Rafa Benitez explained Gonzalo Higuain’s irritability against Milan and insisted Napoli’s problems at the back “are not tactical.”
The Partenopei saw their 11-match unbeaten run come to an end with a 2-0 defeat at San Siro, a fixture this side hadn’t lost since 2011.
Higuain was visibly irritable, often shouting at teammates and the referee, but improved after Duvan Zapata came on to partner him in attack.
“The game started badly for us, the team reacted well in the second half, but Higuain was disappointed at the way things went,” Benitez told Sky Sport Italia.
“If Higuain did everything he did last season, it was in the same position he played tonight. We had more chances later on because Milan sat back in defence, but we had opportunities throughout and failed to score.
“We are talking about Milan, not a small club. They have quality players and if we didn’t press them well all the time, it’s normal they’d be able to hurt us.
“Clearly we need to win our games to get closer. It’ll be increasingly tough to get third place, but we knew Serie A was a very difficult League.”
The Jeremy Menez goal after six minutes highlighted the deficiencies in the Napoli defence.
“There were four or five players near the ball. We have two midfielders to close off those corridors and two centre-backs to clean up, but it slipped through. The issue is not tactical, as if we do what we’re supposed to, then we do not concede.”
Benitez was asked why Napoli seem to have lost the spark they had last season, as they are now in joint sixth place with Milan.
“I remember the game against Roma was not long ago. We showed character, quality, hunger to win. We know this side lacks consistency, especially in attack, compared to last season. We now have more shots on goal than anyone else, but don’t score as many goals. The chances are still being created.
“We conceded after five minutes and didn’t have the confidence or good fortune to get back into the game. Despite all our crosses and shots, Milan sat deep in the second half and closed down the spaces.”