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Sunday February 10 2019
Napoli travel sickness

The lack of goals in recent away games is starting to become a concern for the Neapolitans at the wrong end of the season, writes Anthony Barbagallo.

Last season’s 3-0 thumping in Florence was the turning point for Maurizio Sarri and the Partenopei’s Scudetto ambitions in Serie A. Once again, Napoli dropped vital points against the Viola at the Artemio Franchi on Saturday evening – this time with a slightly new line-up and different Coach at the helm.

Failing to beat a ninth-placed Fiorentina now presents Juventus with an opportunity to extend their lead to 11 points when they take on Sassuolo later this evening. Just as the Bianconeri slip up – as they did so against Parma last week – Napoli fail to pounce on the rare occasion to close the gap.

Even though Fiorentina’s Alban Lafont put in a stellar performance between the posts, the point-blank opportunities Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik squandered did raise a few eyebrows on Napoli’s lack of clinical finishing in away fixtures. Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon were also far too wasteful with some of their glorious chances. The Viola may be a stubborn side to break down at home, however, it’s games like these where Napoli should be claiming all three points, especially when controlling possession and enjoying the better of the attacking chances.

The scoreless draw in Florence couldn’t have come at a more critical time for Carlo Ancelotti’s men, who now travel to Switzerland for their Round of 32 Europa League clash with FC Zurich. It’s not time to panic just yet, but after failing to score a single goal in their last four away fixtures, this recurring trend does warrant some attention.

For all of Napoli’s domination in possession and crisp passing up front, the Partenopei can’t seem to profit from their goalscoring opportunities when they play away from home. The Champions League loss against Liverpool at Anfield, the Boxing Day clash against Inter and the stalemate with Milan all emulate the recent frustration Napoli’s players and fans experienced against Fiorentina.

Being too wasteful in front of goal during away fixtures has already cost the southern Italian side 13 potential points in Serie A, a place in the Champions League’s Round of 16 and a chance to claim the Coppa Italia trophy after Juve’s shock exit.  

The Neapolitans do play some exuberant football at the San Paolo – flourishing under Ancelotti’s flexible 4-4-2 formation. But when the two-time Scudetto winners play on the road in any competition, especially in games where the stakes are high, the pressure seems to take a toll on the team – resulting in pure frustration among the Neapolitan supporters.

Both Milik and Insigne have been prime examples of this trend, scoring an abundance of goals in Naples and wasting chances in away games. It seems that this current poor form on the road is a confidence and mentality issue that is spreading throughout the Napoli squad, most notably in the forward line.

It is not through want of trying. Napoli have had 58 shots in their last four Serie A away games, 19 of those were on target, but resulted in only one goal.

On paper, Napoli’s players should get the job done against FC Zurich without any hesitations. However, after two losses and two scoreless draws in their last four away fixtures in both the Coppa Italia and Serie A, the Azzurri’s disturbing away form might play into Swiss hands.

The 12-time Super League winners are one of the best defensive sides in Switzerland, who only conceded six goals in their Europa League group. It’s quite possible that they might do an Italian Job on Napoli in the first leg – nullifying the midfield supply and attacking threats of Mertens, Insigne, Milik and Piotr Zielinski.

But with Ancelotti’s expertise in European competition, this capable Napoli side should push for Europa League silverware. The key for the Partenopei to overcome this away form adversity is to try and emulate their prolific home performances.

Have your say...
It looks like ADL and all the coaches Napoli had since Insigne was bought, are "obliged" to play him "The Totti of Napoli" " obliged by whom?, I have my little idea, the unofficial rulers of Naples, it looks like they managed to intimidate everyone so that their Scugnizzo plays every game, even if is catastrophically bad, that is the reason Napoli with Insigne will never ever win a single trophy.
on the 13th February, 2019 at 9:59pm
It looks like ADL and all the coaches Napoli had since Insigne was bought, are "obliged" to play him "The Totti of Napoli" " obliged by whom?, I have my little idea, the unofficial rulers of Naples, it looks like they managed to intimidate everyone so that their Scugnizzo plays every game, even if is catastrophically bad, that is the reason Napoli with Insigne will never ever win a single trophy.
on the 13th February, 2019 at 9:18pm
Since Mazzarri left in 2013, Napoli has been playing with a bullet in the foot, and that bullet is INSIGNE. Accommodating the "Totti of Napoli" has resulted in wasting at least 6 titles, if only he could play 1/4 as well as Totti, the guy is so bad, but he has to play no matter what. The problem is Napoli has been playing with 10 men for the last 6years. NO ONE CAN WIN ANYTHING WITH 10 MEN, because of him Mertens has always been scrificed, and villified, it is so unfair.
on the 13th February, 2019 at 8:47pm
Get Ghoulam back to his best, revert to 4-3-3. Diawara underused as a pivot, Allan's form has dropped alarmingly since PSG interest. Fabien Ruiz inconsistent.

Build up too slow in the Carlitos era
on the 11th February, 2019 at 9:07pm
@Napoli Can you imagine ADL spending 70M total on Paqueta and Piątek during winter?
On air he smoothly operates on Allan and Koulibaly (and Insigne) worth 150M each...
on the 11th February, 2019 at 1:54pm
Sarri has "travel sickness" in English PL, so I believe problem is deepee with this Napoli squad with roots in past seasons (Scudetto given away to Juve in 2017/18 last two games).
And Ancelotti while still being good coach does not seem to motivate players like let's say Simeone or Gatusso - aka Carlo's Bayern.
on the 11th February, 2019 at 9:37am
sure, Napoli will just leave the top 4 spots to Milan, Inter, Roma and Lazio....
on the 11th February, 2019 at 9:23am
had Napoli scored a few of the chances they had things would be different obviously and there would be less people putting them down. however they continue to be the only challenger to Juve (less so this season yes and who unquestionably have been advantaged by their financial capacities to add the best player in the world to their squad), and play a style of team football that is both competitive and brilliant to watch. they do need a quality signing or two and investment in facilities yes.
on the 11th February, 2019 at 9:19am
Napoli must plan ahead and construct a new 50.000 seater stadium to reach the level of Juve. Is Italy not bidding for Euro 2028? The country need it.
on the 11th February, 2019 at 12:49am
YAAAAWWWWNNNN....it's been 6 years that we've been hearing about how Napoli "dominate" and play "exuberant football"....but what do they have in the trophy cabinet....??? Diddly squat. They can get Ancelotti, Mourinho, Guardiola, Zidane to coach them. At the end of the day, their players will have the same wannabe, chip on the shoulder, angry at the world attitude as their president, and they will win nothing. Please, leave the top four spots to Juve, Milan, Inter and Roma/Lazio. Thanks
on the 10th February, 2019 at 5:56pm
Very disappointing.

1. Napoli sold Hamsik and Rog and got no new player (ADL has not made major investments since Cavani left)

2. Ancelotti’s 4-4-2 leaves the team without identity and Napoli is often bosses around in midfield

3. The biggest problem is attack. Insigne and Mertens and not what they used to be and Milik is not good enough
on the 10th February, 2019 at 2:35pm

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