Whilst not in full-blown crisis mode, there are murmurs of discontent surrounding Napoli at present. Failing to find the back of the net in three of their last four games has not gone unnoticed. To make matters worse, all of those fixtures were eminently winnable. Cagliari, Genk and Torino are all teams Carlo Ancelotti’s men should be brushing aside if they are to have serious aspirations of winning something this season.
Being frugal in front of goal is not normally associated with the Partenopei. Over the course of the last several seasons, they’ve usually outscored the champions, constantly racking up score lines that would see Napoli find the net four or five times.
But there’s been somewhat of a regression in recent weeks, and it may only be a short-term slump in the overall arch of the season, but it is nonetheless worrying.
Napoli spent all of last summer trying to engineer a deal for Mauro Icardi, in the belief that he was the perfect striker to complement an already strong side. Yet Icardi clearly didn’t fancy Naples, feeling that it was a side-step and that if he was forced to leave Inter, then it was going to be either for Juventus or, as it turned out, PSG.
Icardi would’ve scored goals by the barrowful and arguably would’ve been the star of the team. Had it been based purely on footballing decisions, the trip south to Naples would’ve been the ideal move for his stagnated career.
By that same token, Napoli are now suffering from not landing him. Arkadiusz Milik is an ongoing fitness concern, and the Polish striker was incredibly wasteful in the draw in Belgium, to such an extent that he issued an apology to the Napoli fans for his impotency in front of goal. Fernando Llorente is an excellent option to come off from the bench towards the end of a game, but at 34, he can’t be relied upon to consistently score goals.
Furthermore, Lorenzo Insigne has also had a dithering start to the campaign, and was dropped from the squad for the Genk match altogether. Insigne has endured rough spells with the Neapolitan fan base, with the pressure of being a local boy becoming a burden to his slender frame at times.
Jose Callejon, usually a consistent stalwart for Napoli and in the conversation as being pound for pound the best Serie A signing of the decade, looks a player in desperate need of a rest. The Spaniard has only missed six league games in six years, a simply astounding statistic.
Dries Mertens has started the season brightly, but can’t carry the load by himself. Chucky Lozano is still taking his time to adjust to a new environment and looks short of confidence. In essence, Napoli have an Icardi-shaped hole in their starting XI.
How Ancelotti rejigs his highly talented jigsaw pieces in the coming weeks will be intriguing. With games against Atalanta and Roma on the horizon, and with Napoli already six points behind leaders Juventus in the Scudetto race, Ancelotti knows he can ill afford further lost points.
If only they’d got Icardi.