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Wednesday October 4 2017
Napoli the perfect package

Maurizio Sarri's Napoli are close to achieving the ultimate aim for all football teams, writes Adam Summerton - uniting style with substance.

Style with substance. It is surely the Holy Grail for most football Coaches. They are independently hard enough to achieve – and one is sometimes forsaken for the other, so those who can find a way to combine them, particularly at the highest level, are rightly lauded.

It is early days in the Serie A season, but Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri appears tantalisingly close to producing that magic formula, that Eureka moment. Napoli have been playing some of the most attractive football in Europe for some time now, but there have been missing ingredients – factors that turn great entertainers in to winners.

Much of it is down to mentality, and for all their mesmerising football, Napoli have not had that crucial extra edge. The type of thing that for so long I’ve strongly associated with the current Italian champions, Juventus. That ability to win matches without playing well, a collective belief that they belong at the top, the confidence/arrogance of champions, a team spirit that bonds, inspires and roots out those who can’t or won’t buy in to it.

Whilst the season is long, and making predictions can be a mug’s game, I have to say I’m becoming more and more convinced that Napoli do now have those qualities, that they could be champions, that this could be the season they deliver a first Scudetto since Diego Maradona and Co in 1990. From the outside looking in, I see a group of players who, as Lorenzo Insigne alluded to recently, are sick of playing well but ultimately falling short - they now want to be winners.

They are the first side in Serie A history to win the opening seven matches of the season with at least 25 goals scored - they are on a club-record run of 12 Serie A victories in a row, and are unbeaten in 19 top-flight matches, another club best. All impressive statistics which illustrate the level of consistency expected of champions, but these figures only tell part of the story. It is the manner and variety of Napoli’s performances that suggest to me that they are as close as this group has ever been under Sarri to delivering the Scudetto.

Whether a side has the ability to win a demanding and competitive league championship is almost always better assessed by how they perform on an average day than a good one. I read more in to the 2-3 win at SPAL, than perhaps I do the 6-0 victory over Benevento. To recover from a goal down against sides like Lazio and Atalanta also shows impressive resilience and character. Napoli are no longer just about blitzing teams, they can also show grit and determination. 

These qualities aren’t just stumbled over, they are honed and developed, and Sarri’s hard work over the last few years is really paying off now. His influence on the side tactically and technically is clear for all to see. But what he now has is something all Coaches must surely crave – continuity and consistency. Minimal changes over the summer, and star names tied down to long-term contracts – there is great familiarity amongst this group of players in terms of the Coach’s demands, expectations and the style of play. They all get it, they all buy in to it, and it shows on the pitch.

All that said, the physical demands of Napoli’s intense style mean there’s always the risk of fatigue, particularly if Sarri continues to be reluctant to fully utilise the strength in depth that they’ve now amassed. How he rests and rotates going forward could be crucial in the title race – as will the performance level reached by the defending champions, who seem to have dipped slightly from the exceptionally high standards of last season.

Even so, wrestling the Scudetto away from The Old Lady will require a tremendous effort, but there’s every possibility this could be the season where Neapolitan dreams come true, and style finally meets substance. 

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
@victor
The fact that Inter is not in europe is actually advantage. As a fan, ofc I'd like to think Inter will throw a good challenge as title contender. If come up short, I'd still be very much satisfied with CL spot. Even 5th is still ok since it's improvement from last year and we didn't break the bank last summer anyway to spend all the money we don't have, on players who don't deliver.

Don't teach us how to manage expectation. As i said, worry about ur own team, both on & off the pitch.
on the 6th October, 2017 at 6:48pm
@Inter2010


Calm down kiddo.. We played 7 games so far.. thats NOTHING. And you are LIGHTYEARS behind Juve and Napoli and pair with us.

At least one of us is being realistic. Do you actually for a second think you are up there battling for the title.. You're not even in Europe man.

Regarding the financial situation you seem to be a person who believes EVERYTHING you read. Sad.
on the 6th October, 2017 at 12:13pm
Rather they drop into Europa League quite frankly. Coefficient points are irrelevant now and they have a much better chance at a trophy.
on the 5th October, 2017 at 10:01pm
@viktor
How annoying, a milan fans like you is not in position to laugh about a team in joint 2nd. I'd stay quiet if this kind of comment comes from Napoli or Juve's fans. If inter is light years behind them, What does that make your team then?

Focus on your team. If you lose against us in the derby, the season is almost over for you. No CL no money, I heard your owner needs it bad for next season. Bought the club for few months and already desperately want to sell..
on the 5th October, 2017 at 2:07pm
Napoli will win do the double this year. They have some good reserves especially the midfield. Now Milik is out Mertens will really show what he can do again. Callejon can also play in that role if he has to. Napoli will also qualify for the next round in CL. If they get as far as QF this year that will be progress but I'm hoping they can all the way!
on the 5th October, 2017 at 8:44am
They are a good team, but in today's knee-jerk reaction mentality, people get a bit carried away.

They'll have to prove it in the CL first, where the real tests are. After losing to SD in the opening tie, they've given themselves a real hill to climb.

If they only pick up a point, for example, against MC, then they could be almost dead in the water after 4 games if SD do well v Feyenoord.

But with Mendy and maybe Aguero out, they have a chance, even with Koulibaly and Milik missing as well.
on the 4th October, 2017 at 3:59pm
@Interello

"I think the head-to-heads between Napoli, Inter and Juventus will be crucial this season"

BAHAHHAH

you do realize your lightyears behind right??
on the 4th October, 2017 at 3:48pm
I wouldn't be so sure until they start performing in the UCL where so far they've failed to convince...losing to Shakatar and stumbling across the line against Feyenoord.
Lets see what they're really capable of against the likes of Man City and Roma first..
on the 4th October, 2017 at 2:02pm
Inter left the blocks quickly but are stumbling a little in playing style, if they get in their stride, beating Milan would be the first step, they can win Serie A!

Napoli good stuff, I think the head-to-heads between Napoli, Inter and Juventus will be crucial this season, Napoli and Inter don't win consistently enough against the average teams, but I can see them winning those matches this season!
on the 4th October, 2017 at 1:32pm
WIN SOMETHING....! Then, we can talk..............Rusdi, you are 100% correct.
on the 4th October, 2017 at 12:09pm
Great start but the cream always rises to the top so I expect Juve to win again and Napoli and Inter to fall away.I don't think either has a strong enough squad to go the whole way.
on the 4th October, 2017 at 10:43am
I don't get why their average gate is 35.000.I remember not so long ago even in Seria C they were getting 60.000.
on the 4th October, 2017 at 10:42am
It's great to see itlian football coming back and to see Napoli play such nice football. I believe that's what happens when the core and key players of your team remain together for a couple of years, but it's important to see what they can do in the UCL as so far they haven't had many tests. Also their big down fall is the lack of money it takes to not only keep that core/ nucleus together but to keep adding to it, as a matter of fact their lack of depth is most likely really going to bite them
on the 4th October, 2017 at 10:04am
No doubt, Napoli play very attractive football and yes they are the real challenger of Juventus this season but their subs are not convincing. Serie A is a marathon competition. When their key players are injured, no doubt they will stall again to 2nd or 3rd place just like previous seasons.

P.S: I have a huge admiration to Maurizio Sarri. He deserves in bigger clubs. I'm sorry Napoli fans. :)
on the 4th October, 2017 at 9:05am
Napoli look like the real deal but for me i can't get past the lack of options up front since milik injury. They have a hectic schedule and it is going to get some time for milik to return to full fitness putting the center forward duties firmly on mertens. It is so unnecessary they have the likes of Inglese pavoletti and zapata on loan why are they lacking forward options?
on the 4th October, 2017 at 8:45am
Probably the most accurate article written about Napoli this season.

Good job, Adam.
on the 4th October, 2017 at 7:30am
Only 7 Games and now everyone thinks Napoli have won the Scudetto, what a joke!!!
on the 4th October, 2017 at 1:46am

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