Napoli Club Focus: I know it’s over, still I cling…
Those of you old enough may recognise this week’s headline as a lyric from a song by 1980’s pop band The Smiths, which perfectly sums up the feeling here at Napoli Club Focus. Last Friday’s potential title decider ended in a 1-1 draw which more than suited Juventus and has all but ended the Partenopei dream of a league title, the first since the 1989-90 season.
The result against the Bianconeri underlines facts that are difficult to deny. We have previously noted that the team struggles to score with consistency when Edinson Cavani is off form and that has been highlighted dramatically over the last few games as the Uruguayan hit-man has now gone almost 600 minutes without finding the net.
The chickens that roosted when Ezequiel Lavezzi was sold to Paris Saint Germain can no longer be ignored. Many fans have commented that the Argentine forward would not be missed, but surely the burden which is currently weighing heavy on Cavani’s shoulders would have been eased by El Pocho. With that duty being laid at the feet of the inexperienced Lorenzo Insigne and the inconsistent Goran Pandev, the Lavezzi replacements have failed miserably just at a time when they were needed the most.
Tactically, it appears that many teams have decided not to allow Napoli to deploy their trade mark counter attacking strategy which has nullified the effectiveness of their wing backs, such a lethal weapon in the first half of the season. It appears that Napoli’s opponents (Juventus included) are happy to play a deep defensive line and allow the Partenopei to have much of the ball, safe in the knowledge that the chance of being caught out by a speedy attack is never going to happen with seven or eight men behind the ball.
Finally, other than the Macedonian Pandev, the Azzurri lack a sprinkling of squad members that have already won and been part of successful clubs, trophy winning players with the mental toughness to drag results from the most unlikely of situations. The Bianconeri are made up of title winning players, Champions League winning players and best of all World Cup winning players. Surely that must all count for something.
So what happens now? We carry on clinging…
It is true that the six point gap appears insurmountable and that the scudetto is now for Juventus to lose. Walter Mazzarri’s team no longer has the championship destiny in its own hands; they must rely on others to help them and hope that Anotnio Conte suffers from Champions League overload.
This week sees Mazzarri take his side to Verona to take on a weak Chievo side whereas Juventus, after having already played Celtic, face Catania in Turin. Is it implausible to imagine the Sicilians, who have been in tremendous form, take advantage of a weary Old Lady? The following week, Bologna and Alessandro Diamanti will give the current league leaders something to think about and the round thereafter they face Andrea Stramaccioni’s Inter side. The opportunities for points to be dropped are certainly there, slim opportunities perhaps but undoubtedly they are there.
I did say we were clinging…
The Chievo match on Sunday is vital however and Cavani must now find his form and start to score once again. Portuguese international Rolando is expected to start this game, with Paolo Cannavaro suspended and Miguel Britos still a major doubt. The rest of the team, as usual, picks itself as there are no other worries for the Coach to concern himself with. The Pandev/Insigne conundrum may be food for thought but it is expected that the former Inter striker will just shade it and relegate Insigne to the bench. We will also be expecting better from Christian Maggio and Juan Zuniga, who have both been less than dynamic of late.
The melancholic Smiths are often portrayed as the band of the underdog, the outsider, the unlikely hero that is tolerated but very much unloved. Is this a fair assessment of how the rest of Serie A sees Napoli’s title aspirations?
We know it’s over…but we will certainly still cling. Forza Napoli!