Five Talking Points From Napoli vs Atalanta

Five Talking Points from Napoli vs Atalanta

1.The Comeback

Make no mistake, Napoli were very lucky in this match. Atalanta could’ve easily been 2-0 up in the first half. And yet, unlike last season, Napoli managed to fight back. What changed?

Sarri’s substitutions were brilliant. He often leaves his changes till late in the game, but this time around, he was spot on with changing the three midfielders, and at the right times in the match too. Allan helped regain control over the match (more on that one shortly), Rog scored a beautiful goal, and Diawara was monstrous in front of the defense.

That, and the famous ‘winning mentality’ finally began to show. The players had a real grit about them in the final third; especially in the second half, the players made it clear they were not going home without a fight. And fight they did.

2.Hamsik Shocker

For the fourth game in a row, the team improved massively after Hamsik left the field. His passes went astray, he did not track back, and his shooting was tame. I love Hamsik. He is the team’s captain and a symbol of the club. However, despite his importance for the club, something is clearly wrong.

I don’t want to be dramatic, but I think he should start Shakhtar’s game on the bench in place for Zielinski. Hamsik can cruise through the odd Serie A match, but for this match in particular the team will have to be ready to run. In the meantime, Sarri needs to sit with the staff and identify where the problem is coming from. I’m sure it is nothing that can’t be fixed, but it needs to be attended to immediately.

3. Midfield Struggles

In the first half in particular, Napoli struggled to create clear cut chances. This was largely due to the fact that Mertens had to drop deep, creating a crowd in the middle of the pitch with no target man to hit. Atalanta’s players were excellent in stopping our short pass and move game by suffocating us up the pitch. Had it not been for Zielinski’s wonder goal, Napoli might have not scored at all.

Our style of play has been memorized by the players and most opposition defenses as well- even if many don’t know how to stop it. I don’t believe this will be the last time we are suffocated on the other side of the pitch. One thing Sarri could look to do is to switch tactics mid game depending on how deep the defense is playing. Shooting from outside the box, swinging in crosses with three to four players inside the box (including Hamsik), and playing a 4-2-3-1 are all options. This time we were fortunate to win. Next time we might not be so lucky.

4.The San Paolo Roars

The San Paolo is always loud, but yesterday it was back to its rage of old. For the last couple of seasons most matches have been quieter than usual; nothing has quite matched Mazzari’s era of madness (excluding the Champions League of course). However, particularly after we scored the first goal yesterday, the stadium absolutely erupted. It was wonderful to see fans whistle and challenge every ball that wasn’t ours, and provide that special burst of energy when we were in possession. If we are to achieve greatness this season, the fans will need to be there every step of the way.

5.Poor Summer Transfers Leave Napoli on The Edge

Pepe Reina was on the verge of leaving, and there was no substitute in sight. Even now that he looks like he’ll stay, there will be nobody to back him up except for an unproven Sepe. If Hysaj were to suffer a serious injury, Maggio would be our only starting RB. If something happens to Insigne for even a month, we cannot play with Mertens as a striker unless we want to start with Giaccherini.

It was understandable that we did not move for players until we guaranteed the Champions League money. But why didn’t we agree with clubs transfers before the Nice match and sign them right after it?Why was no one short listed so that we could move for them this week. Our transfer policy has been a mess this summer. I only hope we go for last second fixes the next two days. If not, we will be walking on thin ice the next few months.

On the bright side, we are in the Champions League, we have won our first 2 matches in Serie A (for the first time since the 2013 season), and we beat Atalanta. It could’ve been worse.

4 Comments

  1. Great choice of topics @Mostafa!

    The first half was poor but I think we can consider our performance in the second half as another sign of our growing team mentality. When you aren’t at your best, having that fight in you becomes even more important and as you pointed out, the boys never gave up.

    Hamsik hasn’t been at his best but he’s always been a streaky player (kinda like Insigne). Hopefully he can get back to form soon though. The positive thing is that we actually have the depth to play effectively without him if need be.

    That depth in the midfield isn’t available in other parts of the pitch and I share your concerns there. I also thought we’d have a couple of things lined up right after we qualified for Champions League but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There’s still some time left but the feeling is that we should have done / should be doing more this summer.

  2. After watching the 1st 4 games at the start of the season, I think we really has to improve on our finishing in front of goal. We create loads of chances but can’t seems to finish them off.

    I won’t worry too much about Hamsik. He will find his form again. But we need him at his best before mid season.

  3. Couldn’t agree more with your point about the well-timed substitutions. I thought this game was perfectly managed by Sarri. He recognized that Hamsik was struggling, so he pulled him off early. How many managers leave the captain out there just because he’s the captain?

    To Hamsik’s credit though, he didn’t complain at all and went on supporting his teammates. Not that we would expect anything less. He’s a true professional and I’m confident he’ll be back to his best soon.

  4. I share the same worry regarding transfers. I think ADL never intended to spend. CL was an excuse. We are like Arsenal. He will try to finish top 4 as trying to win the league requires too much investment. So he rather loses points playing Seppe, Maggio and Giak but has a team that should qualify for CL. As with Arsenal this strategy can go south.

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