Can Rudi Garcia get what Luciano Spalletti couldn’t from Giacomo Raspadori at Napoli?

Giacomo Raspadori is one of Italy's most promising players but he struggled in his first season at Napoli. There are early signs to suggest he could do much better under Rudi Garcia.

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Despite missing a second-half penalty during Napoli‘s 2-0 win against Sassuolo, Giacomo Raspadori can look back at his start to the season with a sense of satisfaction.

The former Sassuolo forward has started both Serie A games so far and despite not having scored his first goal yet, he seems bound to get much more playing time under Rudi Garcia than he did in the previous season. He was often forced to watch from the bench as Luciano Spalletti‘s men marched along the path that would lead them to Scudetto glory for the first time in 33 years.

Spalletti’s departure and the subsequent arrival of the French manager at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona seems to have shuffled things enough to give Raspadori a fresh chance at Napoli. Since the very early days of the pre-season training camp, Garcia looked willing to find a place for the Italian in his attack.

Raspadori’s best position at Sassuolo

Giacomo Raspadori in Napoli training. [@sscnapoli]

While the ability to occupy every one of the three attacking spots makes Raspadori an extremely valuable asset for his manager, it can’t go unnoticed that the player reached his peak in his last season at Sassuolo when he was often deployed as a central forward or as a second striker behind Gianluca Scamacca. His proximity to the goal played a key part in helping him score 10 times and provide six assists at the age of 22.

With the lone striker position at Napoli already being firmly occupied by Victor Osimhen, Garcia is trying to slot Raspadori into various positions without depriving his game of the functions he can carry out most effectively, such as linking with his teammates in the final third and making his presence felt in the penalty box to take advantage of his impressive scoring instinct.

Raspadori’s confusing season under Spalletti

When Napoli completed a €35 million move to sign Raspadori in the summer of 2022, making him the club’s most expensive Italian player, such investment prompted many to believe that the forward would quickly become pivotal in Spalletti’s system.

With Khvicha Kvaratskhelia still being an unknown back then, the feeling was that Raspadori was going to earn a starting spot in the short term, with his ability to adapt to different roles giving him an edge in this respect.

Yet, Raspadori eventually finished the season racking up as few as 10 Serie A starts, seven of which saw him replace the team’s top scorer Osimhen when he was either injured or banned.

Giacomo Raspadori in action for Napoli against Frosinone. [@sscnapoli]

In the end, it looked like the player’s great versatility ended up being detrimental to his own season, making Raspadori a jack of all trades and master of none. For every position he occupied, Spalletti and Napoli seemed to have a more reliable option, be it Kvaratskhelia, Piotr Zielinski or, of course, Osimhen.

This lack of consistency, both in terms of playing time and tactical demands, affected Raspadori’s settlement period at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona as he ended the season with two goals from 25 Serie A appearances, the same amount he had scored in 11 matches with Sassuolo as a 20-year-old rookie.

A fresh new start for Raspadori under Rudi Garcia?

In spite of starting with a 4-3-3 formation, Rudi Garcia was immediately very clear in saying that he wanted his Napoli side to be able to adapt to several tactical shapes, in an attempt to make the most of versatile players like Raspadori.

The 23-year-old played on both flanks of the attacking trio in the summer friendlies, as well as being deployed as a central striker at times, but his coach seemed to be more interested in the interpretation of such roles than in the position itself.

That groundwork became visible as Raspadori started his first two Serie A games of the season on the left wing while Kvaratskhelia was recovering from injury.

In spite of not having found the net, also denied by the post and crossbar respectively in the game against Sassuolo, the data from Sofascore highlights how the forward’s contribution to the Azzurri’s game is changing.

Giacomo Raspadori of Napoli goes up against Sassuolo’s Daniel Boloca. (@en_sscnapoli)

Raspadori’s 1.6 shots per game under Spalletti grew to 4.5 in his first two competitive outings with Garcia, not to mention the fact that his current expected goals (1.47 from two matches) already amounts to almost half of his 3.49 xG tally from the whole last season.

In other words, while he remains a highly involved player able to help his side make the ball progress smoothly, Raspadori looks able to bring much more threat under the French manager and muster the opportunities that should help him find the scoring consistency he was lacking under Spalletti.

With Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen understandably deemed as untouchable, Raspadori could easily become the main candidate to take the starting spot as an attacking right winger over Matteo Politano and outcast Hirving Lozano. From that position, he could come inside to move closer to the Nigerian finisher, freeing up space for the midfielders and Giovanni Di Lorenzo‘s overlaps, adding both offensive prowess and unpredictability to the Partenopei’s game.

Regardless of the outcome, what is certain is that Raspadori now has the chance to take a crucial step in his footballing evolution which would make him one of the most complete forwards Italy have had in years.

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