Rafa Benitez concedes Napoli paid the price for “individual errors” in a 3-0 defeat to Atalanta.
There were howlers from Pepe Reina, Gokhan Inler and Federico Fernandez in Bergamo, meaning the Partenopei have earned only two points from the last three rounds.
“We had to play with sharpness and quality to win. We had three or four promising counters in the first half, then started the second with a mistake. We had a chance, then a mistake, then another chance and another error,” he told Sky Sport Italia.
“Of course it becomes very difficult to get back into a game after making so many mistakes. I don’t think these errors have happened before, but they completely changed the game.
“If we don’t take our chances and the other team does, then of course we are going to lose. There was also a penalty on Dries Mertens.
“It is difficult to find space against teams like Chievo, Bologna and Atalanta, but we must learn to score more goals.”
Benitez rotated the squad today, but dropping Marek Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain proved costly.
“Some players are returning from long-term injuries, as Hamsik has played only two or three times in two months. Now we have a series of games coming up and with his situation we have to balance out his playing time.
“We had many new players over the summer and did what we had to do. Now we have a more solid squad, a more balanced one that will be more attacking. It’s not easy to be perfect in every game over three tournaments.
“Henrique was not available today, while Faouzi Ghoulam made his debut and we know Jorginho’s quality.
“We need to analyse these individual errors, but the defeat is not down to any systemic problems in the construction of the squad.”
Despite an active January transfer strategy, Napoli did not sign another forward and Duvan Zapata was anonymous today standing in for Higuain.
“There wasn’t much point buying too many players. We have been working for six months now and must wait to get 100 per cent out of all these players, many of whom are still young,” insisted Benitez.
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!