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

Kirsten Schlewitz On December - 13 - 2011

A Tale Of Napoli: Adequate Provocation In The Heat Of Passion

Adequate Provocation in the Heat of Passion is a legal phrase, used in the American court system to mitigate a crime from murder in the first or second degree down to voluntary manslaughter. Why bring this up now, in the context of writing about Napoli? Well, I confess, it’s because I’ve been having homicidal thoughts about some who don the azzurri kit. And when one sketches out a plan involving tricking Salvatore Aronica into getting a shampoo, and then holding his head under water until he can no longer breathe — that’s known as “premeditation and deliberation.” Such things will get you a conviction on Murder I, and considering I cannot deny I have express malice toward the Napoli “defender”, I better come up with some way to commute my prison sentence. After all, they likely won’t be showing Serie A matches in my cell.

The most prominent factor in the APHP test, as you might have assumed, is that passion is required. Passion can’t just be fear that your team might lose, or the desire to pour a drink when lowly Novara manage a goal. Passion is more. Passion is rage. It’s screaming at the players when they send crosses to no one. It’s throwing breakables when the Napoli captain commits a back pass so atrocious that it winds up as a corner. It’s professing your love for Marek Hamsik in one breath and tearing his photo off the wall with your next.

The partenopei inspire such passion because they’re just so incredibly frustrating. It’s evident they’ve got the talent to be sitting top, or near top, of Serie A. That much is clear from the way clinched second in Group A of the Champions League last week — losing only to Bayern Munich away, and pulling off a much needed, late game victory over Villarreal. But what was also evident from that match was that Napoli need a serious, threatening opponent to really step up. Their adrenaline really only kicks in when they’re playing against a “name.” Beating Manchester City? No problem. Drawing Juventus? More difficult, but they still weren’t ready to give up. Away at Novara? Didn’t seem to give a hoot.

Granted, I can’t burrow my way into the players’ minds (I can only see my own thoughts, which, on Sunday, were certainly passionate enough to provoke me into a rage). There are a multitude of possibilities for why Napoli dropped points this weekend. The players were tired from their midweek exertions; Walter Mazzarri was forced into using a weakened midfield; they took some sort of drug that altered the chemical pathways in their brains…

The real problem is that this — this uninspired play against teams Napoli should easily beat — keeps happening. Of course, it’s a result of European play. Mazzarri himself has emphasized that the Champions League is much more important than domestic play. The partenopei are making a conscious choice, a consideration that must be taken by all small clubs playing in the tournament: play your best players in the league, or in the League?

Napoli have chosen to favor the Champions League, a choice that could very well come back to haunt them. Yes, there’s a significant amount of money that goes along with advancing to the knockout stages. But the thing about reaching the tournament is that, once players get a taste of it, they’re going to want it again. Even Aurelio De Laurentiis can’t be so crazy as to think the partenopei will win the trophy, so to ensure they’re in the tournament again next season, a third-place finish is vital. Otherwise, it’ll be a downward spiral, as the best of the squad seek greener pastures.

There’s nearly two months until Champions League play comes around again. Until February, when Napoli face Milan before taking on the dreaded Chievo Verona, there’s not one match that they shouldn’t be able to win. But that’s the problem. Perhaps the solution lies in convincing Serie A opponents to always wear black and red stripes, or to paint “Balotelli” on the back of one of their kits. Quite frankly, I’m not convinced that DeLa won’t do his best to make sure this happens.

Until that day comes, I take comfort in knowing that I will be able to use the Adequate Provocation in the Heat of Passion defense to mitigate any crimes inspired by watching Napoli.

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