Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Lorenzo Vicini On August - 25 - 2011

Italian Serie A 2011-12 Club Preview: Napoli

2010-2011 Team Napoli Recap

Whether they were known as the “comeback kids”, the “miracle men”, or any other name, Napoli enjoyed a fantastic season thanks to a myriad of factors, chief of which was a never-say-die attitude. Mazzarri’s men had the habit of leaving it late which made for some pretty dramatic finishes. The <i>Partenopei</i> were challengers for much of the Serie A season, surprising many as Scudetto contenders almost until the end. In the Europa League, Napoli were Italy’s only representative that exited from the competition with their heads held high – they went out at the quarterfinals due to some bad luck against Villareal. With a third place finish and an automatic spot in the Champions League group stages, Napoli returned to greatness in 2010.

Key Acquisitions

Miguel Britos, Marco Donadel, Blerim Dzemaili, Gökhan Inler, Mario Santana

Key Departures

Michele Pazienza, Hassan Yebda

The Summer So Far

Much of the doubt cast upon Napoli by the experts last season was attributed to the lack of depth they had. The starting eleven were superb; yet, there was a significant drop off when one of the starters was not available. That being said, club president Aurelio De Laurentiis made it a priority to infuse the team with many more options for Mazzarri to choose from.

In cinematic fashion, one of the biggest transfer stories of the summer was undoubtedly the long, arduous negotiations for Udinese midfielder Gokhan Inler. The Swiss international eventually transferred to Napoli and is expected to become a vital piece to the Napoli midfield four. Beyond Inler, the Southern club made several smart purchases by bringing in a veterans like Marco Donadel and Mario Santana from Fiorentina. Not only does the pair boost the bench, but they boast Champions League experience to draw off of for the rest of the team. Blerim Dzemaili’s arrival from Parma was another superb snatch and the Swiss midfielder could very well slot into the starting lineup alongside his international teammate.

Miguel Britos and Federico Fernández were brought in to provide options in the back. Unfortunately, Britos – who had grown exponentially during his time with Bologna – suffered an injury during the recent friendly against Barcelona and will miss up to two months. It was a minor blow for a defender who already had Serie A experience under his belt. Meanwhile, Fernández remains a young defender who showed promise while at Estudiantes.

What Next?

Preparations during the offseason have gone pretty swimmingly. Mazzarri has been able to integrate new, valuable pieces to the side while arranging the team for the important three fronts it will compete in. The injury to Britos may lead the club to buy another defender; however, it isn’t entirely necessary.

Another addition to the attack would be smart as the club is currently relying heavily on the heroics of Edinson Cavani with few other options (Cristiano Lucarelli). In the final tune-up before the season, Napoli lost to Barcelona 5-0 at the Camp Nou. The scoreline was perhaps a bit harsh, but Cavani had two fantastic goals disallowed – proving that he is already in midseason form. The result should be of little worry to Napoli or its fans.

Man To Watch

The beauty of this Napoli side is that it has many weapons at its disposal. Edinson Cavani was phenomenal last season as he narrowly missed out on the Capocannoniere crown with 26 league goals. It seemed that at every pivotal juncture, with his side needing a goal, the Uruguayan would come through. Ezequiel Lavezzi was also fantastic as his creativity and vision added an extra dimension on the pitch. More can be said about players such as Morgan De Sanctis, Paolo Cannavaro, Marek Hamsik and Christian Maggio as well.

This season, there will be a lot expected from the new man, Gökhan Inler. Napoli will need him to be the same anchor man in the midfield that was so valuable to Udinese last season. His defensive prowess allows him to sit in front of the back line and protect on the counter. If he can prove he was worth the money and the drama that came along with it, Napoli will be able to attack with even more reckless abandon knowing that they have a monster in the midfield giving them some security.

Prediction

Napoli will be dangerous once more this season. Mazzarri has the luxury of a team that is intact from last season and only stronger with the acquisitions made in the offseason. While the club may not go far in the Champions League, they should be competitive regardless of who is in their group (the draw is on Friday). As for Serie A, Napoli has to be mentioned as possible Scudetto contenders even though they are not the favorites. A spot in the top three will be the minimal objective for this rejuvenated Napoli side. The new season should bring new entertainment and new surprises, but Napoli should no longer be a revelation to anyone.

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