Higuai-who? Napoli showcase historically potent offense

55 goals in 23 matches. Nobody in the history of the Serie A has scored so much after so many matches. The Azzurri are proving to have a historically potent offense and it’s all thanks to the players but most of all the coach, Maurizio Sarri. It’s funny to consider that one of the criticisms made last year against Napoli was that the team was too “Higuain dependent.” The truth of the matter is that if the team is dependent on anything, it’s the genius of Sarri. Most Napoli fans were annoyed with claims of being “Higuain dependent” as it was clear that the Azzurri created a plethora of chances for their striker. That is not to take anything away from Gonzalo, who himself scored a few amazing goals, but the sensation has always been that any decent striker would manage to bag his share of goals in this team. In fact, even Manolo Gabbiadini, while often seeming a fish out of water in terms of his ability to work himself fully into the team’s style of play, maintained of goal to minutes ratio second only Higuain himself in the past two years. On top of that, the current leading goalscorer in the Serie A is Dries Mertens, a player who has made a career playing out wide on the left but who was improvised as a false 9 when Arkadiusz Milik went down with a torn ACL. Dries is now leading the league with 16 goals and an incredible average of a goal every 91 minutes.

Napoli isn’t only impressing domestically. Taking a look at the top leagues in Europe, Napoli are only second to Monaco in terms of goals scored, tied with Barcelona and ahead of Real Madrid and Chelsea. It’s obvious that the Azzurri are playing worldclass attacking football. The area where they need to improve in is clearly defensively. That is not to say that the Azzurri are able to maintain their high powered offense by completely abandoning their defensive responsibilities. Napoli are second only to Juventus in shots allowed to the opposition. The problem is that far too many chances provided to the opposition are converted into goals. While Reina has had some responsibility to bear in the beginning of the season, the problem really goes deeper than goalkeeping. The Azzurri as a team often suffer lapses in concentration throughout matches and can often jeopardize in one moment, all the good they’ve done over 90 minutes. It is one aspect Sarri himself has said he is trying to work on and is really a question of mentality and maturity more than anything else. If this Napoli side can manage to take that next step that is seemingly above all mental, then there are no limits to what this squad, with this much offensive firepower, can achieve.

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