits alike with their impressive play and mental resilience. In a league brimming with talent, Napoli stood head and shoulders above the rest and finished the season 16 points above the second team in the standings.

Napoli’s historic Serie A 2022/2023 season by the numbers.

Napoli’s ascend to the top of Italian football can be accredited to two main factors: Spalletti’s attacking coaching philosophy and come outstanding individual performances.

Since taking over the team in 2021, Luciano Spalletti has used a brilliant transfer strategy that favors the acquisition of young, up-and-coming players, which resulted in the assembling of one of Europe’s most dynamic and versatile squads. What makes this Napoli team so special is their versatility. More specifically, aside from a well-constructed defensive line, the team also possesses an agile arsenal of offensive “weapons”.

From Victor Osimhen to Stanislav Lobotka, every player is adept at dismantling stubborn defenses, utilizing precision passion to get in between defensive lines, suffocating their opponents through pressing intensity and torching opponents on lightning-quick counterattacks. Napoli’s versatility often left their opponents in awe and allowed the Naples-based team to exploit even the slightest of missteps from the opposition. Their multifaceted approach made them a force to be reckoned with, leaving the rest of the Serie A teams in a constant state of unease.

A Game of Possession

"If you play on possession, you don’t have to defend, because there’s only one ball" - Johan Cruijff, Football Legend

Despite the many standout qualities of the squad, one of the main contributors to their success was Napoli’s exceptional possession game. Spalletti's coaching philosophy relies heavily on keeping the ball for the majority of the game and “hypnotizing” opponents with their own, refurbished “tiki-taka'' interpretation. When looking into their season averages, Napoli averages an impressive 61,8% possession per game. They also lead the league in total passes with 22,804 (just over 600 per game), successful forward passes with 76.90% per game, successful horizontal passes with a total of 8405 and passes in the final third with a staggering number of 4776 (almost a thousand more than the second in that metric, Inter).

Napoli’s passing excellence during the 2022/2023 Serie A season.

However, it is important to note that Napoli relies heavily on short passes to methodically construct their attack rather than utilizing long balls to stretch out the play; the Neapolitans rank dead last in Total Long Passes made with only 1757 completed throughout the 38 games played. These statistics showcase just how much Spalletti-ball has influenced the team’s football methodology as just a few years prior, during the 2018/2019 season, Napoli ranked in the top 6 in Long Passes made.

Clinical Finishing

One of the beautiful things about football is how complex, yet simple the game is. From data analysis to medical treatments and strict diets, there are hundreds of steps that football clubs take to ensure the success of the club and achieve the highest level of perceived performance. Despite all of these processes, however, at the end of the day everything can be boiled down to a single, timeless principle “The team that scores more goals, wins the game”. Regardless of how much possession a team has had over the duration of a game or how many times they have managed to test the keeper, these statistics would all be in vain if the team does not manage to convert their chances.

Napoli’s offensive performance during the 2022/2023 Serie A season.

To the delight of Napoli’s supporters, their favorite team was among the top 10 highest-scoring squads in Europe, amassing a total of 77 goals (in the Serie A) during their triumphant campaign. The sky-blues managed to create a total of 674 goal-scoring opportunities (2nd most in Lega Serie A), converting 11.13% of their opportunities into goals.

"Systems no longer exist in football, it’s all about the spaces left by the opposition" - Luciano Spalletti, Football Coach

A heatmap of their goals shows us that Neapolitans did the majority of their damage from up-close with 72 out their 77 goals coming from inside the box. This is a direct result of their free-flowing style of play, allowing players to roam freely, find open spaces, and attack the box aggressively rather than sticking to a pre-assigned system that restricts their in-game movement. Moreover, when analyzing their shot selection, it is evident that Spelletti’s men do not like to settle as nearly 70% of their total shots have come from within the 18-yard box (423 out of 615).

Heatmap Goals Napoli.png

Discipline and Defense

Napoli are undoubtedly one of the most talented and attacking-minded teams not only in the Serie A but in the entirety of Europe. In many cases what separates teams at the top are not only their physical capabilities, but also their mental fortitude and discipline on the field. When further analyzing Napoli’s Serie A season, we can see that they have received the least amount of yellow cards (47), collected a singular red card (rank 2nd in the league) and have committed the least amount of fouls (389) throughout the course of the campaign.

Instead of utilizing tactical fouls, Neapolitans continuously increase the ball-sided overload with ball-far players dynamically occupying near spaces and forcing opposing players into making mistakes. This principle becomes increasingly significant when Napoli is forced to defend deep in their own end as they have conceded only 2038 passes in their defensive final third throughout the season, which ranks second best in the league behind only Fiorentina, who have conceded as little as 1660.

Thanks to their off-the-ball rotations, in combination with their high playing intensity, Napoli are able to put a stop to most offensive threats in their early stages of development. This has resulted in Napoli conceding a season-low 28 goals, which amounts to just 0,74 per game - an impressive stat showcasing their dominance during the title-winning run.

Napoli’s defensive statistics compared to Serie A 2022/2023.

The Stars of Napoli

It is undeniable that Spalletti’s tactical genius is the fuel that powered Napoli’s historic ascend to notoriety. However, it was the consistent performances and brilliant ottings by a few key players that served as the spark that ignited Napoli’s resurgence and fired them to the top of the Italian football hierarchy. These athletes didn’t just exceed expectations - they set a new golden standard for what peak performance should look like.

The Rise of Kvaratskhelia

One of these outstanding players is none other than the Georgian superstar, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.The talented winger arrived at the club in the summer of 2022 and quickly became the symbol of Napoli’s Scudetto-winning journey. Kvaratskhelia's scintillating performances quickly earned him recognition beyond his club's borders. Football aficionados from around the world witnessed the emergence of a true superstar in the making. Scouts, analysts, pundits and fans alike lauded his abilities, hailing him as one of the most promising talents on the global stage.

During his extraordinary first season donning the sky-blue jersey, the 22-year-old phenomenon had a total of 25 goal contributions and was the only player in the Serie A to reach double digits in both goals and assists (12 goals, 13 assists). As impressive as his statistics are, they are only the tip of the iceberg. The true value that the Georgian international brings to the table comes from his ability to create space, get past his defender and attack the space behind the opposition’s defensive line.

The young talent does not shy away from a challenge and anxiously takes on his defender whenever he is given the opportunity. He averages a monster 7.39 attempted dribbles per game, and although his conversion rate is quite low in comparison to his overall attempts, he still managed to accumulate 2.53 successful dribbles per game (SDPG), a number that comes second only to Rafael Leao’s league-leading 2.57 SDPG.

Kvaratskhelia’s “1v1” statistics compared to the Serie A 2022/2023.

Once he gets in behind the defense, Kvicha’s creativity becomes too much to handle for any opposition. Aside from his physical and technical abilities, Kvicha’s ability to control, pass, and shoot equally with both feet keeps defenders on their toes and unlock a plethunlocksora of diverse, chance-creating possibilities for the Georgian. A further examinatiofon into his offensive impact shows us just how efficient and persistent the attacker is once he has the ball at his feet. He averages 16.54 Successful Passes in the Final Third of play per game, which is almost double the league’s average (8.43). Kvicha also manages just under 1.5 key passes per game, showcasing just how relevant his chance-creating skills are to the success of Napoli.

Kvaratskhelia’s offensive parameters compared to the Serie A 2022/2023.

The Excellence of Osimhen

And although every team is capable of producing goal-scoring opportunities, they wouldn’t account for much if there wasn’t someone to capitalize on these chances. During the 2022/2023 season, this someone for Napoli was no other than the 100 million dollar man, Victor Osimhen. The Nigerian-born player has been with the team since the 2020/2021 season, and although his performances leading to this season were solid, nobody expected the output that he produced during Napoli’s title-winning run. The 24-year-old demonstrated his unparalleled potential remarkably and has emerged as one of the brightest number 9s in world football.

Similarly to superstars such as Erling Haaland and Dusan Vlahovic, Osimhen’s play style resembles that of a classic number 9; he isn’t necessarily the most skilled or technically gifted player, but his superior offensive positioning and elite finishing make him one of the most dangerous strikers on the planet. His 26 goals this season (including 5 assists) earned him Serie A’s Paulo Rossi award and helped Napoli secure the Scudetto a full 5 game weeks before the end of the season. From tap-ins to headed goals and absolute screamers, Osimhen is a ruthless finisher who can score from any position on the field. Aside from his goal-scoring prowess, the striker is also capable of creating chances for his teammates and served as a main pillar in developing Napoli’s attacks through the center field. Furthermore, his ability to win aerial duels (54,55% aerial duels won) and offensive duels (4.98 per game) positions him as the ideal recipient of goal kicks and high crosses.

Osimhen’s value as a target man, finisher and provider for his team is undeniable. His exceptional positional awareness, attacking vision and ability to finish chances provided Napoli’s attack with an extra layer of versatility and helped propel them to their 3rd Scudetto title.

Victor Osimhen’s offensive stats compared to the Serie A 2022/2023.

The Stability of Kim Min-Jae

After the departure of Kalidou Koulibaly in the summer of 2022, Napoli was in desperate need of finding a replacement. The Senegalese international was, arguably, Serie A’s best defender, making the search for his successor even more crucial. Out of all the players in the market, Napoli decided to place their trust in the hands of Kim Min-Jae. And despite all the pressure - Kim took little to no time to prove that he is the man for the job. The South Korean international made an immediate impact on the team and gave his team the confidence to play the aggressive football that won them the title. Strong, agile and witty on the pitch, Kim’s ability to read the play translated into the South Korean recovering an average of 5.76 possessions per game for his team. The defender also managed 1.11 interceptions per game, further amplifying the effectiveness of his movement and ability to, almost, predict the actions of his opponents.

Kim Min-Jae’s defensive statistics compared to Serie A 2022/2023.

Throughout the duration of the season, Kim also solidified himself as one of the best 1-on-1 defenders in the Serie A; relying on his aggressive tackling approach, Kim’s colossal presence echoed stability across the whole defensive half and beyond. Kim conceded just 0.11 dribbles per game, had a total of 36 blocked shots and won 2.88 defensive duels per game. This kind of defensive dominance provides his teammates with a sense of stability and allows them to play a more free, attacking football, knowing that they can always rely on their superstar defender to bail them out of any difficult situations.

What separates Kim from other defenders in the league is his remarkable ability to dictate the tempo of the game and play with the ball at his feet. He averages 34.60 successful forward passes and 33.17 successful horizontal passes per game, both stats leading the league in the two respective categories. Kim has an excellent vision of the game and can provide pinpoint passes to his teammates, regardless of their positioning on the field. Moreover, Kim is also able to push the pace of play from the back by carrying the ball from his end, all the way to the opponent’s defensive box in a matter of seconds. When asked about his adventurous runs, Spalletti said that Kim is simply “The best center-back in the world”.

Kim Min-Jae’s passing statistics compared to Serie A 2022/2023.

And although this statement might be controversial, there is no denying that the South Korean prodigy has surpassed all expectations and is without a doubt one of the brightest defensive talents in Europe.

A Bright Future

Napoli’s 2022/2023 campaign was nothing short of spectacular. Led by Spalletti’s free-flow coaching style, the team dominated the Lega Serie A from start to finish and brought the Scudetto back to the city of Naples. Their squad’s success is one of unity, consistency and flair, a combination of attributes that transformed Napoli into one of Europe’s most dangerous teams on the planet. From the brilliant wing-play of Kvicha Kvaratskhelia to the goalscoring prowess of Victor Osimhen, every player on Napoli’s team contributed to their incredible triumph and their dominance is clearly reflected in their sensational statistical superiority. Following their historic season, we are already looking forward to the next campaign and are excited to see the new champions of Italy in action once again.

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