Monday August 13 2018
Napoli in at the deep end

New Coach Carlo Ancelotti, Scudetto ambitions and an incredibly tough opening 10 rounds leave Napoli no wiggle room, writes Billy Wilkinson.

A new Coach always brings a lot of excitement, particularly when that hiring is a three-time Champions League winner like Carlo Ancelotti coming to Napoli. However, that energy can often translate into anxiety about the forthcoming season and the nagging doubt: What if it doesn’t go the way we hoped?

Since the release of the fixture list a few weeks ago, the latter has been nesting inside the minds of Napoli fans. Their start to the season is projected to be the hardest amongst all the big teams, and that’s not even taking the Champions League into account.

Their first seven league games include an opening day trip to the Stadio Olimpico to face Lazio, as well as visits to Sampdoria and Juventus. The home games aren’t much easier, with Gonzalo Higuain’s Milan and Fiorentina travelling down south. If you stretch it to the first 10 games, then you can include bitter rivals Roma coming to town as well.

A run like that in the opening couple of months is bad enough, but made even tougher when there is a new Coach at the helm and pre-season training disrupted by the World Cup. Summer friendlies have been disappointing and showed huge problems in defence, particularly the 5-0 humiliation at the hands of Liverpool.

There is no time to lose, as Aurelio De Laurentiis didn’t bring Ancelotti in simply to finish second or stabilise the club after Maurizio Sarri’s departure. He hired the Coach to win the Scudetto. Such lofty expectations mean a rough start could have devastating effects on confidence.

The bar is already astoundingly high with Sarri breaking Napoli’s points total record two seasons in a row, reaching 91 last term and still finishing behind a pre-Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus.

Yet this is an opportunity for a fresh start and Ancelotti does represent a whole new era with the mentality to go with it. Expectations rose year on year through Walter Mazzarri, Rafa Benitez and Sarri, from top four ambitions to title contenders. If they are to challenge for the Scudetto, such a tough start to the season could even be welcomed as diving in at the deep end. There is to be no hiding from Napoli’s status now, no Sarri moans about playing after Juventus.

When Fabio Capello took over at Roma, he complained of a city with a provincial mentality and one of his tasks was to change the psyche of the club. Ancelotti may have a similar task on his hands over the course of the season. There has long been criticism of a ‘southern mentality’ from Napoli, often being accused of crying foul at superior powers fixing things in favour of northern teams. The merits of this claim could be (and have been) debated at length, however it does Napoli no favours.

Fans should welcome the tough start to the 2018-19 Serie A season as an early litmus test to prove they’re among those who talk on the pitch and not just off it. Of course, a simpler fixture list would be preferable, but it’s time to see if Napoli are ready to act like a big team under Ancelotti by getting down to business.

Have your say...
Why is someone using my name to make fun of me? Highly inappropriate. This person knows nothing about football.
on the 17th August, 2018 at 5:34am
@ ANON 3:50AM HAHAHHAHA you talking to the special ppl on this site about facts and expect them to read and understand. Good luck!!! Their minds conveniently dont go past 2006. But if my team never won anything i guess i would bash for no reason as well. Or maybe not because i have a brain.
on the 16th August, 2018 at 5:44pm
Totonero 1980 or Totonero was a match-fixing scandal in Italy in 1980 in Italian Serie A and Serie B. It was uncovered on 23 March 1980 by the Guardia di Finanza, after the spalling of two Roman shopkeepers, Alvaro Trinca and Massimo Cruciani, who declared that some Italian football players sold football matches for money.

The principal protagonists in this scandal were Milan, Lazio, Perugia, Bologna, Napoli, Avellino (Serie A), Taranto and Palermo (Serie B).
on the 16th August, 2018 at 3:50am

18 December 2012

Serie A title hopefuls Napoli will be deducted two points after defenders Paolo Cannavaro and Gianluca Grava were handed six-month bans for failing to report match-fixing.

A disciplinary commision statement published by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) today read: 'Two penalty points for Napoli and a 70,000 euro fine.
on the 16th August, 2018 at 3:45am
Roberta its 2018 get a life or at least a hobby please. Yawn, next loser troll pls. Letsget this over with before the start od the season and be done.
on the 16th August, 2018 at 12:00am
Southern mentality? okay then
ADL is outdoing himself this summer in terms of arrogance.
Full on war of words with the fans, no summer reinforcements (minus Verdi), childish, unprofessional media tirade against record breaking coach, speaking in first person. All the signs are there. He's a maniac. Interesting to see if he can keep crazying his way to success.
on the 15th August, 2018 at 9:33pm
Well, about Sarri's moans for playing after Juventus... instead of ascribing that to "southern mentality" as some Lega Nord supporter would, look at how many times last year Napoli played after Juventus in the late phases of the league, and then say it's not made on purpose to the advantage of Juventus. Shall i remind you of what team got relegated to Serie B for corrupting referees? it's the same that still claims to have won leagues that the FIGC stripped them of.
on the 15th August, 2018 at 8:43pm
I think Napoli will be fine. Ancheloti is an amazing coach and he will prove it. I predict them to end up second again to Juve.
on the 15th August, 2018 at 8:02pm
Selling Inglese and ADL said they don’t need anymore FW, really?
Napoli is going downhill. The president has done great job since the bankrupt days, but he lacks further ambition. No scudetto as long as ADL is still in charge.
What Sarri did is the best Napoli can hope for.

I’m not saying it’s wrong approach since it depends to their fans as well. Are they satisfied with dark horse status? Is it enough to just continuously challenge but never be the favorite?
on the 14th August, 2018 at 9:07pm
I hope it works! I kinda think CA's appointment will either b a huge success or n unmitigated disaster. Espec if they have a slow start n that's what I kinda believe Napoli's mentality is. They tend to either overachieve or plummet rapidly but they're rarely mediocre!
I kinda expected more from their transfer campaign n a new stadium is a must! An arena of 60.000 too plse n not 20 like ADL said! They just need a few key signings n a bit more depth as CA will prob utilize the squad more than MS.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 8:30pm
A new modern 51.000 arena is imperative.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 6:28pm
They badly need a CB partner for Koulibaly and have done so for years. You won't be winning much with Albiol as your first choice.

Yerry Mina or Rugani might have been affordable, but one's gone and the other unlikely now.

Cavani would be a great short-term CF, and Belotti might do well at Napoli with several decent assisting players in their squad.

Milik or Inglese would have to be sold/loaned out if Cavani or Belotti come in.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 11:30am
I think this CA --since being fired by BM-- is not the CA that used to be. He lost his 'nerve' and therefore he accepted ADL offer: if lose he has the right reason.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 9:24am
LMAO at Ancelotti. This guy claimed several times he's a Milan fan but he rejected their proposal and chose Napoli instead. And now he realizes this Napoli has weak squad. As weak as Milan. Downfall is real! Forza Milan! Forza history!
on the 13th August, 2018 at 8:21am
Napoli desperately need defending midfielder (defending is the word) and central defender to back-up the duo of Koulibaly/Ghoulam. Milik/Inglese are hope if there is a good set of wingers supplying ball from the sides. Whatever we say the squad is not deep enough for the cups/Europe. Might be one of the toughest Ancelotti seasons in his career.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 8:19am
Comparing Ancelotti & Napoli to Roma under Capello in some ways?
Then Roma president, Franco Sensi, was very supportive towards Capello & his team. He bought players that Capello asked or needed, & I don't recall Sensi complained too much when it comes to Roma's defeats & Capello didn't either.
While Napoli with DeLaurentiis? Lol if he focuses more in this team than moans & complains about other clubs then Napoli might've won more Coppa Italia. Ancelotti had picked the wrong team. His downfall.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 7:16am
Napoli to have a chance need to sign a proven goal scorer. A player with a lot to prove could be the answer. Balotelli could be the perfect fit.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 6:48am
Ancelotti always has a slow start, don't know if ADL will have enough patient to him
on the 13th August, 2018 at 1:50am
Ancelotti has been given a team that has lost Jorginho and has not properly strengthened. They need a serious out and out strikers so that they don't have to rely on lightweights like Insigne and Mertens who are not Zola and Baggio category of players. I think inter and Roma have surpassed Napoli in strength. Poor ancelotti will be blamed for this.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 1:20am
Sarri broke Napoli’s point records 3 seasons in a row (not 2).

Napoli will struggle for CL qualification. ADL attacked Sarri for not winning the league but Napoli weakened with an unproven keeper who is injured, Ghoulam out for another 6 weeks, Jorginho sold (Hamsik and Diawara will never fill his shoes) and still no proper striker.

The reason fans tolerated the depature of Sarri who was loved was Ancelotti and hope of investment. Yet all competitors strengthened and Napoli bought no one.
on the 13th August, 2018 at 12:56am

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