For the first time ever I found myself actually supporting the jeering of my side after an awful defeat. I am a staunch supporter of my side. I have supported my side through the good and more often the bad times. I always try to look for the positive in every performance, I have even praised Salvatore Aronica this season but on Wednesday something broke inside me. The 1-3 victory by Atalanta was a pitiful, shocking performance which marked the clubs third straight defeat in Serie A, the first time under Walter Mazzarri, but this defeat was unlike the previous two. This was bad, very very bad!
Getting beat by Juventus 3-0 is not nice but it is no shame to lose to Juventus in the current form. Being beat 3-1 by Lazio was a tough one to swallow as we deserved at least a draw and we were denied a clear penalty. But against Atalanta, for the very first time under Mazzarri I saw players that looked sorry for themselves and I saw a coach that looked broken.
The recent slump in form has been put down to tiredness and I personally do think that fatigue is a major factor at the moment. As a fan I feel drained of all emotions thanks to the inconsistent nature of our Serie A season coupled with the amazing Champions League and Coppa Italia runs. The players are tired, You can clearly see that in players such as Edinson Cavani, Walter Gargano and Hugo Campagnaro, but I then take a look at AC Milan who were so far off the pace against Chievo but still got a result and this showed me that its not all about being tired.
The problem is people like to blame one thing when something bad happens, people like a good scapegoat. It is very easy for those that do not watch Napoli on a regular basis to say for example the back three is not good enough or Mazzarri is clueless or that the team have an over reliance on a certain player. These irritations are symptoms of bigger problems for Napoli in Serie A.
I have tried to summarise these below
1) Tactial mistakes - The inability of Walter Mazzarri to find a Plan B has been exposed. This article by @rcammisola sums up my feelings better than I could, even in the last two games when we have played Blerim Dzemaili in the Christian Maggio role just so Mazzarri can stick to his 3-4-2-1 the coach has been made to look very silly. Mazzarri should have moved to a 4-3-2-1/4-3-3 but did not. He claims to be an innovator but has not done so. The last two games were perfect for Mazzarri to show he can be flexible but he failed.
2) Errors made in the transfer market - Riccardo Bigon should rightly get credit for the signing of Edinson Cavani but this does not mean he should be immune from criticism. As much as I like Blerim Dzemaili I do not understand what more he has brought to the team that a player such as Hassan Yebda was already providing. We just needed to spend €2.2Mill to sign the Algerian who was a popular and fully integrated member of the squad and yet we send him back to Benfica and then spent nearly fours times as much on the Swiss international. The free signings of Mario Santana and Cristian Chavez have completely failed and do not get me started on Ignacio Fideleff. I am happy we have brought in Edu Vargas, but should we maybe have let him stay in Chile until the summer and kept Giuseppe Mascara until the end of the season? Wasted money on players in positions already covered and free transfers which have not paid off means Mazzarri has had his hands tied to a degree.
3) Injurys and suspension in key positions - The injury to Miguel Britos before the start of the season has meant Salvatore Aronica getting more game time then is comfortable with me. Marco Donadel has been missing all season which has meant Gokhan Inler and Walter Gargano have played more often than was planned. The real killer blow though has been the injury to Christian Maggio in the Champions League second leg at Chelsea. From that very moment the current dip in form started, Juan Zuniga getting sent off against Juventus and his subsequent suspension has meant for the last two games we have not played with a right sided wingback, so back to tactics….
Mazzarri’s inflexibility coupled with the some mistakes in the transfer market have meant some players have been playing too many games and when coupled with the injury of Christian Maggio and suspension of Juan Zuniga the problems have been amplified the past couple of weeks.
As well as those things mentioned above I think Aurellio De Laurentiis needs to look at the things he has done. He has given a lot of power to Mazzarri recently. It is rumoured that at least one of the players signed last summer was of a direct result of Mazzarri demanding that player and not accepting any alternative whatsoever, this was said to be one of the main issues which meant he almost left last year as the dangerous game of brinkmanship took place between the coach and the president. Director General Marco Fassone is rumoured to be leaving and Sporting Director Riccardo Bigon has not signed a new contract yet. Instability at the top is not helping build a positive picture of life at Napoli.
I have personally felt Napoli are best when De Laurentiis has a firm grip of things. He needs to sort out the issues at director level and give clear instructions of what he expects of Mazzarri and the team. Looking back at comments made at the start of season I have no idea what DeLa expected, top 5, top 3, ‘continued growth’. How can you define ‘continued growth’? Meh
I think Mazzarri has earned the right to fix the tactical issues he has and now must practice what he preaches. I think Riccardo Bigon is still young and learning his craft as a Sporting Director so I hope he learns from the errors he has made and I still think Aurellio De Laurentiis is a canny business man who has been a success from day one. If we can learn the lessons from this season then the future is bright, if not then De Laurentiis could get the scooter ready for a couple of unsuspecting passengers….