How Rafael Benitez and Napoli Can Cope Without Marek Hamsik

Jack Alexandros RathbornContributor IIIDecember 13, 2013

NAPLES, ITALY - OCTOBER 27:  Gonzalo Higuain (R) of Napoli celebrates with Gokhan Inler (C) and Lotrenzo Insigne after scoring the opening goal during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Torino FC at Stadio San Paolo on October 27, 2013 in Naples, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

Napoli return to Serie A action this weekend after their heroic effort in the Champions League was not enough to send them through to the knock-out phase of the tournament.

Marek Hamsik's absence was a big blow for the Partenopei, and his fitness is a concern moving forward, without any clarity on whether he will return before Christmas.

Without the Slovakian, Napoli must somewhat alter their tactics, meaning that Rafael Benitez must think outside the box, as there is not a natural replacement for Hamsik.

Goran Pandev has been attempting to replace Marekiaro, but it is just not the same.

Benitez should temporarily ditch the 4-2-3-1 formation and look to experiment with a new system.

A 4-4-1-1 could be worth taking a serious look at, with Lorenzo Insigne playing just behind Gonzalo Higuain.

Christian Maggio, Juan Zuniga and Pablo Armero would be much more comfortable playing in a more advanced midfield role, with one of them likely to play wide in a midfield quartet with Jose Callejon—who would be perfectly comfortable as a right-midfielder.

Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami are adept at playing as holding midfielders, and if Benitez is even more adventurous, Inler could drop out with the more direct Blerim Dzemaili in a centre-midfield partnership.

Anthony Reveillere would need to prove his worth as a starter, on either flank, with injuries to Giandomenico Mesto for the considerable future and Zuniga for a further week.

Further signings to operate as full-backs with experience operating in a back four must arrive in January, but this system could prove to be highly effective.

Hamsik's absence is costly for Napoli with Juve opening up an eight point gap between the sides, but two wins before Christmas will ensure that Rafa can regroup during the winter break and mount a challenge in the new year.