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Pescara 2-2 Napoli: Penetrative Possession Almost Undoes Sarri’s Side

Newly promoted Pescara welcomed last season’s Serie A runners-up Napoli to the Stadio Adriatico on Sunday 21 August in the opening round of 2016-17 fixtures. The home side made a stunning start to their top-flight return, going 2-0 up in the first half thanks to goals from Ahmed Benali and Gianluca Caprari. However, they faded in the second half, with Dries Mertens scoring twice to earn Napoli a 2-2 draw. (more…)

An Analysis Of Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli

Napoli made a potentially historic decision last summer in hiring 57-year-old former banker Maurizio Sarri as head coach to fill the void left by Rafa Benitez, who departed for Real Madrid. Last season the club finished fifth in Serie A but currently they sit second, nine points behind reigning champions Juventus. For much of this season they looked capable of ending their long wait for a scudetto, which they have not won since 1990, though a recent loss of form appears to have put paid to that ambition. (more…)

Juventus 1-0 Napoli: Little To Separate Two Sound Defences

Juventus hosted Napoli last Saturday night in what amounted to a crucial clash of Scudetto contenders. Going into the match, Napoli topped Serie A on 56 points, while Juventus sat just below them on 54. The most important news in the lead-up to this game was that Giorgio Chiellini would be out through injury. The left-sided centre-back is not only vital to Juventus’ defensive line but also to their possession game. Hence, his absence was agonised over. (more…)

Juventus vs. Napoli: Daniele Rugani Pass

Massimiliano Allegri had doubts about including Daniele Rugani prior to Juventus’ hosting Napoli on Saturday night. He shouldn’t have been concerned. (more…)

Gonzalo Higuain: Functional, Conventional And The World’s Best Number Nine

We live in a footballing epoch of false everything. The game’s progression has given rise to strikers, wingers and advanced playmakers who aren’t really just strikers, wingers and advanced playmakers. At the highest level, purity within an attacking position is increasingly rare as forward players become more intelligent in their movements and more organised in their defensive work. In these circumstances, the more conventional are often underappreciated. Perhaps that is why Gonzalo Higuain, a number nine so true as to be borderline unfashionable, has been disregarded in comparison to his more sophisticated peers. (more…)

2015/16 Scudetto Race: Napoli

Rafa Benitez was apoplectic. He had just watched his Napoli side draw 2-2 away to financially doomed, already relegated Parma. With just three league games left in the 2014/15 season, the result scuppered the club’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League through a top-three league position. The Spaniard received a one-match touchline ban for his post-match behaviour, where he was said to have screamed, “This is the shitty thing about Italian football”. (more…)

Coaches And Horses: The Sacchi/Sarri Commonality

Silvio Berlusconi had seen enough. For the second time in the 1986-87 season he had watched his AC Milan team lose to Parma, a club who had only recently been promoted to Serie B. After beating Milan into second place in the Coppa Italia group stage, Parma then kicked the Rossoneri out of the competition altogether having drawn them again in the first knockout round. For Berlusconi the whole episode was embarrassing. The Milanese business magnate had taken over the club to revitalise one of Italian football’s traditional behemoths; such miserable results simply were not part of his script. (more…)

Pre-Season Q&A: Napoli With Conor Dowley

We continue our pre-season Q&A series by discussing Napoli with Conor Dowley. The Partenopei are currently in transition following the departure of Rafa Benitez and appointment of Maurizio Sarri, so there was plenty to talk about. (more…)

Empoli 4-2 Napoli: A Retrospective Analysis

As Maurizio Sarri was recently appointed as Napoli coach, now feels like a good time to recall the day his Empoli side steamrollered the Partenopei, who were at that point still coached by Rafa Benitez. On 30 April 2015, Napoli travelled to Tuscany on the back of three straight wins as they chased a top-three Serie A position that would have earned them Champions League football for the 2015-16 season. They were confident but, as Sarri’s Empoli were to prove that day, extremely open. (more…)

Napoli Vs. Fiorentina: A Meeting Of Broken Hearts

Rafa Benitez is casting glances west of Naples. Well west, in fact. The Spanish tactician has been living in hotel rooms throughout his stay in Campania’s capital, refusing to lay down roots. His stand-offish approach may have at first been convenient for him, but it now seems to be bleeding into his team’s performances. Napoli haven’t won a domestic football match since February as rumour begets rumour regarding the impending conclusion of Benitez’s contract and what that might bring; for club and coach. (more…)