Monday March 12 2018
Napoli nightmare no surprise

Napoli gifted Juventus the initiative in the title race and, despite the irony of Inter helping their old enemy, Emmet Gates believes the Partenopei only have themselves to blame...

It took its time, but slowly but surely, normal service has been resumed in Serie A. Napoli’s 0-0 draw at Inter saw Juventus return to the summit for the first time since the beginning of October and indeed the only time they’ve held top spot without the presence of the Partenopei this season.

It’s the moment that all neutrals - Italian football fans or otherwise - have long dreaded; that cursory glance at the Serie A table and seeing the Bianconeri sitting atop once more. You can almost hear the collective groan around the world, and to compound matters further, the new League leaders also have a game in hand.

There was an air of inevitability about all this; that Napoli would relinquish control, it would just be a matter of when and where. Many felt their squad simply wasn’t deep enough to go toe to toe against a team with revenue that dwarfs their own by some €200m. For it to be Inter, of all teams, to do Juve a favour makes it all that much harder to stomach for the Napoli faithful.

Napoli dominated the home side at San Siro, yet a combination of predictable play and inept finishing could prove fatal in their hopes of winning the title. How costly could Lorenzo Insigne’s miss, the forward opting for aesthetics over assuredness by trying to lob Samir Handanovic when through on goal, be in the wider scheme of things? Could it be the local hero’s arrogance that ultimately keeps the title in the north of the peninsula for another year?

The pressure to be the ‘anti-Juve’ is clearly getting to Maurizio Sarri, who was particularly frosty when interviewed by Mediaset following the game. The Coach threatened to end the interview early if asked about the Bianconeri a further time yet promptly walked away regardless.

Sarri’s opposite number, Luciano Spalletti, was refreshingly honest in his post-match interview, insinuating his side doesn’t possess the calibre of players to incorporate the kind of football that’s made Napoli everyone’s second team. Bar a Milan Skriniar header, which clipped the post, Inter failed to create a chance in the 90 minutes and looked bereft of not just creativity and confidence but also leadership and genuine quality.

Defensively Inter are doing just fine; they’ve got the third strongest in the League, only behind the top two, and they haven’t conceded a single goal in three matches against Juve and Napoli. However, it’s at the other end that they’re limping along. Since putting five past Chievo in early December, they’ve scored only eight times; Mauro Icardi hasn’t scored in nearly three months.

Ivan Perisic, who started the season so brilliantly, has seen his form fall off a cliff and hasn’t provided a single assist since late November. Antonio Candreva is on a similar run and hasn’t scored this season, nor has the winger provided a meaningful contribution since the 3-1 home defeat to Udinese at the back end of last year.

Spalletti, by his own admission, is out of ideas on how to improve the attacking potency with current crop of players. Yet he’s also aware that failure to lead the club into the Champions League next season will see the Nerazzurri’s current frugal stance in the transfer market continue this summer.

With Inter set to play Milan, Juventus and Lazio in the next two months, the odds of the Beneamata making Europe’s elite competition look remote. But if Spalletti is to make Inter into a more attacking outfit next season, by hook or by crook, he will have to cajole his misfiring troops into finding the target.

Have your say...
@1Juve, I usually never agree with Juve supporters opinions, but what you say about Napoli is absolutely spot on, objective and honest, thank you, that is the reason Mazzarri left, he would have done a much better job with this squad, by the way.
The worry is that rumours linking him to Milan, and the certain move of Reina there, make the whole thing look like an Opera buffa Napoletana, and the future very bleak.
on the 17th March, 2018 at 3:13am
Napoli needs world-class central-back. Injury of Ghoulam was the end of both scudetto dream and European competition.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 3:44pm pedigree in coaching who be gone at end of season,and in still in 6-7 place like past seasons. Sadly now Donnarumma will be sold to PSG in an inferior league. instead of Juve,or Madrid, or even Man U in Competitive team/league. He was destined to be next great Azzurri keeper I don’t think it’s gonna happen as predicted.
on the 15th March, 2018 at 12:01am
@Giancarlo the whole Donnarumma escapade is a shame. He shoulda just signed for Juve last year like he wanted...what better team to go after Buffon retires,and what better keeper than the next #1 reincarnation of Buffon...but No, the Milan-fans,and management cried. Calling him a traitor. So they offered him a great contract,and bought 11 new players with promise of having a winning dynasty team. Well we see how well that’s going.another coach gone (who is now w/Seville in CL) an ex player with
on the 14th March, 2018 at 11:52pm
Till Napoli get a new stadium the will be galaxies away from Juve!
on the 14th March, 2018 at 11:26pm
Shame on Napoli for leaving Europe on purpose and lose important coefficient points. Having said that I hope the one day get a new shiny 50.000 seater arena. The Napoli fans deserve it!
on the 14th March, 2018 at 11:24pm
@ Viktor

Ah Vikky, I heard your beloved Dollarumma is about to leave you next summer and entrusts his brother with milan.

I guess, it's ok for players to kiss milan's badge and dump the jersey to the trash bin after a few months.
on the 14th March, 2018 at 9:07am
As for Juve, you have to commend this squad which isn't on the level of the ones that reached two UCL finals. But even with Dybala, Higuain, Cuadrado out and Pjaca on loan, a left back Sandro playing up front, toothless midfield with invisible Khedira and inconsistent Pjanic, and ageing defence, they grind out results. I'm very interested to see how far experience and resilience takes this team, but Juve really needs a MF overhaul (and RB). Marotta never quite replaced Vidal, Pogba.
on the 14th March, 2018 at 7:05am
This to me is when Napoli's slide began. The other factor is the lack of rotation. Talk all you want about Juve's large squad, but when Sarri refuses to play Diawara, Rog, Ounas (all great talents) he's basically saying he doesn't trust his bench, and that again puts pressure on the starting 11. As good as that 11 is, you can only keep that intensity up for so long. Jan is no time to build a tittle winning squad. ADL shouldve had the foresight and built a deeper squad last summer.
on the 14th March, 2018 at 7:00am
When the entire club, from the management down, is okay to have the club exit a prestigious tournament like UCL (even Sarri openly admitted it in press conferences) that has to trickle down to the players and affect their confidence. It's as if the club was telling them - "You're not good enough to win two titles, so why try? Let's just stick to the easier one". Besides affecting their confidence, it also puts added pressure. "Hey, we gave up on UCL so all eggs are now in one basket. No excuses.
on the 14th March, 2018 at 6:55am
@viktor Your not too smart are you? It's called sarcasm
on the 14th March, 2018 at 6:38am

U must b very stupiead!!
on the 14th March, 2018 at 6:07am
@True Dat

How about you learn how to type?
on the 13th March, 2018 at 8:26pm
@ Da truth

True dat!

Napoli never benefited from VAR and dats da truth!
Only Dube cry about it! Not Lazio!

Jube/rube/dube control eberything. I heard a strong rumor dey were behind 9/11 cuz Agnelli's son-in-law couldn't sell his office dere so dey tore it down for insurance money.

Dube also convince Verdi not to sign cuz his friend's daughter goes 2 da same nursery as Marotta's neighbor!!

Dube also sent a virus to Younes's grandfather to make him stay there wid him!

on the 13th March, 2018 at 7:27pm
Absolutely right @rubemerda, Napoli didn’t get that 1-2 crucial transfers in window. Yes when things are going well don’t mess with it,BUT why didn’t they pick up a super sub in midfield or backline to seal the deal in winning scudetto? Sarri let Giaccherini go when he was waiting to of given 100% every minute. They let Pavoletti go out on loan, don’t use Tonelli...and were trying to sign 3rd rate striker for insane amount of $$. Cmon Sarri...that’s when I knew they’d sell it back to Juve.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 5:58pm
football Italia. Why don't you do article how Rubentus control everything? Through FIAT. They control the market and thus the little clubs. SAS handed them the 3 points on a plate after stringing Napoli along with Politano ( sas directors daughter works for rube), Pairettos son works for rube and the other son is a Serie A reff ( nothing to worry about ey). VAR abandoned because it was working. Rube boy Gasperini was going to play 8 reserves, 8! Scandalous.

Do an article scummy rube & Agnellis
on the 13th March, 2018 at 5:58pm
Are we all going to pretend rube haven't bought this title too? Var was working great. Only rube cried about it. After Xmas it gets banned from rube games. Accept when to help them. Chielini makes leg breaking challenges every week with no red cards. Tries to break Belottis jaw and it goes ignored.then Alegri publicly says VAR is great,suddenly.That doesn't tell you he knows the reffs are helping them? Agnelli pays both wages. Do you not think Napoli could easily win the title with those rules?
on the 13th March, 2018 at 5:52pm
So anti-inter; we have known for over 8 years that inter aren't the team they once were, it says here Icardi hasn't scored in over 3 months, but fail to mention he has been injured for those 3 months. The game plan was the neutralise Napoli in the game and that is exactly what happened; with Spaletti also saying that quality is lacked further up field.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 4:21pm
We all knew it wasnt going to end well for Napoli when they abandoned sportsmanship went out of Europe on purpose. The dont deserve to win
on the 13th March, 2018 at 8:55am
As for those who speak about economics and how Napoli have been playing with the same 11 players for a while.. I thought that was their strength? And it shows. They have what no other team in Italy has - squad consistency. And it's not like Sarri loves rotation anyway...

But what economics? Napoli were ready to shell €25m for Verdi and/or another €29m for Politano, but they can't negotiate specially with ADL's incompetence and his image rights obsession and last hour negotiations. And guess who they blamed for that? Juve, Bayern and UEFA.

ADL after all his deals collapsed:

“I’m not saying it, but think carefully: Juve, Bayern, the European Club Association, UEFA. Have you understood this film?”

Can't say I'm not enjoying this downward spiral.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 6:41am
I'm enjoying the Sarri meltdown. I used to have plenty of respect for him.

First he deliberately crashes out of Europe.
Then blames Juve for the schedule, despite the fact that as of last week, Juve played before Napoli on 12 occasions, while Napoli played before Juve on 11.

Being around ADL for too long must have affected him.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 6:32am
This is the result of FFP - supposedly designed to help smaller clubs (yeah right) and now the once proud Seria A is more like the Scottish Prem than the other major leagues, and as a result the Italy are not going to Russia. Most Inter fans would rather see them playing Lazio, Milan and Juve than bus parking Genoa, Bologna, etc.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 6:20am
Napoli will be the first team (Within Serie A) in at least 25 years who were winter champions, and wind up not winning the Scudetto. Both times will be to Juventus.All the players they chased in the winter transfer window, only to lose out on them all except a couple. Zinédine Machach (Who hasn't played yet, and Roberto Inglese, who they sent back to Chievo on loan, and Milić who also hasn't played. Verde, Younas, Deulofeu, Vrsaljko,Moura and Carlos Alves Morais. Jorghino>Torreira in.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 4:48am
Silly of them to ignore Europe to fight for the 10% chance they had to win the league, now they're paying the price.
Surely Insigne seems to be enjoying himself, skying one ball after another, you can see it on the faces of his teammates every time he ignores other options for the spectacular shot, someone needs to tell him scoring 1 out of 50 shots is nothing special, I hate selfish players, especially when they can't deliver but just keep doing it.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 3:55am
The away match is becoming a must-win for Napoli now. We'll see if they have what it takes in Turin.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 2:37am
For Napoli, it's now or never. Their star players, despite interests from bigger clubs, agreed to stay together for this season to challenge for the title. If they fail (very likely), expect Mertens, Callejon, Jorginho, Koulibaly, and Sarri to leave in the summer.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 2:24am
We (napoli) can only blame ourselves .
January transfer market was a big mistake. Instead of reinforcing the squad with quality roatation options for mertens/callejon/Jorginho/Allan/hysaj & Albiol. We let two capable players go (maksimovic & giaccherini). We weakened instead of strengthened. The season is long and hard and having no genuine quality on bench besides zielinski is criminal to winning scudetto. Just look at juve bench. Class everywhere. We need to spend money to by quality.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 1:09am
PS I still find it remarkable that this Juve side should, by right, be considered to be the greatest Juve side of all time but probably only Buffon would make it into an all time Juve eleven. Capello's side would probably destroy this Juve side. The sad fact is that much of this Juve's success has been a result of the failures of everyone else.
on the 13th March, 2018 at 12:12am
lack of quality. This didn't seem to a problem earlier in the season when Inter were top but all of a sudden the exact same players have forgotten how to play. Or perhaps Spaletti is not good enough? Any coach that has to rely on transfers to make a successful side is not a good coach. Coaching involves getting more out of existing players. We've seen the turnaround at Milan. Will it sustain? Who knows. It's all done to the coach. Now can the other teams step up and stop Juve?
on the 13th March, 2018 at 12:09am
to step up. If other teams were as well run as Napoli then Juve may actually have faced a challenge in the past few years. My own team Milan has been floundering around on the transfer market going through various incarnations rather than working with existing teams. I believe that if Milan had kept the same side from 6 years ago without any changes they'd be closer to the top than they are now. Inter have been another farce and it's great to hear Spalletti putting his hands up and blaming the
on the 13th March, 2018 at 12:06am

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