Its incredible to be a Napoli fan at the moment. We continue to confound people with the progress being made in the UEFA Champions League. Yes, we are only half time in the tie against Chelsea, but if someone had told me Napoli would be 3-1 up to go into the second leg of a last 16 tie I would have chewed your hand off, but something is bothering me..
The three tenors
I watch a lot of Napoli, too much in fact but I feel too much of the credit has been attributed to Napoli’s perceived preference for playing counter attacking football.
We can be in no doubt that Napoli look very exciting when the attacking players are in full flow, but the actual number of goals scored in the Champions League because of a quick transition of the ball is actually very low.
Napoli have played seven games in this years competition so far, scoring at least one goal in each game and 13 goals in total. The source of these goals is very surprising,
- Goals from build up play - 6
- Goals from set pieces (Penalties, corners) - 5
- Goals from counter attacks (a goal scored in an attack as a direct result of winning the ball from the opposition in a previous attack) - 1
- Own Goals - 1
My own eyes do not deceive me. I do not doubt that Napoli play counter attacking football, they play it very well but the above statistics prove that we are more than just a counter attacking side. Certainly in European games, the counter attack is Napoli’s biggest foyle. Teams are so scared by the way we counter that they forget how to defend against simple build up play.
The other surprising statistic revolves around the number of goals conceded by Napoli in the competition. Seven games have been played and seven goals have been conceded, three of which were scored in one game by Bayern Munich. Napoli have played 24 games in Serie A and have conceded 24 goals. Napoli have the joint fourth best defence in Serie A along with Fiorentina, you would not guess that by the way Salvatore Aronica, Paolo Cannavaro and Hugo Campagnaro defended against Chelsea but the statistics do not lie. They are good honest pros who have played together for three years and know each other strengths and weaknesses inside out and they are backed up in goal by the more than able Morgan De Sanctis.
My point is this. Napoli are more than just a smash and grab team in European competition and Napoli can actually defend. If anything we are a contradiction. We play counter attacking football but most of our goals come from open play. We do not defend as well as we should yet we are no worse than in Serie A.
My own view of Napoli’s Champions League campaign is that Walter Mazzarri has produced a side which ‘laughs’ at you for not breaking down a back three of such ‘quality’, teases you by playing counter attacking football and punishes you for not doing the simple things right at the back. Long may it continue…