Going into the upcoming season, all signs pointed towards Napoli making another challenge for the Scudetto. President Aurelio De Laurentiis did the unthinkable and brought in Carlo Ancelotti to manage the Partenopei, Jorginho was the only player to leave the club, and although their transfer market went quiet after the World Cup, the additions of Simone Verdi and Alex Meret have added to the excitement growing in Vesuvius’ shadow.
However, a lot of that excitement turned into worry following Napoli’s 5-0 - yes you read that right - defeat to Liverpool. Ancelotti’s men just couldn’t seem to get anything going. There were some moments where we saw the Napoli we are all used to, quick passing movements up the pitch and dangerous on the counter, but it was apparent that Hamsik & co. still aren’t fully adept under their new Coach. That’s okay.
Maurizio Sarri instilled a non-stop, full steam ahead attacking style during his three years in Naples. Ancelotti doesn’t want to change that, he just wants to slow it down. During the match it was noticeable that the players were still trying to get the hang of being calmer on the ball. There were stints where you could see that they got it, leading to chances opening up for them. Having said that, we also saw them fail to find any type of equilibrium as they would often switch back to that full speed approach.
During the match we saw that Napoli can execute Carlo’s game plan, it will just require patience.
To speak directly about the game that has introduced heavy doubts into the minds of some supporters, it actually could’ve been a closer affair. Three of the goals scored can be chalked up as goalkeeping errors made by new signing Orestis Karnezis, and Napoli made it 2-1 towards the end of the first half only for the goal to be wrongly disallowed due to the assistant referee ruling Jose Callejon offside.
It’s also important to take into consideration where both clubs were at during the match. Liverpool were coming off of an impressive pre-season showing in the States against the likes of Manchester City & United and were a week out from the start of their season. Napoli on the other hand only had one friendly against a side in a top division (that side being Chievo), and were still two weeks out from kicking off in Serie A.
When you think about it rationally it’s a side that is used to their Coach’s tactics and has one of the best attacks in Europe, against a side that has a new man on the bench and is still learning a new system. Of course 5-0 is alarming, and one would expect better from a side of Napoli’s calibre, but it’s best for these things to happen now, so that they can be prevented during the times that matter.
The Partenopei knows what needs to be fixed and they’ve already taken steps towards doing so. French wingback Kevin Malcuit has already completed his medical for the club - all that's left is the announcement - and he will provide great competition for Elseid Hysaj at the right back position. In addition to that, it is reported that a deal is in place to bring Guillermo Ochoa to the San Paolo.
In Sarri’s first year at Napoli he didn’t win in the league until the fourth game, so give Ancelotti some time. The additions made in the transfer market, combined with the “bombshell” news that Napoli journalist Carlo Alvino has been hinting at all summer, are prime examples of why tifosi don’t need to start seeing the glass half empty just yet.