Napoli went into today’s match looking to regain top spot in the league and get their first win after losing two games straight: The first a frustrating loss to Juventus and the second to Feyenoord which saw us exit the Champions League in the Group stage. Sadly, we weren’t able to retake first place.
The first half began with back and forth play between both sides as neither team
established consistent possession of the ball. It was Napoli who gained control of the game withtheir first, and only, chance of the half coming in the sixth minute. Mertens dribbled past two Fiorentina defenders to set up Jorginho just inside the box where he skied the ball. Following the chance, Napoli continued to hold the ball. However, many sloppy passes and failure to deliver a crucial final ball led La Viola to grow into the game and create chances of their own.
In the 10th minute Giovanni Simeone was played through and scored but the linesmen deemed it offside. Shortly after, Marco Benassi hit a shot low and hard from 18 yards out but Reina saved the ball comfortably. Napoli’s frustrations continued as sloppy play led to many a counter attack from Fiorentina, some of which came close to giving La Viola the lead. In the end, a solid defensive display from K2 and even Rui were enough to keep the visitors at bay. There were
calls for a penalty on Allan right before the half but the referee didn’t think there was enough to give the call.
In the second half we saw a different Napoli. The ball movement was cleaner which led to Allan playing a piercing ball through to Zielinski on the left, and what many thought would be our first goal of the match turned into a missed opportunity by the Poland international. Napoli continued to keep the boys from Florence on their heels with chance after chance and in the 53rd minute Zielinski had another chance to open up scoring, however, Sportiello saved the ball onto the post and out for a corner, which led to nothing.
Napoli’s domination continued at the San Paolo with Fiorentina spending the majority of the time playing defense, with their last chance coming in the 64th minute when Simeone’s shot went high and wide. Soon after, Mertens had the opportunity to give us the lead when he was played through by Allan. Unfortunately, Dries wasted what might’ve been the most clear cut chance of the game by shooting straight into Sportiello. The match ended 0-0 and our failure to capitalize on the result of the Derby d’Italia has us second in the table, one point behind the Nerazzuri.
Let’s look at some takeaways.
1. Sarri NEEDS to Rotate: Maurizio Sarri’s stubbornness to deviate from the usual starting11 is by far one of our biggest issues this season. Players like Mertens and Hamsik are visibly exhausted and it’s affecting their play. Marek hasn’t looked himself all season and Dries doesn’t have the same lethality up front as he did a month ago.
2. We Need to Find our Identity: Since losing Ghoulam it’s apparent that this isn’t the same Napoli that was setting the Serie A alight at the beginning of the season. Even without Insigne today the gap in play is apparent. Our boys in blue need to rediscover their form and step up to fill in the gaps left by Ghoulam and Insigne. If they don’t and this continues, it could very well lead to us faltering in the title race down the line.
3. ADL Needs to Spend Money in January: With Milik out and Dries being our only real striking option, De Laurentiis needs to bring in reinforcements in the January transfer market. The upcoming addition of Roberto Inglese will help but will it really be enough? We’re at the club status now where if we want to continue to challenge, money will have to be spent. So, it certainly wasn’t the result we wanted, but I have confidence that the guys will get it together and rediscover the form that could very well return us to the top of the mountain.
By Massimo Nuzzo Follow @sscncentral