After a draw between Juventus and Inter Milan yesterday evening, this was a must win for Napoli as this was the match that would see them leapfrog Inter back into first place. However, this battle ended 0-0 with many chances for both sides. The beginning of the first half brought some exciting action that the Napoli faithful were accustomed to watching with many beautiful link up plays between the midfield and the attack, but there was no real threat on goal. It was also evident that Napoli were missing the attacking flair of Lorenzo Insigne today as Zielinski often looked disoriented on the field despite his only shot on target which hit the post after a forced save from Sportiello. Moreover, Mertens had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring in the 70th minute but hesitated to shoot instantly and was denied by the keeper.
Sarri eventually made substitutes within the last twenty minutes of the match but were not successful as Ounas, Rog, and Diawara did not have much time to make any sufficient impacts. In order to change the flow of the game, Ounas should have been brought on after half time to give Napoli more minutes to find a goal. Although this was an average performance by the whole team, Napoli’s defense did a solid job at keeping the match scoreless and held Fiorentina’s attackers in check. In particular, Mario Rui played a solid game which displayed his improving skill and pace getting back into shape within the lineup after only having a few matches under his belt. Today’s match will provide a lesson learned for Napoli as they must find answers in their attack. The inexperience of Zielinski should force Sarri to experiment with Ounas, Rog or Giaccherini getting opportunities in the starting lineup until Insigne returns.
Even though it hurts losing to Juventus, getting knocked out of the Champions League and drawing today’s match, Napoli fans must not forget that the title race is still wide open with lots of football to be played. Sarri has done a superb job in making this Napoli team real contenders and exposing them on a world class level.
With some reinforcements in January, the Partenopei will look to beef up their squad and continue fighting until the end. The war is not over and Napoli have done exceptionally well considering their financial budget being minuscule compared to Juventus, Inter and the other European giants.
By Mark Manganiello Follow @manganiellomark