Two weeks ago Napoli were beaten, badly beaten by AC Milan at San Siro, wrote off from the Serie A title race and largely forgotten about, 2 weeks ago saw a dissaponting 0-0 at home to Brescia which hardly boosted confidence and yet following a remarkable turnaround on Parma last week, AC Milan dropping points (Grazie Palermo) and Napoli’s ‘workman like’ performance against Cagliari, Napoli find themselves thrust back in the title race.
Someone told the team that Walter Mazzarri might be changing his shirts (Picture - SSC Napoli)
Of course Napoli gained this victory the hard way, no brushing sides away with ease like Udinese or relying on substandard officating. Napoli had to grind this win out. Without Chrstian Maggio through suspension, Hugo Campagnaro, Gianluca Grava and Walter Gargano, Napoli were missing at least 3 starters and at times it showed. Cagliari dominated the early exchanges as nobody from Napoli could get hold of the ball, Hassan Yebda giving the ball away too many times early on. On his Serie A home debut I thought after a couple of early errors Victor Ruiz stood out alongside Paolo Cannavaro as a classy defender who will only improve the more game time he gets. My main worry was Fabiano Santacroce, at times his positiong was all over the place, he was overhitting his passes and didn’t look assured on the ball. I did have a moment when I thought Cribari should come on…. then I took my medication.
Its fair to say Edinson Cavani has had a quiet few weeks and thankfully for Napoli he ended his drought, firstly from the penalty spot after Lavezzi was assaulted in the penalty area and secondly a neat lob over the onrushing keeper, in between Cavani’s heroics Robert Aquafesca finished well to level the scores for the Sardines but it wasn’t enough. Cavani is now back on track and now equals Napoli legend Antonio Vojak’s season total of 22 goals in Serie A…Cavani still has 8 games left to better that. Napoli now go into the International break in good spirits before taking on Lazio on less than 2 weeks at San Paolo. A crucial game for so many reasons.
In December I remember tweeting that Napoli should keep both feet firmly on the ground and if by the end of March they were in a position to challenge for the title then I would start to freak out, well its near the end of March and we are three points behind….pass the sedative.
“Edinson Cavani, Marek Hamsik and Ezequiel Lavezzi are great players in an important club. The side wants to grow, not sell and for this reason I don’t go looking for their players.”—Jose Mourinho in an interview with Il Mattino, more quotes here …http://www.football-italia.net/mar19n.html
Assitant coach Nicolo Frustalupi maintained his 100% record in charge of Napoli as Walter Mazzarri puffed on his cigarettes in the stands talked on his mobile following his touchside ban for pointing at the referee vs Brescia (OK he may have blasphemed)
Riccardo Bigon stands next to Frustalupi (right) with his ‘I am not worried’ face (Picture:SSC Napoli)
The last 2 weeks have been a bit of a nightmare to be a Napoli fan, defeats to Villarreal and AC Milan coupled with an abject 0-0 against Brescia meant Napoli had dropped out the Serie A title race, fell out of the UEFA Europa League and looked in danger of going into a tailspin after the Brescia match, so 45 minutes into the game vs Parma where Napoli were trailing 1-0 to a Raffaele Palladino wonder strike I did start to wonder what on earth was going on. Not to fear. After a Mazzarri half time team talk the second half performance was excellent. Hamsik, Lavezzi and Maggio were the real driving force behind the recovery, causing Parma all sorts of problems and its no surprise those 3 all scored. Maggio in particular was outstanding. Some of his passing and running was first class, it is no wonder he is getting rave reviews and will be missed next week against Cagliari.
I have no idea what Lavezzi is trying to do here (Picture:SSC Napoli)
Too much to write about with this game. So I will break it down into bullet points
Victor Ruiz Serie A Debut, I thought he had a solid game, looked assured on the ball,tracked Bojinov and then Crespo well, didn’t look out of place playing alongside Cannavaro and Santacroce for the first time.
Edinson Cavani, He has looked a little tired the last couple of games, he had plenty of chances, the type opf chances he would have buried in January, not worried, he just needs one goal and he will be firing again
Lavezzi, thank goodness he his back. The team look so much better with him on the pitch.
Juan Zuniga, He is a very good right footed Left Wing Back. First Half was playing too defensively, second half He was getting forward more and when Parma were down to 10 men lots of space appeared for him and Maggio to run into, looking forward to seeing him next week at Rght Wing Back in place of suspended Maggio
Hassan Yebda, I thought he was assured and brought calm to the midfield, Mazzarri justified in starting him. I still think Yebda and Gargano would be a better midfield 2, as Yebda is a physical player, not affraid to make his mark, Pazienza just isn’t that player
Mazzarri, lots of rumours before the game about his future. potentially destabilising stories about him mixed with Napoli’s poor form this could have been a very bad day for Napoli BUT Mazzarri proved his worth and got the team focused on the job. In Mazzarri is trust! (well apart from his love for Pazienza)
Now following Inter and AC Milan slip ups Napoli are now just 6 points behind AC Milan with the Milan derby still to play and Napoli have got Interin week 37, tall order I know, but Napoli are still in the Scuddeto race….just
“I want to say clearly that I am happy and very proud of this group. Napoli is fine, is in excellent health and does not change its initial plan that’s a gradual growth. Our intent is not much connected to the league as to the maturation and strengthening both of the group and our corporate structure".”—Aurelio De Laurentiis speaking via the club website
Its is fair to say Napoli gained a point against Brescia on Sunday afternoon, but could have quite easily have been beaten. Silly defensive errors could have cost Napoli dear.
Since Napoli got knocked out of Europe the following two displays have been at best ‘languid’. The AC Milan defeat was pretty bad, not one shot on target. I am prepared to give the team a pass on this one as it was only a short time after the dissapointment of getting beat by Villarreal. The Brescia game was just bad and thier are no excuses for such a performance, and yet Napoli could and should have had two penalties for fouls on Maggio and Mascara but they were not given and Napoli drew the game ….. a game that they may have won pre Villarreal. I point you in the direction of games such as Brescia and Bari away, Lecce at home, games that we looked awful, god awful at times but found a way, now the team looks a little bereft of ideas. Not helped of course by Lavezzi being suspended.
I will be honest, I thought with Lavezzi being suspended for three Serie A games that we would ‘find a way’ like we did earlier this season and we did against Catania BUT without him against AC Milan and Brescia the team looked one dimensional and clueless. Lavezzi has been a huge miss and against Brescia more than AC Milan it has showed. Napoli v AC Milan was a total team failure (and as I explained i can take that given the circumstances), Brescia at home is another matter. No creativity at all apart from Maggio with the odd burst on ther wing, the team looked nervous.
This brings me to Mazzarri. His outburst when Maggio was denied a clear penalty had shades of a man who is starting to crack a little. I love Mazzarri, he is the main reason Napoli are doing so well and do I feel given the last couple of weeks he is starting to feel the pressure however I have utmost faith in his coaching ability to get Napoli out of this little bump in the road. With Lavezzi back in the squad Napoli can now be offensive in the good way as they were pretty offensive against Brescia…
Napoli need to get back on track fast. The fans jeering at the final whistle was out of order in my opinion, Napoli are 3rd in the table and have Champions League destiny within reach, and this is the first real ‘blip’ of the season, jeering the players is hardly a confidence builder is it!
Next weekend Napoli play a struggling Parma side away from home and they need to start getting back the winning feeling, confidence breeds confidence plus with Udinese and Lazio pushing hard for Champions League football, Lazio 2 points behind, Udinese a further point back…BOTH play Napoli at San Paolo in the coming weeks. Beat them and the last 2 weeks will be forgotten quickly, Champions League football would be on the cards and Napoli needs these 6 points given the last rounds of the campaign are against Inter and Juventus.
I have faith and do believe Napoli will get back on track soon but lets give the team a break, they have had a crap few weeks, Lavezzi suspended, unlucky to be knocked out the Europa League, Stuffed at San Siro 5 days later and then asked to face Brescia at home in front of hardly supportive crowd.
AC Milan 3 - 0 Napoli - A Game too Far for Mazzarri's men
Lets be honest, that was a pretty awful match for Napoli. Everything that could go wrong did so.
Coming off a somewhat unjust an no doubt demoralising defeat to Villarreal on Thursday this was always going to be a tough ask. Packed San Siro, press and fans going into hyperdrive over this potential classic and Milan having a full 8 days to prepare fo the game… all too much for Napoli
The tone of the game was set as early as the second minute when Walter Gargano tried to switch play from left flank to right flank but woefully underhit his pass and Pato intercepted, minutes later Maggio miscontrolled a simple 10 yard pass and it went out for an AC Milan throw in… all indicators that Napoli were not ‘at the races’. At times (make that the entire 90 minutes) I was unsure what exactly the team were trying to do, they couldn’t defend, couldn’t pass the ball and couldn’t attack.
Some will look at the missing Ezquiel Lavezzi as the reason for this inept and tired Napoli performance, this is an easy excuse. Its true Lavezzi didn’t play and his attacking unpredicatable play was missing but he can’t be responsible for Gargano, Pazienza, Mascara and Maggio giving the ball away SOOO many times, Andrea Dossena shirking challenges and Salvatore Aronica deciding it would be a good idea to handle the ball when he has ZERO need to.
The belief was gone, no movement at all from Mascara who may as well have not been on the pitch…. and Cavani looking isolated up front, to be fair to Marek Hamsik he did have a decent first half but he was the only one. Indeed Napoli only looked partially threatning when Juan Zungia came on for Mascara and looked to cause similar problems to what maybe a Lavezzi could have done but all told Milan were finding too easy to attack Napoli, at times the Napoli defenders were static, defending deep and at times just hitting the ball anywhere instead of playing out from the back.
In the end AC Milan ran out 3-0 winners, deserved winner I might add but make no mistake, this was no test for AC Milan. The real Napoli wasn’t at San Siro, it was probably still in Spain…
Question is where do Napoli go from here? Mazzarri needs to rally the troops. Napoli need to secure 4th spot, a Scudetto run is still not out the question but they seriously need to pick up points and fast, with Inter and AC Milan yet to play each other plus Napoli’s game with Inter to come maybe its too early to write off Napoli’s chances but based on the past 90 minutes Napoli looked more like mid-table also rans.
AC Milan was big, Villarreal was big but Mazzarri faces his biggest test now, getting the player up off the floor to face Brescia at Stadio San Paolo. In Mazzarri Napoli have a man motivator, if he can’t do it then nobody can