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Wednesday July 26 2017
Napoli have the edge

Napoli are best-positioned to begin the 2017-18 Serie A season with a bang, but are they Scudetto favourites? Richard Hall considers the situation.

It’s obvious, isn’t it? The 2017-18 Scudetto will end up residing in Turin again this term again, right? Perhaps it will, however, it is not as obvious as it has been in recent years. There has been a renaissance in the red and black half of Milan, new Coaches at Roma and Inter and changes yet to be measured within the Old Lady. On assessing the protagonists, one should not forget about Napoli, the cavalier band of brothers who seemed to have eventually found their backbone under Maurizio Sarri. Could there be a Neapolitan party on the horizon?

Juventus are not going to be immeasurably hampered in their Scudetto ambitions simply because they lost Leonardo Bonucci. Yes, it is a blow and Milan will certainly benefit, but the Turin giants have added to their squad and always needed to start making new defensive choices simply because Father Time demands it.

Milan have a plethora of new faces that have made them every young boy’s favourite for their new career on FIFA 18, but the immense turnover in talent will have to gel. Luciano Spalletti has arrived to get a tune out of the Nerazzurri and though they have talent in abundance, they will have to play a very different game, whilst Roma under Eusebio Di Francesco also need additions if they are to take one step up from where they were last term.

Unless you back another of one of Serie A’s extremely talented squads to win the Scudetto, that leaves Napoli. This is a team that under Sarri first learnt to defend, then realised they didn’t need to, as their attack was so potent, but decided that to be on the safe side they would make sure they would. Joking aside, the Stadio San Paolo side has been electric and last season they looked almost unstoppable. After Gonzalo Higuain left a gigantic 34-goal hole in the squad, they readdressed their attacking options and, despite losing Arkadiusz Milik to injury early on (who was performing well), they attacked as a collective.

Marek Hamsik was delightful and industrious, Lorenzo Insigne played like he was against children on the streets of Naples, with a beautiful innocence that allowed him to conjure up magic when he had no right to. Jose Callejon was as deadly as an assassin in the shadows, whilst Dries Mertens was the new hero of the San Paolo. Defensively they were good, but Sarri arguably lost his focus on the balance at times before weighing out the ingredients perfectly for the right mixture late on. Too little too late perhaps, but he knows the recipe for this season.

Pepe Reina produced some incredible saves and influenced many of Napoli’s moves from the back with his quick distribution, but arguably he was the weak link as he wasn’t always on form. The argument of a new goalkeeper also looks like being addressed.

To dethrone Juventus is a romantic fancy, that is true, but Napoli are the romantic’s team. Beautiful, deadly, unpredictable and gritty, watching them almost feels like a gluttonous act. They are more than this however, they are becoming more organised and kept the group together. Will they win the Scudetto? Who knows, but they certainly seem in the best place to start.

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Have your say...
Yes, it is basically the same Napoli team which finished last season in third and haven't really strengthened their defense greatly. But, it's the games where they dropped points last season and dominated but could not find the back of the net where their improvement will come. Added to this is the existing defense can improve and Napoli have as good a shot as any in winning the Scudetto.
on the 6th August, 2017 at 10:12am
Raiola is the saviour of Napoli.
Please now that Neymar has just completed his medical tets @PSG, come and take the fake "Scugnizzo" away to whoever is stupid enough to buy him, he has costed us 3 titles as it is, please, Signor Raiola, we want to win the scudetto this time, please take him away.
Grazie mille.
on the 3rd August, 2017 at 1:33am
In Serie A defense wins championships, and Napoli don't have it. It doesn't matter how much fun Insigne, Hamsik, Mertens and Callejon look like they're having if at the other end they can't keep the ball out of the net. Juve's success is due to the team being built first from the back, with the wall of BBC and hardworking players like Lichtsteiner and Vidal. In 2011-12 their top strikers were Matri and Vucinic - definitely a step below what Napoli has now.
on the 2nd August, 2017 at 5:04pm
Funny, I've thought the same thing about them getting Bonucci. Whoever, they need a central defender.


They NEED a central defender. And they need to stop over-rotating the midfield outside of Hamsik. Jorginho and Allan have to get consistent time. That they didn't is why we didn't see Napoli well ahead of Roma.

That midfield and that front 3 are awesome..and good enough. But they need a central defender. I don't know if Maksimovic is it. Albiol is not.

Get the Argentine from Lyon.
on the 31st July, 2017 at 2:19pm
Bernadeschi is a good talent. If they get Cancelo that'd be awesome. Roma's former no1 is now their no2. Okay they have lost Alves and Bonucci in particular but they still have the players to beat the small sides comfortably and beat all the big sides at home. Everton's Gueye would be ideal for Napoli. The so important thing as has been previously mentioned is they need belief that they can win the scudetto which they do not have atm
on the 30th July, 2017 at 1:38pm
some good posts here esp by Napoli fans. Napoli came 3rd, have not addressed any of their problems but somehow some think they have the edge. If they bought Bonucci I might have believed the hype. They still do not have a Kante like player either. Scoring against top sides is something they should do more. Not conceding whenever they are under siege would be nice. I think Reina is the best ever counter attacking goalie but he now makes too many errors now. Juve r still d team. Costa is huge.
on the 30th July, 2017 at 1:28pm
Napoli are fun to watch,romantic,beautiful,they can dominate any team in terms of the beauty of their football.They need to add some pragmatism to their play.Defence must be stronger,GK must be reliable,and they need to stop losing their nerves in the last hurdle.The past two season they proved that they lack the personality of Juve,that no matter what pressure we have,we need to stay cool and keep grinding results.You cant lose points to Bologna,Sassuolo,and expect to defeat Juve!
on the 29th July, 2017 at 11:05pm
Napoli have to prove its quality in EPL qualifications first, than in a group stage. All the top teams in Europe (besides Tottenham?) made big purchases. Read yesterday's Conte (atm Chelsea) interview over Tottenham "not the champions" mentality.
on the 28th July, 2017 at 12:07pm
As A Napoli fan I would like nothing more to see them take the scudetto and make the south proud again. Unfortunately, they still need to address the back and the goal keeping needs to be upgraded as well. They also have to believe that they aren't a small club and play like one of the big boys. They are a one of the top clubs in the soccer league so they should act like one.
on the 27th July, 2017 at 8:57pm
Even as a Milan fan, until our team gets well organized (I'm not tripping we'll win the Scudetto this year), I honestly wish to see Napoli becoming champions. 'Cuase if there is any team that deserves it, then it's definitely them! Besides playing the most beautiful & prolific football, we all know that the city of Naples and its citizens deserve the Scudetto!
So, I'm all for it, and I'll be utterly happy to see them lifting up the Scudetto this season!
on the 27th July, 2017 at 5:10pm
@SayWhat Reading comprehension is an important skill in the industrialized world mate. He said Milan's new players would take the first half of the season to gel; not win the first half of the season because of new players.
on the 27th July, 2017 at 3:46pm
@ACM1899

So by your logic, if any club buy 11 new players they will be 1st in the half of the season? LOL
on the 27th July, 2017 at 12:59am
Napoli are already a good team and they should benefit from being able to hold on to their top players instead of the merry go-round selling and buying spree of other clubs. They also have perhaps the best coach in Serie A atm. For me, all other teams remain disjointed, not clicking.
on the 26th July, 2017 at 11:48pm
Juve look the best to win it again, Napoli may have a shot but can they handle the pressure. Both Milan clubs are a toss up, Milan got a new 11 will they gel and Inter haven't done anything on the market aside getting Spalletti will that be enough. Where did Roma go?
on the 26th July, 2017 at 11:30pm
Milan are a dark horse this season because of all the signings they have made. It's essentially a new starting 11. So for that matter it could easily take them first half of the season to get players to gel together. So it's hard to say what they will achieve. It would be crucial not to drop points against the big teams before Christmas. October will be vicious for Milan. Good Luck and Forza Milan!
on the 26th July, 2017 at 9:59pm
Napoli did well to keep most of their team, as well will have a full season with Milik. I see them competitive but finishing second. Looking at Juventus easy start, it will allow the team to gel and be a force by the tough fixtures start. 7th scudetto
on the 26th July, 2017 at 8:00pm
The author's main argument is not that Napoli are favourites to win, but that they are in the best position to start the season well. This is already a very strong team that only got better toward the end of the season. Nobody has left, and that is worth much more than a bunch of talented but unproven new toys. The ongoing criticism of their mentality is a bit tired. Mental strength isn't innate, it's developed, and the tenacity of this team has clearly improved over the past few seasons.
on the 26th July, 2017 at 7:41pm
Until Napoli address their defence, they won't make up any ground in Serie A or Champions League. Aside from their attack, the under the radar signings that will be very good for them over time are Diawara and Rog. Both highly skilled, highly talented youngsters.
on the 26th July, 2017 at 7:08pm
Napoli are interesting there are players in the team which barely featured last season for them. I would be quite interested in seeing what tonelli or pavoletti or maksimovic or rog or giaccherini will offer if they stay on plus leandrinho complete unknown quantity. I would think they need a new gk lb rm to add to this competitive especially a high class goalkeeper try to improve those defensive stats. i pretty sure ghoulam will leave maybe strinic as well maggio might head for the exit door.
on the 26th July, 2017 at 5:35pm
Yes, they are a wonderful team to watch and had a great 2nd half of the season, but the reality is they finished 3rd, so how could they now be favorites?

Juve are #1, and have one 6 in a row, as well as playing in the CL final. Napoli haven't even addressed the real issues which are preventing them from being serious contenders (Keeper, CB)

Sadly Napoli haven't learned the golden rule; when you're strong, you must add more to be stronger.

Same players, same result I'm afraid.
on the 26th July, 2017 at 5:28pm
Napoli does not have the personality of the big team, in addition to their small minded president that tend to make drama and intervene in their coach's affairs. Although they have managed to keep their players, but they have failed to add any notable players to their squad.
If Juventus able to deal with the loss of Bonnucci and the aging of Chielini and Barzagli, they would be the no1 favorites to win the Scudetto. The only one capable (on paper) to challenge them would be AC Milan.
on the 26th July, 2017 at 5:03pm
As much as I'd like Napoli to win the Scudetto, I don't think hey have enough to win it. But who knows miracles can happen.
on the 26th July, 2017 at 4:59pm

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