Maurizio Sarri called the status of Winter Champions “worthless” and shrugged off Napoli statistics, but insists Crotone didn’t deserve a penalty.
The 1-0 victory at the Stadio Scida was secured by a Marek Hamsik goal, meaning the Partenopei are top of the table at the midway stage of the season.
Napoli have been extraordinary in 2017, the only side in Europe’s top five leagues unbeaten on their travels (W18 D2) amassing 96 Serie A points.
“Statistics are worthless. We got 96 points over two different seasons, so we got the ratio wrong. It’s a strong run, reaching the Champions League is very important for us, so having 48 points at the midway stage of the season gives us hope,” Sarri told Mediaset Premium.
“Dries Mertens just has to relax. He had three assists recently, so he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and the goals will come. He was wonderful against Sampdoria, but there were few spaces tonight. He works hard in defence too, so I don’t think he’s particularly tired. Having said that, he’s been playing a lot and the break is welcome.
“With Arkadiusz Milik out, I never even considered resting Mertens. Even if I had another two strikers available, I’d still only rest Mertens every four or five games.”
There was a very controversial incident on 65 minutes, as Mertens appeared to charge down a corner with his arm at the near post.
At first, Sarri tried to argue it had bounced off his chest first, but another camera angle confirmed it struck his arm and he moved towards the ball.
“Hamsik misses the ball 30cm from him and another opponent jumped right in front of him, so it’s a real stretch to call that voluntary. He saw it at the last second. Are we going to talk about football or go on about this for a while longer?”
The interviewers quickly changed the subject to praise Allan for his recent performances.
“I think Allan deserves a Brazil call-up. I also hope they don’t call him up, as we need him. It’s a real problem with the South American sides, as the journeys and logistics are complicated. I’m sorry for Allan, don’t tell him I said that, but I hope Brazil don’t call him.
“Lorenzo Insigne is coming off an injury and a period where he couldn’t really train, so we are introducing him gradually. We maintain at this moment it’s better to give him chunks of games rather than a full 90 minutes.”