Lorenzo Insigne has not played for two matches and it is clear that Napoli do not have the same attacking impetus without the mercurial left-winger.
Since Maurizio Sarri became the Partenopei coach in 2015, the 26-year-old forward has been a fundamental part of the former Empoli tactician’s system, featuring in 113 out of a possible 122 competitive matches in nearly two and a half seasons.
A muscular injury forced Insigne to come off in the 1-0 defeat to Juventus on December 1 and that ruled him out of the Ciucciarelli’s 2-1 loss to Feyenoord in the Champions League on Wednesday evening as well as their 0-0 draw with Fiorentina on Sunday afternoon.
With Arkadiusz Milik also out injured, Dries Mertens has remained in the false nine role while attacking midfielder Piotr Zielinski has taken Insigne’s place on the left-wing.
Although Zielinski opened the scoring against the Dutch giants on Wednesday, his characteristics are different to player he has been deputising for and his movements are not the same. While Mertens has been successful in switching from the wings to the centre of attack, playing the Polish midfielder as a winger has not produced the same impact.
Sarri’s philosophy involves pressing, making short passes, playing in triangles, and moving the ball at a high tempo. Although his system requires his players to be comfortable on the ball, Insigne adds another dimension with his flair and guile.
Each player in Napoli’s attacking trident has their own distinctive role in the team. Jose Callejon on the right-wing is a tireless runner that can patrol the whole right flank; Mertens in the middle provides speed, directness, and clinical finishing; and Insigne provides an X-factor on the left, capable of creating something out of nothing.
Without the 26-year-old playing on the left, most of the possession the Partenopei had against Fiorentina was rather futile, and the Gigliati defence was able to limit the space that the Neapolitans could play in.
Although it must be said that Marco Sportiello had a superb game in the Viola goal, Insigne would have offered a greater repertoire of tricks and shots that could have troubled the goalkeeper more.
The Napoli attacker has been a reliable contributor statistically so far in 2017-18, scoring four goals and providing four assists in 15 Serie A games while in the Champions League he scored three times in five matches.
Insigne is not a player that scores many simplistic goals and they are usually the type worthy of YouTube compilations. They involve him exchanging passes with teammates, cutting-in from the left-wing, shooting from long range, or curling the ball into one of the top corners of the net.
Napoli are now one point behind Inter in the Serie A table and in their next match they will play Torino, who have failed to win their last four league matches.
Facing an out of form Granata side would be a great opportunity for the Partenopei to regain their form but it will be a greater challenge if their talisman Insigne is not fit.