Marek Hamšik, 26 years old, is one of the most underrated playmakers in all of Europe. According to WhoScored, he is leading the overall player rating right now in Serie A with an 8.77 average rating. Hamšik has four goals so far in this Serie A season and averages around 3.5 shots per game. But, stats do not tell the whole story and this is not what this article is going to be about. In this two part analysis, I am going to attempt to explain the development of Hamšik from the 3-5-2 days of Mazzarri to the ever favored 4-2-3-1 of Spanish manager, Rafael Benitez and show is many different attributes that he brings during the course of any given match.
The Focal Point
In both of Mazzarri’s and and Benitez’s formations, Hamšik was the main distributor in attack, but he is being used in very different ways with the two managers. With Mazzarri, he played behind the two strikers, usually Edinson Cavani and Goran Pandev. Hamšik would be used to distribute quick and accurate passes to the two strikers who would be constantly trying to find space in between the oppositions defense.
The Slovakian international, and now captain of Napoli, is now being used by Rafael Benitez as almost a second striker at times so far in the early season as he was during the match against Bologna last weekend. But this does not mean that he has lost any of his touch in his passing ability. Hamšik’s ability to read the game is something quite special. It always seems like he has eyes on the back of his head and can pick out the perfect pass from nearly every position. But of course, he is not perfect, no player in the world is, Hamšik will misplace a pass or two during the course of the match,
Though Napoli still do have Gonzalo Higuain as spare striker, it could be a possibility that the Spaniard will use both of his strikers to create more of an attacking presence. But, knowing him from his time at Chelsea, he will always stick to the same formation no matter what type of substitution he makes. If the second striker is brought on it will probably be to be played on one of the flanks, which is not one of Goran Pandev’s or Gonzalo Higuain’s strong suits, they are pretty much pure strikers.
Pressure off the Ball
As you can see in the humongous photograph above, Hamšik is always aware of where the ball is when it is being moved around the opposition’s back four. He does this throughout the match, Hamšik constantly is checking the eyes of the defender as well as the body language to see if he can pick off the pass before it gets into Napoli’s half of the pitch and create a counter attacking movement.
Hamšik does this time and time again throughout the match. I noticed several occasions in the two matches I watched from this season the Slovakian actually thoroughly enjoys causing defenders to become pressured when he comes charging towards them because if the defender makes a mistake, Hamšik will be all over the ball and dangerous things could happen.
This would not have happened last season with Napoli playing two strikers they would be able to provide plenty of pressure on the oppositions defenders which would have put Hamšik even a little deeper than what he would have preferred to have been played as.