Napoli threaten Italian elite… again

And when Maradona was in Naples, the club won their only scudetto. After a blistering start which sees Napoli competing stride for stride with last year’s unbeaten champions Juventus, there is talk that the Partonepi could win the league title again this time around.

Napoli have made themselves a force over recent years, and enjoyed a superb run to the second round of last year’s Champions League, where their adventure was ended in cruel fashion by a fortunate Chelsea side. The Italian outfit have built their success, under Walter Mazzarri, on an intelligent unit with a solid tactical system. They play three centre backs, typically, two wing backs, two defensively minded midfielders and then a front three, with two behind a centre forward.

They lost Ezequiel Lavezzi this summer but Goran Pandev has taken on his role in the team impressively. Napoli’s system means they have width that a lot of teams in Italy lack, but it also sets them up as a solid counter attacking team, with the hard working and prolific Edinson Cavani their spearhead. It is therefore not too surprising that they have been particularly effective on the counter attack in recent years, achieving their most impressive results away to top teams such as Inter and AC Milan. They are also the only team to have beaten Juventus in a competitive match since the 2010-11 season.

“We haven’t spoken about the scudetto, but why not? We can certainly cause a lot of the teams problems this season,” said defender Christian Maggio. “The squad is more united this time around, new players have come in and we will try to improve. It won’t be easy though as everyone raises their game against us.”

Without Champions League football, Napoli can concentrate more on Serie A this season. They last year focused on their European exploits, enjoying the novelty of a Champions League campaign, but this time around the Europa League is not figuring quite as high in their priorities. Mazzarri has admitted they do not have the squad to rotate and it would be no surprise to see him focusing his efforts on the domestic league as a result.

What is particularly impressive about Napoli’s start to the season is that they are achieving the type of results they maybe would not have in the past. Always a good team, they are consistently beating inferior sides, and not just giving the top teams bloody noses. Victories over Udinese and Lazio at home, and victories against Palermo, Parma, Fiorentina and Sampdoria have propelled them to second in the league, with only a draw with Catania blotting their copybook. They have yet to meet one of the traditional giants of the league, but AC Milan and Inter Milan look eminently beatable this year, and Napoli have defeated both regularly in recent years. And Juventus? Well, as noted, Napoli are the one team to have beaten them in the last season and a bit, and look set up as the most likely to break their long unbeaten run. They meet in the next round of the Serie A season, and that could just tell us a lot about whether this exciting Napoli team really can win this season’s league title.