A desperately dull game on Sunday afternoon was livened up for all the wrong reasons in the final few minutes, as Salvatore Aronica’s disastrous back pass cost his side a vital three point haul. Just as Juventus lost its ‘Invincibles’ tag the night before against Inter, the Partenopei failed to make the most of this rare opportunity, in a match that on paper should have been a certain home win.
Edinson Cavani was back in the side, and it looked like business as usual when the Uruguayan striker put the home side ahead very early in the first half. But, despite hitting Torino on the counter attack with some typical Neapolitan play, El Matador failed to finish off the wounded beast as time and time again he made the wrong decision in front of goal. A less than convincing return for the south American, who was uncharacteristically out of sorts on Sunday. Slovakian midfielder Marek Hamsik was just as guilty, putting a guilt-edged effort the wrong side of the post when it seemed easier to score. It was not an afternoon to remember for the Napoli fans.
Psychologically, this will be a huge blow to the Partenopei. Not only did they misfire in attack, but in defence the frailties were hugely highlighted. We have discussed before how the depth of the Napoli squad is light in comparison to their opponents but nowhere is this most apparent than at the back. A rearguard comprising of Paolo Cannavaro, Hugo Campagnaro and Alessandro Gamberini backed up by the aforementioned Aronica will surely have more bad days than good. Undoubtedly, scouts and sporting directors will be furiously providing Mazzarri with a list of potential candidates for the January transfer window that not only can lift the scoring burden from Cavani, but rejuvenate an ageing backline that is quite possibly being kept together by nothing more than elastic bands and sticky tape. This is assuming Napoli are still in a position to challenge for major honours come Christmas.
To further underline the negative weekend for the club, owner Aurelio De Laurentiis was fined 69,000 Euros for his behaviour during a press conference and for his team failing to attend the Super Cup presentation earlier this season against Juventus.
However, in the Europa League match with Dnipro, things could not have been more different. Cavani struck four times for as Napoli ran out 4-2 winners in a team that, other than Gokhan Inler, was made up of rotated squad players. But this Jekyll and Hyde version of Walter Mazzarri’s side will not be something that fans will be happy to tolerate for too long. Consistency is the key to any kind of success and this European victory will mean little if the Azzurri fail to carry the momentum into league matches.
At the weekend, Napoli travel to Genoa to take on Luigi Del Neri’s free-falling side. Juan Zuniga is a doubt and will be replaced by Andrea Dossena at left wing back, if he fails to pass the fitness test. The only other issue is surrounding the underperforming Goran Pandev. It is believed that the coach may opt for a livelier Lorenzo Insigne, to partner Edinson Cavani in attack.
Not only did the 1-1 league draw give the fans something to stress about, unfortunately for Walter Mazzarri, the result also did very little for the tactician’s health. On Monday, it was announced that the coach visited a medical facility and rumours surrounding his overall well-being ranged from potential heart surgery to a routine check-up. The exact details of the medical condition are still unclear though Mazzarri himself has said that this was a pre-booked appointment and there are no concerns.
Let us hope that it was no more than a simple health check, at least for the sake of Salvatore Aronica.