Wednesday September 27 2017
Napoli still leave Euro doubts

Napoli pushed past Feyenoord, but did little to settle nerves ahead of crucial clash against Manchester City, writes Jack Stevens

You’d be hard pressed to find much interest directed towards Napoli’s mid-week banker against Dutch Champions Feyenoord. News of Arek Milik’s second ACL injury grabbed the headlines instead, for all the wrong reasons. Disappointment over the Pole’s injury hung over the San Paolo, pulling on the Partenopei’s heart strings, distracting attention and issuing a stark reminder that sometimes human goodwill transcends football.

As if he had to endear himself to fans anymore, Insigne’s unfeigned gesture to hold up the injured Milik’s shirt was ill-fated when he actually held up Piotr Zielinski’s shirt instead. Luckily the Italian saw the funny side, whilst Zielinski frantically searched for the correct shirt. This summed up Napoli perfectly; for all their entertainment, they are still prone to making a pig’s ear of things.

Napoli’s on-field performance was one which we have come to expect. Fluidity and fluency, combined with individual brilliance helped stifle any Feyenoord threat. However, Sofyan Amrabat’s consolation goal denied Pepe Reina a much-needed clean sheet, even after he'd parried a penalty, and allowed a lingering feeling of worry to seep in before their showdown with Manchester City.

Napoli travel to Manchester on October 17, in a clash which will most likely decide the group winner. City’s sheer firepower rivals the best European football has to offer, and Amrabat leaves the Partenopei brooding over whether their tendency for mental lapses will be costlier against Pep Guardiola’s men. After last night’s results, Napoli are 21/4 for a victory and City odds against on 888sport.

Manchester City manager Guardiola stated that Napoli are one of the “three, four best teams in the world,” which is high praise indeed, even given Guardiola’s penchant for hyperbole.

On their day, which is very nearly every day, Napoli play one of the most full-throttle, thrilling attacking styles on the planet, and you’d be hard pressed to find an opinion otherwise. But as was the case in their first match against Shakhtar Donetsk, they are still not the finished article, and it could be argued that the way Sarri plays is a double-edged sword.

Sarri is untouchable in Italy at the moment, and rightly so. Nevertheless, no amount of goals will fix Napoli’s defensive vulnerability, and if Sarri continues to sacrifice defensive consolidation for free-flowing football, it does little to suggest the Partenopei won’t fall by the wayside when they face a more structured, adaptable team. If he is to carry Naples to the latter stages of the Champions League, he must find a solution, and fast.

Much like Napoli, Manchester City’s fluid attacking unit is their strength, and their defence is also their Achilles Heel. Napoli may feel quietly confident that they will be able to expose Guardiola’s backline, but there is little to suggest that taking the attitude of ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ will be useful if Napoli go deeper into the tournament.

The jury was out on Napoli’s exit from the Champions League last season. They weren’t ready, or mature enough to see off eventual winners Real Madrid, and no one begrudged them that. The heat was off a Coach debuting in the Champions league with a youthful side, inexperienced in European competition. However, the knives may begin to creep out should Napoli fail to switch up their game and learn from their mistakes when it matters most.

If there was any indication of the kind of night it was for Napoli, Sarri ineloquently provided one. After Amrabat slotted home Feyenoord’s single goal to dirty Napoli’s clean sheet, the Coach proceeded to repeatedly punch the wall of his team dugout in pure frustration. Napoli may have been good enough for the three points, but they may not be good enough when it matters.

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Have your say...
@ Dennis

And you missed mine.

Let's just leave it at that.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 8:28pm
@Ravanelli once again you miss my point. I am not saying that there is something wrong with Juventus conceding all those goals against whatever opposition. I am saying Juve lose 4-1 to RM and the blog was about Juve gaining respect in defeat. Napoli beat Nice, the blog was about how they do not kill teams off; Juve lose to Barcelona there was a general blog of Italy going backwards; Napoli beat Feyernoord and what do you know the blog is about having Euro doubts. I am not anti Juve but hate bias
on the 29th September, 2017 at 8:45am
@a Varsavia

Find me a coach that is happy about his players being called up for national duty knowing their is a chance that they might pick up a injury. It would absurd anyway for poland to call up milik and zienlinski for the under 21 milik hadn't featured for 2 years before the under 21 euros and zien has only played 3 games for them. In addition you are to carry the assertion that napoli is linked with the mafia than apply it to every single italian club.
on the 29th September, 2017 at 7:11am
@ Dennis

Of course it matters.
Are you telling me that conceding against Ronaldo and Messi is the same against the likes of Feyenoord? come on..

When you concede against the 2 best attacking teams in the world, it's hard to cast harsh criticism. Even if Juve was considered the model of defending.
At the end of day, Real and Barca are the best squads in the world right now.

And Juve WAS criticized anyway. Of course Juve's defense is not as solid as it was 3-4 years ago. No news there.
on the 28th September, 2017 at 8:25pm
@Ravanelli the quality or lack of of the opposition does not matter. I was merely pointing out that Juventus that are known for their defensive organisation conceded 7 goals in 2 games. I would not be asking why Juventus cannot put 7 past a team from San Marino cos that is not what they're are about
on the 28th September, 2017 at 4:00pm
Italian teams don't defend like they used to..
on the 28th September, 2017 at 12:25pm
@ Dennis

Go read the Juve article. Much unnecessary criticism there as well.

Oh and by the way, Juventus conceded those 7 goals against Real Madrid and Barcelona.. not Nice and Feyenoord...
on the 28th September, 2017 at 8:57am
So much negativity. Here and in the Juve article.
Both teams won. End of story.

Sarri's reaction to the conceded goal was a bit much IMO, your team is winning by 3. You can relax a bit and let go of those comments.
Though many coaches say similar things after winning like "still not satisfied\we can do better\we need more focus\blah blah blah"..

We get it, you coaches are hardcore professionals, but you can relax a bit and enjoy the win.
Leave those comments for the training session.
on the 28th September, 2017 at 8:55am
Sarri do not want nationals to be called against Malta & Cyprus, while national coaches do not want the lads to be called against the likes as Verona & Benevento (the pitch quality of lower teams stadiums is also the issue). Napoli disallowed Milik & Zielinski to play at Euro U21, the kept them on the bench out of starting squads. I believe Sarri as a sworn banquer is to keep his valuable assets in a bank (or camorra) vault.
on the 28th September, 2017 at 5:13am
@ Dan,

Next time stick to the topic please.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 6:33pm
@dan he is trying to be media savvy he probably hasn't had this much attention he spent most of his coaching career managing small to medium clubs.

@Anonymous11 disagree there is always room for decent experienced players you look at the 2006 team cannavarro was 32 matterazzi was 32 inzaghi was 32 del piero was 31 most of the team was in their late 20s.

It is absurd that bonnaventura or half the youngsters i mentioned can't get game time because of montolivo and parolo honestly why?
on the 27th September, 2017 at 5:30pm
Never read so much doom and gloom nonsense!

Napoli are very new to CL football, so stop acting like they should be winning it!. Man City will win the group, as we all know. But slating Napoli after they won CONVINCINGLY yesterday, is sadly the world we live in now. Everyone has to be controversial, negative and try very hard to project "shock value".

Napoli, by the way, are TOP OF SERIE A, all on a shoestring budget. Yet, people find room to be critical!
on the 27th September, 2017 at 5:22pm
Ventura's Jorginho excuse is maddening. He'd be making Brazil's team at this point.
Imagine if Lippi had said 'I'm not calling Pirlo because my team doesn't have a role like that.'
Your job is to make the most out of the best players available ffs.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 4:43pm
I swear the Higuain Tattoo article had me dying.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 3:38pm
Imo there should no longer be "any" older statesmen in Italy's midfield. They've been the focal point for sometime for whatever absurd reason. Very ineffective. Italy will not go far with this kind of team. There is simply a lack of talent especially in this department, the heart of the team.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 2:49pm
In my opinion, the mistakes leading to Feyenoord's goal and their penalty were simple errors and nothing to do with Sarri's tactics. The goal, in time added on, started from a schoolboy error from Insigne who mis -passed a ball inside from on the wing in his own half when slowing down the game and keeping possession should be the priority especially from the vice-captain as he was at that point. As an entertainer, he's great, but not as a leader and Sarri IS responsible for that.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 1:58pm
Attacking sides are usually suspect defensively a la Arsenal, City, Dortmund, Liverpool etc. Dortmund are a special case as I have not seen as nonsensical defending as they are especially under Peter Bosz. Napoli need to beat Feyernoord away and win their other 2 home games preferably better 2-1 win against SD and they will qualify. It is not that hard a task. I do not see City winning in Naples and it should not happen as City like napoli are still getting to grips with CL
on the 27th September, 2017 at 12:41pm
Amazing aint it, every time Napoli wins a game in Europe there is a blog about how poor they are defensively and that will derail them in Europe. They beat Nice and Feyernood but the topic was how they conceded a late goal and how many times Nice opened them up. Conversely Juventus the darlings of this site have conceded 7 goals in their last 2 CL games but what we read is how well they played in the 1st half. Ironically Juve are supposed to have a great defence.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 12:35pm
Agreed Paolo! He needs to be trying out the players that you mentioned as there is no way that DDR & Marchisio (with their fitness problems) will be able to play every game in the WC. Equally pathetic was his excuse for the defeat against as being because his players were unfit?? News flash Ventura: it's September! The same could be said for all European teams. He acts as if this was only exclusive to Italy. He doesn't come across as the sharpest tool in the box.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 11:32am

it is a poor excuse when it comes for jorginho i suspect there are other reasons for ventura not to call him up. He is a quality player he should be capable of adapting to different positions in the midfield or ventura capable of changing his tactics. You have the likes of jorginho baselli benassi gagliardini frozen out for montolivo and parolo. The only older statesmen in italy midfield should be marchisio and de rossi.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 10:40am
It was the same old story again last night - tons of openings created, but not taken. Sloppy errors which almost allowed a mediocre team to get something from the match. I can see why Sarri was upset at the end of the game, but like Wenger & Klopp, it's his own ethos that's partly contributing to these problems. As for City, they've been impressive, though they mostly hammered mediocre sides & were fortunate against Liverpool. There will be a lot of goals.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 9:42am
That opening defeat to SD might prove fatal even though it was only the first game.

If SD get 6 points from their games v Feyenoord, then Napoli could be hanging by a thread if they fail to beat MC at least once.

They'll need 2 or 3 points from the MC games and hope Feyenoord do them a favour too. If that happens, they should go through.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 9:36am
Off topic, but did anyone read this comment about Jorginho from Ventura? “He is the best in that role, but in my Nazionale, currently such a role does not exist. I can’t call him up if he there’s no room for him to play.” Didn't he watch Jorginho play at Verona? Had he done so, he'd know that Jorginho can play in a variety of CM roles. And what can Montolivo do that the Jorginho can't?
on the 27th September, 2017 at 9:26am
Manchester city are just ridiculous in terms of squad options you could easily have 3 players which they spent 50 million pounds on each sitting on the bench just because of the strength of the first team. they have a wage bill of 225 million pounds compared to napoli 81 million euro wage bill. Still i do fancy napoli they are experts at playing on the counter attack and for all that money manchester city defence looks average at best.
on the 27th September, 2017 at 8:36am

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