5 Things we learned from Nice vs Napoli

1. CHAMPIONS LEAGUE!

Despite the reassurances we gave before the match, I think it’s safe to say all Napoli fans were anxious, if not worried, before the match. Mertens was in doubt, we had missed two open goals in the first leg and of course Mario Balotelli and Wesley Sneijder were available and provided an extra threat to the Napoli defense. Thankfully, our nerves were soon eased once the match started.

Napoli played a wonderfully. Yes, we did miss many chances, and yes, we had a couple of hiccups at the back, but overall, we were much better than Nice and fully deserve to go through.  This is a huge boost to the team’s confidence, to our bank account, and finally, to the team’s image around the world.  A job well done by Sarri and the boys.

2. HAMSIK WORRIES

For the third match in a row, Hamsik was off color, bar one brilliant moment in the beginning of the second half where he assisted Callejon for the all important away goal. However, beyond this, his shooting was off, his passing was unexpectedly wayward, and most worryingly, the team improved markedly after he was substituted.

Is this a beginning of the season hiccup?  Is this a normal dip in form?  Or is this a sign that Hamsik is starting to age?  

Hamsik usually starts seasons on a strong note and a couple of average games is probably nothing to worry about. However, it is something to keep an eye on; let’s hope Hamsik can reach Maradona’s record within the next couple of weeks, and this is only a dip, nothing more.

3. THE WALL

Kalidou Koulibaly, aka K2, aka The Wall. He was an absolute monster at the back. While the players at the top may get most of the limelight, K2 deserves to be recognized just as much. Interceptions, headers, stopping Balotelli, forays forward; Kalidou was package against Nice. Unmovable.

4. MISSED CHANCES

If there is one thing that frustrates about this team, it is the unbelievable number of chances it misses.  Sarri recently claimed that attack is becoming more important than defense; it is a philosophy, not necessarily right or wrong, but for it to work, we need to put away our chances. Insigne, Callejon, Mertens, and Hamsik each get several chances a match. With Nice, we were lucky our complacency was not punished. Last season it was. Fortunately, the remedy for this is simple.

Practice! Finishing sessions are crucial for strikers. I think Sarri needs to double up on finishing sessions until we become lethal; if we can put away our chances, we will score at least three a game.  

5. NEW ADDITIONS

While this may not be tied directly to Nice’s match, one cannot ignore our bench given that we have less than a week before the transfer window closes. Napoli have been great on the field so far this season; off it, however, they have been very frustrating.  

Hysaj is a good player, but we need a top right back to challenge him. If rumors are true that Tonelli is leaving, I believe we need to buy a young, strong center back who is ideally quick and smart. Sarri does not feel completely safe playing without Koulibaly and Albiol, and neither do the fans. It’s time to fix this.

We are set in midfield, but we must invest in a proper goalie to backup Reina and also challenge him. The same goes for the LW position; Giacherrini is good, but good is as far as he goes.  

In an ideal situation, Napoli will sell Zapata and Tonelli for a combined 20-25 million within the next week and buy a goalie, a RB, a CB, and a LW. That’s a whole other discussion on its own and one plenty of you have expressed your opinion on our summer transfer thread.

3 Comments

  1. Good points I agree with them. I am sure that Hamsik lack of form is nothing serious and he will be at his best in few weeks. We can see that his physical condition is not best but as Sarri said it is normal thing at the start of the season. But still, Marek was the only player in midlefield who played in startup line up in all three matches.

    One more thing which I think is great is Jorginho and Diawara form. Both players showed great form and that’s great. Jorginho’s form in first half of last season was not ideal and I think it cost us few points but now it seems Jorginho is at his best again which is great.

  2. I agree that Hamsik hasn’t been at his best but the thing about him is that even when he is off, he still has the ability to pull some magic off. I think that’s what makes him such a difficult player to replace. As you pointed out even against Nice he still managed to move nicely to create the space for that assist and then put in a perfect cross for Callejon. When he is on form though he is absolutely dominant.

    Insigne can be a very streaky player like Hamsik as well. He is really growing into an impressive and classy attacker while at the same time improving his consistency. He is one of the players that needs to get in front of the net and just work on his finishing. If he can improve his ability to hit the back of the net with all the shots he sets up for himself on his right foot, he could really take his game to the next level. He’s obsessed with trying to hit the perfect curler into the far corner and too often doesn’t execute. I’ve seen him start to take some more direct shots at the start of this season which is probably a good thing (the goal against Nice as evidence).

  3. Your point about the missed chances is the one that stands out to me. I’m certainly not unhappy with the performances against Nice, but we could have put it away a lot sooner than we did.

    Our midfield, despite Hamsik’s inconsistency, was dominant over these two legs, which is a really good sign. But I agree he’s still working back into form.

    Gennaro’s point on Insigne is a good one. He needs to be a little more direct in his attacks. For every amazing goal (the one against Sampdoria stands out), there are 4 or 5 really good opportunity he misses by trying to be too perfect.

    Now let’s hope we get a decent Champions League draw later today.

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