Sunday July 2 2017
Napoli already on track

In a summer of big-spending and squad revamps, Napoli might find consistency is their strongest asset, writes Matthew Santangelo.

Serie A sides like Juventus, Roma, Inter and Milan have already started revamping their squads with massive spending sprees and in several cases new Coaches, but Napoli stand out as taking the slow and steady approach to success.

Despite coming away empty-handed last season, Napoli should be quite pleased with the progress they have made over the past few years.

The Partenopei’s wildly entertaining and electrifying attack earned plaudits on the Peninsula, and all of continental Europe finally followed suit, ultimately buying into the hype surrounding Coach Maurizio Sarri’s tactical wizardry. Unfortunately for them, scoring a gaudy 94 goals – a league best – was not enough to lift them above Juventus and Roma in the table, meaning their third-place finish forces them into the Champions League preliminary round.

But, if there is a silver lining to be taken from this, supporters can rest easy knowing their top two attackers penned long-term deals, eliminating any possible panic associated with the summer transfer market.

Breakout star Dries Mertens and local lad Lorenzo Insigne each committed to the club with lengthy extensions, signifying their loyalty and belief in the project to compete for top honours. Last summer, when striker Gonzalo Higuain’s €90m release clause was unlocked by Juventus, President Aurelio De Laurentiis proceeded to re-invest back in to the market in hopes of threatening ‘the Old Lady’s’ locomotive run to six straight Scudetti – to no avail.

Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zielinski, Amadou Diawara, Marko Rog and Nikola Maksimovic were among the arrivals in a massive spending spree, many of whom barely played at all. This is because of Milik’s injury, but also Sarri’s complex tactics that must be drilled in to players so they become second nature. As this will be the second season for those additions, they should be ready to go and make a much larger contribution.

For the most part, Napoli tend to shy away from emptying the bank, relying on scouting to discover value and sign potential superstars. They do not have pockets as deep as the Bianconeri, meaning they must play the market smart.

Surveying their current roster, Sarri should feel delighted to know it won’t take much flexing - financially speaking - to once again contend for the Scudetto next year. Many assume Napoli will take a 4-2-3-1 shape. From the back, Elseid Hysaj and Faouzi Ghoulam push forward, although rumours suggest that Liverpool’s Alberto Moreno or Roma’s Mario Rui (who already worked with Sarri at Empoli and therefore knows his system) could replace the Algerian this summer.

Anchoring the back bank is one of Serie A’s elite centre-halves, Kalidou Koulibaly, and savvy Spaniard Raul Albiol, but there is optimism amongst Napoli supporters that Nikola Maksimovic can compete for a starting role and work to repay on his lofty €20m obligation triggered this summer.

Transitioning towards the midfield, Napoli hold the luxury of options. Captain Marek Hamsik and young controller Amadou Diawara project to armour the defense, with a supporting cast consisting of Zielinski, Croatian Rog, Allan and Jorginho all at Sarri’s beck and call.

Napoli’s recent run of top three finishes have been heavily dependent on a lethal attack, capable of making even the most fearless of defenses play with caution. The trident of Insigne, Mertens and Jose Callejon score by the dozen as a collective and apply unrelenting pressure. Milik’s full recovery from an ACL tear means the Polish international reclaims his spot as the lone man spearheading an attack which – all things considered – should top the scoring charts once again.

Widely considered to be the top priority this summer, the goalkeeping situation could depend on Pepe Reina and whether or not he is to remain the first choice option. Supporters lament notable lapses and sporadic play in the net last season as fuel for major interest in a long-term replacement.

Consistency has been key for Napoli over the last few years, from the squad to their overall market strategy. Success in modern football is measured mostly by trophies, but for Napoli, extensive analytics and Europe’s perception of their play prove they are trending in the right direction.

There’s a narrowing gap from six-in-a-row title winners Juventus, and while shortsightedness suggests spending big is the way to claim Serie A supremacy, it’s consistency this summer that will ultimately get Napoli there. 

Have your say...
Raiola oh Raiola, please come and save us from "la iella", you are Napoli's only hope to win the scudetto, please come to Naples and take him away to Barcelona, or who ever is stupid enough to buy such a liability, we do not want, or need "Totti of Napoli", we want to win the scudetto.
on the 31st July, 2017 at 1:45pm
Online trolls took over comment sections of websites ages ago Maradonamac. Juvenile North Americans who have nobody to "banter" with because the sport doesn't exist there have to go onto the internet to relieve their bladders of the toxicity that's accumulated inside them. Even their President does it.
on the 6th July, 2017 at 2:58pm
@Maradonamac I realize great defenders don't come on the market often, but nonetheless, it's an area in which De La has definitely underinvested. Anyone who's followed Serie A for any length of time knows that championship teams are built from the back. Sarri is a coach with good ideas but I don't know if he can win a championship playing his preferred style

And can someone tell me when neapolitans became a race? You don't see Friulians, Sicilians or Sardinians claiming to be a separate race...
on the 6th July, 2017 at 1:10pm
Typical Neapolitans. They give honorary citizenship to the criminal Maradona who owed the Italian's over 30 million in taxes that he evaded for years. To this date, he's only paid a portion which is why he is in Dubai for money. Pathetic, just like their club and city.
on the 5th July, 2017 at 8:52pm
Napoli could go afte Subotic, in hopes he's past his injury issues. Always better than Hummels. Benatia could be available. Could hit up Arsenal for Mertesacker, as Wenger loves messing with the good ones. Christensen from Chelsea. Van Dijk, Garay...Gonzalo maybe still, Acerbi.

Albion was great at Valencia but didn't want to leave. He mostly struggled at Madrid and has been good and nothing more at Napoli...sometimes less. Koulibaly is good with potential, but not least not till now.
on the 4th July, 2017 at 8:53pm

You're right. But who would you sign in their place to make them a genuine title challenger?
on the 3rd July, 2017 at 4:29pm
I don't believe Koulibaly is elite and Albiol is nothing close to it. They make far too many mistakes and get caught out of position too often. Napoli won't win a scudetto until they finally upgrade their defense, which has been their problem for a decade now. Remember clowns like Aronica, and the terrible marking on set pieces that cost them in the CL against Chelsea?
on the 3rd July, 2017 at 3:52pm

Roman with a pinch of "fool" but at least I wont get upset and ask football Italia to ban you for just personally insulting me


The article was mainly about Napoli and their "hype" around them so it wasn't a bad article. It is only the 3rd of July though. Plenty of time for Juve to make signings and they will with all that CL money.

Roma might make one "big" signing but I think they are out of the scudetto race. I expect EDF to be sacked at the end of the year.
on the 3rd July, 2017 at 3:16pm
Might be just me, but only Milan and Roma have been revamping their teams. Roma lost a lot of player so they obviously need to fill the gaps. Juventus has had 1 arrival and 1 exit so far, how is that revamping? Same goes for Inter.

Seems an article written just for the sake of writing, it has no foundation to build on
on the 3rd July, 2017 at 11:27am
And I'm guessing the other half is complete fool.
on the 3rd July, 2017 at 12:40am

I see your point but O just don't see him on the same level.

Your second comment:

Finally some reality here. I'm tired of this Napoli obsession that isn't merited.

THANK YOU. Koulibaly is overrated indeed.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 9:25pm

Dude I'm half Napolitano. It's you that see it as racist. I'm not a victim so I wear the "villager" label proud.

How is it racist? are you implying Napolitano aren't Italian???

Not cool bro
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 9:21pm
So you can quell the garbage. Napoli have great players but they lack depth. Unfortunately they went nuts on the transfer market last season. That's not the way to build depth. They had a chance against Real, and it was clear. But they put out a poor midfield that restricted Hamsik. If you wanna bench Jorginho, get someone big time. Get a new CB to replace Albiol (and Koulibaly is overrated). Get a new LB, as Ghoulam hasn't progressed. Get a new keeper.

I worry for Napoli's progression.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 8:50pm
Sorry Anonymous and the stupidly spelled Romaniac;

I've watched them both come up. The advantage Casemiro has is that Zidane took the reigns and let him play, and he does this playing for Real Madrid.

Casemiro plays the destroyer/enforcer; he's no anchor man and there is a big difference. Allan is the same thing, but with the ability to carry the ball forward. For Napoli he's Gattuso but with the ability to drive forward. No, that doesn't mean he's in the same league as Gattuso.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 8:47pm
Football Italia,

I have to say I am very disappointed that you continue to allow posts which are belittiling and racist.

This "hate fakers" imbecile needs permanently removed.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 8:34pm
Matthew, it's an interesting and positive way to look at Napoli. After a year to learn the Napoli way, then Maksimovic and Rog should be like to brand new signings and really make this team more competitive.

However, my only worry is that they don't look like adding those 2 top players that I think they need to really convince everyone that they mean business. GK & CB are a must, and a RB also if they are to stop leaking bad goals.

Otherwise, it'll be another top 3 finish. Still #1 to watch
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 5:23pm

Haven't you heard? Every player in Napoli is the best thing since sliced bread. Milik is the new Suarez and Sarri is the new Ancelotti despite never adapting to another teams tactics but losing 6-2 on agg was not his fault and was a noble performance.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 3:50pm
it is absurd some of the comments most clubs run their budgets in the red roma when they were taken over spent 90 million euros on new signings juve after building a stadium spent 100 million euros on signings napoli have been probably the best run club out of the top 3 but the 07/09/13 season run a collective 80 euros in the red. What is milan doing which each of the big serie a club par napoli have indulged in. milan between 12-17 run a budget of 40 million in the red in terms of transfers.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 3:18pm
Allan better than Casemiro? What garbage am i hearing oh dear. They don't even play the same position. Casemiro is a defensive midfielder playing the role of anchorman. He breaks up plays in front of the D and gives the ball to the other 2 mids. Allan is a central mid, he runs everywhere and also carries the ball forward in attack similar to nainngolan.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 2:38pm

Your new owners can't even put forth an honest FFP reporrt. Your takeover was suspect and it continues to be .

Lol they projected merchadise sales bigger than Man.utd, Real Madrid etc because of the Asian market. Pathetic. Im more than happy with my club that aren't frauds!
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 2:20pm
@Dimitri. If €115 mil for 2 starters and a promising bench player are Walmart prices then that is one expensive Walmart. Unlike the Milan sisters, we don't plan on getting violated by FFP with money laundering Chinese ownership.

Napoli is good. Never said that they weren't but your hate for Juve is blinding you. Juve are built for 3 competitions with depth and experience and it's only July 2nd. Napoli's depth are kiddies like Diawara, Ounas, Rog etc but everyone loves the villagers so...
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 2:10pm
Milik makes the most sense behind, as he isn't an out and out striker anyway (watch him play with Lewandowski). Then again, he certainly can't play in midfield. So 4-4-2 makes more sense there. And whether it's 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2, it can work fine for Callejon cuz of his work rate the fact his style is supplement (tho he's a forward), but what of Insigne? Exceptional, so why waste him? He's an outside creative playmaker, not a true winger.

And for the record, Juve play 4-4-2. Dybala is a SS.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 1:38pm
I'd like to ask three questions:

First, how are Jorginho and especially Allan not starting? Allan is better than Casemiro and Joringho allows them to play their football with control. How have they lost their positions?

How could anyone want Hamsik in a two man pivot? He's enjoying the best spell of his career ins his correct position, and he's a world-class CM/AM, one of the best in the world.

Lastly, how does 4-2-3-1 work? Mertens was a revelation at STRIKER. Where is he now? LW or CAM?
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 1:36pm
napoli actually spent 30 million euros already confirming rog and maksimovic so slow is not a word which really applies here. still i agree napoli have done really well in putting together a exciting team full of quality and with the addition of a couple more players should be fighting for the tittle in the coming season. The it is a massive squad anyway napoli could do with losing a few players which are unlikely to feature for napoli next season before increasing the size of the team.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 11:58am
@mike they spent something like 48 million euros already on the likes of cuadrado benatia and bentacur. Schick also seems inbound for a large fee.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 11:16am
The thing which @RoMaNiAc i saying is simply a hardcore bull! I guess he's frustrated for playing for a team that's nothing more but a Walmart in the football world! Boy, even as a Milan fan, who's completely aware that it'll take us at least 2 to 3 seasons to challenge for the Scudetto, I most honestly hope this great team of Napoli will finally lift it this year!
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 10:46am
Serie A sides like JUVENTUS, Roma, Inter and Milan have already started revamping their squads with massive spending sprees and in several cases new Coaches, but Napoli stand out as taking the slow and steady approach to success.???

Really Matthew? Would you be kind as to tell us how much Juve has spent to REVAMP THE SQUAD?
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 7:05am
LOL I love the hypocrisy in the media. When Roma played beautiful football in Spalleti's first stint, all you heard was that they where chokers. Now the villagers do it and all you hear is praise. But hey! They play beautiful football so they deserve it. Pathetic.

Napoli however will be the only team challenging for bridesmaid. Roma is obviously in rebuild mode for the 29th time in 7 years. Yet, If anyone thinks that Juve will loosen their stronghold on the league, they are kidding themselves.
on the 2nd July, 2017 at 5:59am

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