Lorenzo Insigne is one of Serie A’s best players, so why is Napoli Coach Walter Mazzarri treating him as second class? Dave Taylor investigates.
You have to wonder just what Walter Mazzarri has in mind for Lorenzo Insigne. Will the Frattamaggiore fratello fall by the wayside, as many others have during the Napoli Coach’s reign? Good youngsters have shown their worth and then been dropped or even subbed during a game. Recall Catania last year, when Napoli were winning 2-0 thanks to some outstanding displays from the exciting young Argentinean defender Federico Fernandez. However, Mazzarri in his wisdom subbed him for Paolo Cannavaro and Catania equalised not long after.
But this blog is about whether Goran Pandev or Insigne should start games and fresh evidence of Mazzarri’s short-sightedness was underlined even more recently. Lorenzo’s illness prevented him playing in the Europa League defeat to Viktoria Plzen. “I cannot weep for his absence and we didn’t lose tonight because Lorenzo wasn’t on the field,” insisted Mazzarri after the game. Obviously he learned nothing from Saturday’s lesson at Lazio, when Napoli were AWOL until Insigne came on for the second half.
Yet, surely it’s his job to encourage and organize the players for every individual game. To make matters worse, Mazzarri did not even start with Marek Hamsik on Thursday, leaving Pandev with a responsibility he patently cannot handle. It was the same in the Lazio game. Mazzarri needed a goal, yet the only reason he brought Insigne on was not out of forward thinking, but due to an injury just before half time. Immediately, Lorenzo turned the game around and forced a foul out of Andre Dias, who had to walk on eggshells after his yellow card. Eventually after pushing, probing and at one point, dribbling past four defenders, Lazio were pinned back and finally buckled as Hugo Campagnaro grabbed that precious point as the game ended 1-1.
In his limited time on the pitch Insigne completed seven dribbles, almost four times more than his nearest competitor Hamsik. Let’s not even go there with Pandev. Indeed in the build up to the game many Napoli fans actually hoped Pandev would get injured so Mazzarri would be forced to start with Lorenzo.
The youngster has been in red hot form and no-one can figure out why Mazzarri prefers an out of sorts player who doesn’t seem to put any effort in and is unmotivated. If he played like he did last year no-one would bat an eyelid, but he isn’t and is the weakest part of the attack. It leaves the unanswered question what is the point of a rite of passage if it does not help turn young positive boys like Lorenzo into eager young football players?
In tactical and aesthetic terms Insigne recognises the dynamics of the game as soon as he takes to the field and is always acutely aware of his status in the game. Certainly there is a compelling argument that he should be third on the team sheet next to Edinson Cavani and Hamsik.
But all we get is the normal platitudes from Mazzarri about Pandev’s experience, not wanting to rush Insigne into things, etc. Lorenzo can hardly make a position his own or gain experience if he is not given a chance.
He has started just 10 games but scored four times as a sub, while his fourth against Milan saw the Rossoneri equalise 18 minutes after he was subbed off. He has a successful passing rate of 89% from 518 total passes and five assists. He also has 1.9 shots per game with 46 shots all told in Serie A.
These stats show his understanding of how to hurt the opposition and compare very favourably to Pandev. The Macedonian started 16 games out of 19, while scoring twice with 1.4 shots per game and 26 shots in total, while making 421 passes a 76% success rate.
There is little doubt that Insigne contributes more, scores more and assists more, but it appears Mazzarri has never heard of meritocracy. Lorenzo has captured the hearts of the Napoli fans, a home grown scugnizzo, the bandiera which the tifosi crave for.