Wednesday October 18 2017
Napoli regrets in Manchester

Napoli leave Manchester pondering what might’ve been in a much-anticipated showdown, writes Jack Stevens.

The stage was set, as two of Europe’s most exhilarating, forward thinking sides went head-to-head to establish themselves as the darlings of modern football. Both Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri embarked on friendly war of words pre-game, striving to out-compliment each other, and expressing their appreciation of each other’s wonderfully swashbuckling approach to football.

“I think Man City are by far the strongest team in Europe at the moment” proclaimed Sarri, but even he would have struggled to imagine his words would take on an almost prophetic, self-defeating angle. This was the night that Napoli realised that if they are to take the next step, they must believe in themselves.

Sarri’s openness in expressing his fear of Manchester City however possibly demonstrates an inferiority complex, and in practice exposed a lack of alternative strategy and cutting edge when the chips are down.

Manchester City’s utter domination for 30 minutes left Napoli on the ropes, with the Italians seemingly completely unprepared for the intensity of Guardiola’s approach. After City raced to a 2-0 lead with 15 minutes, it would not have been surprising to expect a cricket score by the time the full 90 passed, and this is wholly worrying for Napoli.

The Azzurri may well be able to blow their Serie A competition away through the sheer quality of their players and speed of passing, and this defeat does little to diminish the effectiveness of their tactics in domestic competition.

However, Sarri’s insistence on attacking prowess may well stifle their defensive capabilities, and although battling back valiantly against Manchester City, they still found themselves playing catch up to a self-inflicted early mental lapse.

Napoli’s eventual charge in the second half saw them grasp a foothold in the game, but they failed to hit the levels of liquidity which sees them sweep domestic competition aside. Amadou Diawara’s wonderfully taken penalty gave Sarri’s side hope, but the Guinean’s composure if anything papers over the cracks that Napoli need to find another gear when against such opposition. Their golden threesome of Jose Callejon, Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens couldn’t find the clinical touch they so often display, and given their calamitous start, the trio’s magic was needed more than ever.

The similarities between Guardiola and Sarri are striking: both managers provide an oasis of free-flowing, fearless football in an often overly-conservative barren landscape. Both ooze charisma, and both subscribe to a style of football which can often be unnecessarily risky. Most importantly, they both believe in persistence, and such devotion to a philosophy is commendable.

Nonetheless, Sarri will continue to push Napoli forward and keep our jaws rooted to the ground through the insatiable football they play. A showdown which promised a glut of goals fell short of expectations, with Napoli’s uncharacteristically blunt attack failing to capitalise on the chance after chance Manchester City gifted them.

However, we must continue to ask questions of Sarri’s Napoli, and when their notoriously shaky defence takes 15 minutes to spring into life, there has to be an inquest. Pep Guardiola’s penchant for hyperbole was possibly demonstrated post-match as he described Napoli as “the hardest team he had faced.” Given Guardiola has viewed Napoli on a day when they showed little of what they were capable of, Sarri can only wish that his side had demonstrated their true self.

The Napoli manager will have left the Etihad Stadium balancing a typically fiery rage with an encouraging optimism, which poses the question of what could have been. Napoli may have reached their pinnacle in Italy, but must grow on the continent if they are to reach the latter stages of the Champions League. At such a high level, simply winning plaudits and troubling the opposition is not enough. Perfection is the pre-requisite. 

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Have your say...
Love Napoli, win or lose! Man City was real - respect!
on the 19th October, 2017 at 3:28pm
It's the norm to talk your opponent up before the match - keep the team humble. All the big managers do it routinely.

Sarri doesn't actually think Man City are the best team in Europe (he would have said the same thing against Bayern/PSG/Barca/Madrid/Chelsea) and I can guarantee Guardiola has faced more difficult opponents than Napoli.
on the 19th October, 2017 at 3:24pm
Spot on, Sarri's inferiority complex, defeatist attitude, finding excuses not to win trophies despite the huge potential, and ADL's pre-match comments had negative psychological impact on team's moral, to the point of nearly opening the flood gate.
If you want to preserve Allan for Inter, why not Rog instead of Zilinsky, he is a real recuperator, good vertically too, why have only one defensive middelfielder, in a difficult away game?
He always shouts himself in the foot.
on the 19th October, 2017 at 3:26am
So Joey, you stereotype hate with Trump ?? Pretty hypocritical isn't it ?? Add your name to the "miserable souls".....
on the 19th October, 2017 at 2:05am
Funny how all the stereotypes come out against the italian. Personally they don't phase me, but I do find it sad for individuals who have hearts full of hate. I can only how miserable these people must be. Trump supporters, no doubts. I've never had thought to log onto a website and post hatred towards Brazil when they lost to Germany in the WC. Everyone supports their nation and should show respect for others. Anyways, to the people like Theo, or Anonymous, I feel sorry 4 U miserable souls.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 11:11pm
Theo - Unless you're Spanish, get off your high horse. Only the Spaniards have earned the right to talk any nonsense. Their teams from 2008 to 2017, whether National or domestic win big tournaments. If you're English, keep quiet, If you're American, keep quiet.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 9:56pm
Theo why dont you jog on 
on the 18th October, 2017 at 6:20pm
Excuses do not bring Victory, acceptance and hard work may reverse a loss with future success. DO NOT make EXCUSES - Support Your Club as WELL in DEFEAT as in VICTORY & SUPORT ALL THAT WEAR THE SHIRT- NO MATTER WHAT !!!


Buon giorno a tutti i veri sostenitori del calcio
on the 18th October, 2017 at 5:32pm
Napoli can play a lot better which is really encouraging. Napoli's best 11 will start against Inter and win. after that game the City performance will make more sense.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 5:22pm
Clear their target is the scudetto
on the 18th October, 2017 at 3:47pm
Theo - you clearly do not understand a thing about Italian Football or culture.

Clearly you are a very frustrated individual with those anti Italian comments!

Then again who wouldn't when you thing the Italians are known for Armani, Gucci, Versace, Pasta, Pizza and 4 times world cup winners- just to name a few!

Idiots like you are not welcome here so go and eat your fish and chips and keep those comments in your 2nd home the pub you fool!

Forza Italia & Forza Napoli
on the 18th October, 2017 at 3:32pm
The defending in the first 1/2 was borderline comical. They conceded possession too easily and they seemed lost. Much better second 1/2. And, for the love of god, somebody teach Mertens how to take a penalty!
on the 18th October, 2017 at 2:07pm
Pedigree like being brutally humiliated in 2 finals haha. Italin sides are an ongoing joke I enjoy laughing at.

The dead league known as Serie As corpse continues to rot while the idiots have deluded themselves into thinking Italy is anything more than a has-been nation with has been clubs. Can't wait for the nazionale to lose in the qualifiers. It might bring a much needed humbling to the Idiotalians out here these days.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 1:55pm
Napoli cant play their play without Jorginho simple as that... why Allan or Rog didn't play over one of Hamsik or Zielinski is a mystery not worth looking in to.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 1:37pm
The first half was horrible, the second was great. Kyle Walker should have been sent off for two bookable offences, and John Stones handed it in the box, also got away with it. When Allan came on, De Bruyne couldnt run freely and Napoli dominated. It was simply a poor squad choice from Sarri, if Allan and Jorginho had started, the result would have been very different.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 1:29pm
POP! You hear that?? The bubble has burst... Napoli just can't hack it when the BIG teams arrive... back to reality again...
on the 18th October, 2017 at 11:43am
It's getting desperate now for Napoli with Shakhtar expected to hit the 9 point mark after the next game.

Napoli will probably need at least 7 points from their final 3 games and a better head-to-head vs SD too.

Probably only a 50-50 chance of going through now, so they may need to go all-out for the 3 points vs MC.

They were overrun for 25 minutes last night, but coped well after that to show a bit of steel.

Such a shame Mertens and Hamsik missed great chances.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 10:52am
Napoli were pretty impressive last night on the whole. City destroyed Stoke in the most impressive performance from any side across Europe this season. They came out flying and after 15m it looked as though they might do the same to Napoli. Napoli however managed to arrest City's momentum to turn the match round. If Mertens hadn't missed a penalty it may well have ended in a draw. No-one could have coped with Man City's pace and movement early on, but Napoli deserve credit for coming back.
on the 18th October, 2017 at 9:24am
Back to the pizza oven and leave the Champions League to the teams with pedigree! Where's CG when I need him....!!?? :)
on the 18th October, 2017 at 8:39am

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