Thursday October 18 2012
The Lavezzi Paradox

Napoli split with a star name over the summer, but, argues Adam Scime, the departure of Ezequiel Lavezzi may well be a blessing.

Ahead of their all-important encounter on Saturday night in Turin, Juventus and Napoli have exchanged blow for blow thus far in 2012-13, with both heavyweights sitting undefeated with six wins and a draw to top the standings on 19 points.

Interestingly, these are two teams who have only slightly altered their starting XIs from the 2011-12 campaign, but, noticeably, Napoli’s spectacular Three Tenors were whittled down to just two over the summer transfer campaign.

Ezequiel Lavezzi heard the call of Paris Saint-Germain and his departure has turned their exciting trinity into a more simplified dynamic duo of Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik. However, the Partenopei are a better team for it.

Although the sample size is small, Napoli have given the impression of being Scudetto contenders this season and are on track for a return to the Champions League. After seven Serie A games, they sit atop the table, have the best defensive record in only conceding three times – an average of 0.43 goals against per game – and are finding the back of the net twice per match on average. Overall they appear a more solid, determined, disciplined and fluent outfit.

Compare those statistics to last season, when Napoli finished in fifth place and let in 46 goals in 38 games. Not a terrible defensive record, but conceding 1.21 times per match was not quite enough to challenge for top honours. Their scoring was also a slight step behind at 1.73 strikes per contest.

What has changed for Napoli? The major distinction comes in attack – where there is no more Lavezzi, instead the less-heralded Goran Pandev often prevails. After selling the attacking star for a fee reported to be in the region of €30m to Carlo Ancelotti’s PSG, the irony is that Coach Walter Mazzarri has his team firing on all cylinders on the domestic front.

For all the flair and style of the Argentine, he lacked the substance and consistency that the Azzurri truly require. He was a player who flattered to deceive on several occasions and one who often neglected his defensive duties, even due to his suspect fitness at times. Last season, Lavezzi had nine goals and five assists to his name in Serie A, failing to come anywhere near the top performers in either category.

Pandev may not be as exciting a player to observe, but arguably more integral is that the former Inter and Lazio player will stick to his role in both an attacking and defensive sense, allowing Hamsik – arguably the in-form midfielder of Italy’s top flight at the moment with three goals and three assists – to flourish while Cavani also seems to have benefitted, set to reach at least his 23-goal haul of last term with a League-leading six in seven matches already.

Meanwhile, for those times when a tad more inspiration is required, young hotshot Lorenzo Insigne is ready and waiting to prove himself.

Lavezzi may have had plenty of imagination on the pitch, but it is after his sale that Napoli and their supporters are closer to realising their dream of a Serie A title.

Have your say...
Lavezzi was fantastic and left only because of the money he was offered. Unfortunately for him I think he regrets moving to PSG as he misses the atmosphere of real fans or should I say unique fans at the San Paolo which is unrivalled in Europe. Playing for Napoli is like being in Argentina and that's what he misses. Him leaving was good for Napoli in hindsight as we got a two proven goalscorers in Pandev and Insigne in return.
on the 19th October, 2012 at 5:54pm
I think lazezzi regrets not to join inter last summer , he would be in the same league same atmosphere , he would continue his inspiration , last thing I wish that both teams lose in this match forza inter
on the 19th October, 2012 at 7:05am
46 Serie A games without a defeat is an unbeaten run and last seasons 3-0 win over Napoli put us in pole position. Our defence is a bit shakier than last and while its still early days Napoli has the best defence so far. I will be a fascinating match.
on the 18th October, 2012 at 10:56pm
Come on Napoli! The whole of Italy is with you. Yes, we all hate Juve, its only non-Italians that love Juve.
on the 18th October, 2012 at 8:38pm
i know that napoli & juventus fans get excited about this match up. especially this year because they are jointly on top. ...but, it's still very early. only week 8. there is still a long marathon left ahead of them and everyone else. regardless of who ever wins, loses or draws, the out come of this game doesn't tell us the winner of the scudetto. we can revisit this conversation again in the early spring. just enjoy the game regardless!!!
on the 18th October, 2012 at 4:36pm
How does losing the italian cup final lead to continuing and unbeaten run??? Juve are scared of Napoli because they know Napoli were tired last season due to Champions League commitments. At the San Paolo Napoli were 3-1 up and totally outplaying Juve until their legs went. Napoli 2-1 on saturday.
on the 18th October, 2012 at 2:48pm
It would be good for the Azzurri if Giovinco and Insigne light up the stadium....
on the 18th October, 2012 at 1:10pm
looking forward to this game, midfield battle will be good, I think Juve will just edge it as they are home team, Juve also have more strengh on the bench, imgine how refreshing it would be tho for Napoli to win Serie A, break the northern hold on the league for once.
on the 18th October, 2012 at 12:52pm
Too much hype for too little talent. His style of play never suited Italian technical football. He would do much better playing in Spain or in his case, France. I think the dynamic duo play much better together but will struggle against Juve's midfield if they opt for a 3-5-2 formation. However, if Cavani is left space up front he will certainly out run Juve's back three, especially if barzagli and Chillo are tired. I expect Lucio to start.
on the 18th October, 2012 at 12:43pm
Lol Juventus lost to napoli in the italian cup final..m we still came back to beat them again and continue our unbeaten run, and as for lavezzi I have to disagree, napoli have now been reinforced with a lot more players in defence and midfield, and tasted and tested themselves on the big stage and know what they are capable of now hence why they have stepped a level and play better football as a unit, lavezzi's absense just gives insigne to show his true talent, nothing more
on the 18th October, 2012 at 12:19pm
For a milanesta Juve vs Napoli will be hell of a match. If Napoli manages to win the match, Juve will start to question themselves. Let us not neglect they forgot how to lose. A loss against Napoli will break them and we will see them struggle more and more. Let us wait and see.
on the 18th October, 2012 at 10:40am

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