How Napoli have Dominated Italy & show no Signs of Letting up
Cruising at the top of the Serie A, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team as in-form as Napoli at the moment. The Naples outfit have been on fire all season, and with the Scudetto looking more than likely, it’s no surprise that many have tipped them as dark horses in the Champions League.
As one of the most exciting and ruthless teams across Europe this season, we’ve had a look at how Napoli have hugely improved to become a force to be reckoned with in Europe.
Last updated 31/03/2023
Building on From Last Season
After finishing third last season, eight points behind eventual champions AC Milan, few would have predicted the Azzurri to be in with a shout of claiming the league title this year. Another head-to-head between the two Milan giants, or a resurgence to wake up the Old Lady in Turin (before Juventus’ financial problems came to light), were the common predictions ahead of the 2022/23 campaign.
A huge reason for Napoli being seen as outsiders was because of the transfer window they had in the summer. Luciano Spalletti’s side lost their two veteran forwards in captain Lorenzo Insigne and all-time top scorer Dries Mertens, who joined Toronto FC and Galatasaray respectively. Napoli also cashed in on vice-captain Kalidou Koulibaly, with the instrumental defender joining Chelsea in a €38million deal, as well as seeing cultured midfielder Fabian Ruiz join PSG for €23million.
It looked as though Napoli had got significantly weaker following the departures, but that turned out not to be the case. With the €80million the Serie A side gained from outgoings, there was some shrewd incomings that provided more than adequate replacements. Kim Min-Jae arrived from Fenerbahçe for €18million, a steal of a fee for a defender whose value will have surged following his very impressive performances at centre-back this season. Frank Anguissa made the permanent move after a strong showing on loan from Fulham last season, whilst the likes of Tanguy Ndombele, Giacomo Raspadori, and Giovanni Simeone all added depth with their arrivals on loan. Without a doubt the best bit of business Napoli did in the summer was the signing of unknown Georgian winger Kvicha Kvaratskhelia, with the 21-year-old joining for just €11.5million.
A Commanding Campaign
Napoli are the runaway leaders in Serie A, sitting at the top with a huge 18-point gap to Inter Milan in second. The two-time Scudetto winners are more than on course for their third Italian top-tier title after a commanding campaign and are leading by example across Europe. The remarkable 64 points Napoli have acquired from the 24 league games they have played this season is a tally greater than any team from Europe’s top five leagues, as Spalletti’s men charge towards the title.
There was a chance that Napoli would slip up after the World Cup break, especially after losing their first game back against Inter. That hasn’t been the case though and the Naples side have gone from strength to strength as their grip on Italian football gets greater.
It isn’t just domestically where Napoli have impressed, with a place in the Champions League quarter-finals looking likely. The Italians faced a difficult group on paper, but a 4-1 thrashing of Liverpool on the opening matchday got them off to a perfect start. Napoli followed that up by comfortably seeing off Rangers 3-0, before annihilating Ajax away from home in a 6-1 hammering of the Dutch champions. Two more comfortable wins followed, sealing Napoli’s progression as group winners, before a trip to Anfield in their final group game. The Serie A side may have lost 2-0, but it was really a nothing game with nothing on the line for the visitors.
Barring a colossal meltdown in the home leg, Napoli’s passage into the quarterfinals looks all but confirmed following the away leg at Europa League winners, Eintracht Frankfurt. Napoli were comfortable 2-0 winners in Germany, setting up a home leg in which the Italians will qualify for the next round if they avoid a defeat by more than two goals.
After scoring more goals in the group stage than any other side this season, It’s been a performance on the biggest stage that has made the heavyweights of football take note. Spalletti has got his side playing some electric football which would make them a handful for any of the big sides.
Napoli have been one of the most attacking and entertaining teams this season, highlighted by their goal difference of 43. By contrast, second-placed Inter Milan have a goal difference of just 16. In fact, no team in Europe’s top five leagues has a better goal difference that Spalletti’s men this season as the Naples outfit run riot in Serie A.
Napoli set up in the trusted 4-3-3 formation, with the impressive Kim Min-Jae in defence and Stanislav Lobotka the anchor-man that protects the back four. Whilst the attacking players get their deserved credit, Lobotka is the underrated midfielder that is everywhere across the pitch and gets tackles in. Piotr Zielinski and Anguissa are often Lobotka’s partners, getting between the lines to create overloads in attacking areas going forward.
Napoli adopts a high press when out of possession, with quick runners in the front line to close down the opposition in order to win the ball back and/or force mistakes. No side in Italy have forced more shot-ending or goal-ending turnovers high up the pitch than Napoli this season.
On the ball, Napoli move the ball patiently and enjoy plenty of possession under Spalletti before fashioning chances with a devastating attack. They average more passes per sequence and progress the ball directly upfield slower than any other side in the league, but that hasn’t stopped them firing in front of goal this season.
Lethal Forward Line
The goalscoring prowess that has seen Napoli score goals for fun this season, has largely been down to the outstanding talent they have up top. The names on everyone’s lips at the moment is the incredible duo of Victor Osimhen and new arrival Kvaratskhelia, who continue to shine.
Osimhen has scored an astonishing 19 goals in 20 Serie A games so far this season, as well two goals in four UCL games. The striker is a real handful with his pace and power causing problems paired with his technical quality and impeccable finishing.
Kvaratskhelia has seen his stock rise dramatically since his move in the summer, with lightning performances across all competitions. His skill and agility make him a tricky winger, but his quality on the ball make him one of the top talents in the world. The 22-year-old has ten goals and 11 assists in Serie A this season, along with two goals and four assists in six UCL games.
Both talents are being eyed up by some of the giants of the game, and its understandable why! The pair have combined for 33 goals this season, a tally that puts them among the very best for goal contributions this campaign.
After a magnificent season, Napoli are in touching distance of a first Scudetto in 33 years, despite there still being a lot of the season left. The latter stages of the Champions League could also be in sight for team that have been dominant this season.
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