Sunday February 17 2013
Drop Pandev for Insigne

Lorenzo Insigne is one of Serie A’s best players, so why is Napoli Coach Walter Mazzarri treating him as second class? Dave Taylor investigates.

You have to wonder just what Walter Mazzarri has in mind for Lorenzo Insigne. Will the Frattamaggiore fratello fall by the wayside, as many others have during the Napoli Coach’s reign? Good youngsters have shown their worth and then been dropped or even subbed during a game. Recall Catania last year, when Napoli were winning 2-0 thanks to some outstanding displays from the exciting young Argentinean defender Federico Fernandez. However, Mazzarri in his wisdom subbed him for Paolo Cannavaro and Catania equalised not long after.                

But this blog is about whether Goran Pandev or Insigne should start games and fresh evidence of Mazzarri’s short-sightedness was underlined even more recently. Lorenzo’s illness prevented him playing in the Europa League defeat to Viktoria Plzen. “I cannot weep for his absence and we didn’t lose tonight because Lorenzo wasn’t on the field,” insisted Mazzarri after the game. Obviously he learned nothing from Saturday’s lesson at Lazio, when Napoli were AWOL until Insigne came on for the second half.

Yet, surely it’s his job to encourage and organize the players for every individual game. To make matters worse, Mazzarri did not even start with Marek Hamsik on Thursday, leaving Pandev with a responsibility he patently cannot handle. It was the same in the Lazio game. Mazzarri needed a goal, yet the only reason he brought Insigne on was not out of forward thinking, but due to an injury just before half time. Immediately, Lorenzo turned the game around and forced a foul out of Andre Dias, who had to walk on eggshells after his yellow card. Eventually after pushing, probing and at one point, dribbling past four defenders, Lazio were pinned back and finally buckled as Hugo Campagnaro grabbed that precious point as the game ended 1-1.

In his limited time on the pitch Insigne completed seven dribbles, almost four times more than his nearest competitor Hamsik. Let’s not even go there with Pandev. Indeed in the build up to the game many Napoli fans actually hoped Pandev would get injured so Mazzarri would be forced to start with Lorenzo. 

The youngster has been in red hot form and no-one can figure out why Mazzarri prefers an out of sorts player who doesn’t seem to put any effort in and is unmotivated. If he played like he did last year no-one would bat an eyelid, but he isn’t and is the weakest part of the attack. It leaves the unanswered question what is the point of a rite of passage if it does not help turn young positive boys like Lorenzo into eager young football players?

In tactical and aesthetic terms Insigne recognises the dynamics of the game as soon as he takes to the field and is always acutely aware of his status in the game. Certainly there is a compelling argument that he should be third on the team sheet next to Edinson Cavani and Hamsik.

But all we get is the normal platitudes from Mazzarri about Pandev’s experience, not wanting to rush Insigne into things, etc. Lorenzo can hardly make a position his own or gain experience if he is not given a chance. 

He has started just 10 games but scored four times as a sub, while his fourth against Milan saw the Rossoneri equalise 18 minutes after he was subbed off. He has a successful passing rate of 89% from 518 total passes and five assists. He also has 1.9 shots per game with 46 shots all told in Serie A.

These stats show his understanding of how to hurt the opposition and compare very favourably to Pandev. The Macedonian started 16 games out of 19, while scoring twice with 1.4 shots per game and 26 shots in total, while making 421 passes a 76% success rate.

There is little doubt that Insigne contributes more, scores more and assists more, but it appears Mazzarri has never heard of meritocracy. Lorenzo has captured the hearts of the Napoli fans, a home grown scugnizzo, the bandiera which the tifosi crave for. 

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Have your say...
Everyone forgets that while Pandev was out the last time around due to injury, Napoli sunk down to 4th/5th -- and Insigne was playing the whole time. The fact is that Pandev makes a big difference for Napoli (and for every team he's played for) and the coach trusts him. He's strong, he's difficult to deal with and the timing of his through-balls are impeccable. Insigne is great, but still inexperienced and not a 'game-changer' as Pandev is.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 3:09am
Great article. Completely correct. Mazzari has always refused to use young talent, even when they prove to be better than the experienced players. Insigne is a talent on par with the best in the world, but Mazzari insists he isn't needed. Insigne never fails to impress and deserves to be started over the stale Pandev. I'll never understand Mazzari and I'll be happy when he leaves Napoli.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 2:05am

This is having a truly negative effect on the Matador, who, unlike himself, hasn't scored for the past 3 games. How can you score when you don't get a decent ball from someone who should be feeding you consistent assists??

Contrast this with the Cavani/Insigne dynamic, Insigne has a very keen sense of finding the matador in perfect moments.

If Insigne doesn't start against Sampdoria given Pandev's recent form then i for one will be concerned.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 1:51am
Great article Dave, many tifosi have long pondered the same thing. At the start of the season there was no arguments, Pandev was aggressive and astute, since coming back into the starting lineup though (after injury) he has been, as you said, awol.

The last 3 games in particular have shown him to have no first touch, I've lost count of the number of times the ball has come to him in the box, then he loses it with a first touch or passes it to the opposition.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 1:47am
Let's not forget that Mazzarri has brought Napoli out of the depths of Seria A, when they were going nowhere fast under Donadoni. I think it is very petty to pick out a possible mistake from the coach in not using Insigne more often. He has afterall got Napoli into 2nd place in the table, and are a genuine challenger for the title.

So wether he underplays Insigne or not (I think he is being looked after superbly by the way), Mazzarri has earned the right to do as he pleases.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 1:41am
for me pandev is useless he has no ball control whats so ever and is lazy in attack, insigne always changes for the game for napoli and even that one time when he came on for italy and almost scores really puzzles me why he isn't starting
on the 17th February, 2013 at 12:50am
Yes Insigne is already better! Hope Mazzari will play him cos' believe me he can bring Napoli the title! he will put the defence of juve which is static in a lot of trouble....
on the 17th February, 2013 at 12:43am

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