After 26 years, Bankruptcy in 2004 and a host of off-field problems, can Napoli finally claim their 3rd Scudetto in their history?
The appointment of the relatively unknown Maurizio Sarri, combined with what seemed like a very average transfer window at best gave the Napoli faithful little to be excited about – especially after an opening day defeat to Sassuolo followed by back to back draws with Sampdoria and Empoli.
Since that Empoli draw however, Napoli have gone on a remarkable unbeaten run winning 11 out of their last 13 games, keeping 10 clean sheets in the process. Notable scalps include home victories against title rivals Juventus and Fiorentina and a 4-0 demolition of Milan at the San Siro – all whilst keeping a 100% win record in the Europa League.
It’s still early in the season, but these recent results have given fans real hope that Napoli can win the most open Scudetto race in years. Napoli currently sit in 4th place, 2 points behind early pace setters Fiorentina and Inter and 1 behind Roma. The picture of the season will become a little clearer when Napoli travel to Inter at the end of November and play Roma at home on the 13th December – but with games against Hellas Verona and Bologna in between along with being able to rest key players in Europa League matches – there is no reason why Napoli cannot cement their position at the top of the Serie A by the time they play Roma.
So what are the reasons behind Napoli’s resurgence? – I’ve picked out 5.
1. Gonzalo Higuain – Napoli’s record signing in 2013 as been in lethal form this season, notching 9 goals in 12 Serie A appearances. Higuain is natural finisher and along with his ability to both hold up the ball and make runs in behind, it makes him one of the best no.9’s in world football. However, as we’ve seen on numerous occasions, Higuain has a track record of chocking at the most vital moments (World Cup Final 2014 & Final game of Serie A season last year – missed penalty to secure Napoli champions league football) so let’s hope for the sake of the Napoli faithful that he has got that all out of his system and keeps up his great form.
2. Allan – I’ll be honest, when I heard we had spent a reported £12 million on a Brazilian called Allan from Udinese, I and many others were very sceptical (having never watched him play). How wrong were we all! Allan is arguably one of the signings of the season across Europe, let alone in the Serie A – His industry, eye for a pass and ability to finish has made him one of the best players in the league. With 3 goals and 3 assists from 11 appearances, Allan has become an integral lynchpin of the midfield.
3. The Midfield 3 – Allan, Hamsik & Jorginho have been crucial to Napoli’s good form, with each playing a crucial role. Allan’s industry combined with Hamsik’s attacking flair creates numerous opportunities for the front 3 whilst Jorginho’s understated holding role gives his teammates the freedom to push up the field. In recent weeks, Jorginho has attracted reported interest from Arsenal and its easy to see why they would want him. He is calm on the ball, can break up the play and has an excellent range of passing. Hamsik is a cult hero in Naples, he was there when Napoli first were moving back up the Italian football pyramid after coming back from bankruptcy and has long been likened to a Slovakian Frank Lampard with his ability to score goals and provide assists from midfield.
4. The Defence – Perhaps the most crucial reason behind Napoli’s success has been their improvements and acquisitions in defence. The 2012-13 season was the closest since 1990 that Napoli came to winning the title. Their lethal 3 pronged attack of Hamsik, Cavani & Lavezzi put them within touching distance of eventual champions Juvenuts but their defensive problems cost them, leaving them 9 points behind by the end of the season. Fast forward to present day and the back 5 have look solid and are forming a formidable partnership. Full backs Goulham and summer purchase Hysaj have been efficient both going forward and defending, with Goulham registering an assist from Left Back (We love to see Left backs do well) whilst the athleticism of Koulibaly alongside the experience and knowhow of Albiol and Reina has resulted in 10 clean sheets in their last 13 games.
5. Lorenzo Insigne – The hometown boy has been arguably Napoli’s best player this season, coming back strongly from an injury plagued campaign last season. The fan favorite who rose through the academy has notched 6 goals and 3 assists in the Serie A and has been one of the major catalysts behind Napoli’s recent form – so much so – the Italian fans have been demanding he be placed straight into the Azzurri set up permanently, rather than as a substitute .
It remains to be seen if Napoli can keep up their good form over Christmas and into the new year – One thing is for sure – I can’t wait to find out.