Just how good are Napoli?
We sat down with Claudio Perfetto to discuss all things Napoli....
Q. So for those of us who don't have the opportunity to watch Napoli on a regular basis could you explain what type of side they are and why people should be watching them?
A. Napoli are a very exciting, attacking side. Their tactics are very unique, built around possession but quick lateral passes and movements. They start all of their movements from the back with Reina. Their midfield and attacking trident of Insigne, Mertens and Callejon are very talented and have great chemistry. You should be watching them because not only do they play beautifully but they are very good. They have a legit shot to dethrone Juventus and win the Scudetto this season.
Q. On that topic then, how would you compare the two sides? Juventus and Napoli that is.
A. Juventus is a well oiled machine. They are the deepest team in Italy by far, can probably field two full squads capable of finishing in the top 5. They do play some nice looking football at times but at the end of the day they are all about obtaining results. Napoli meanwhile is not very deep, they have a very strong 11 but after that are thin. Their goal is to play their style and get results only through their style. For example, in the last 16 of the Champions League last season, they took an early 1-0 lead against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the first leg and instead of packing it in and defending they kept trying to play their style and ended up losing the match.
Q. Speaking of Europe. How far can Napoli get in the champions league? How much of a problem will they be to Manchester City?
A. I believe they'll get out of their group, but don't expect them to go too far. They are not deep enough to compete in both competitions and they have kind of stated that Serie A will be their priority, and in the first match in the Champions League they actually rotated in that game which kind of proves that point. As far as Manchester City, they can definitely cause problems to them, especially at home in Naples. Manchester City will struggle to contain them defensively I believe. They will be very entertaining open matches though that I am really looking forward to.
It will be great to see Sarri and Guardiola as they are both innovative with their tactics.
Q. I certainly do look forward to it! So tell us a bit of Sarri. Why is he so highly regarded by so many?
A. His tactics are very innovative. They play a ton of short quick passes, knocking it back and forth until something is open. All of the play starts at the back either by Reina or by the defenders Koulibaly or Albiol, who bring the ball forward. Jorginho is then very good at getting behind the first line of defense and they play the pass into him. From there, they play a ton of lateral and vertical passes up the pitch until they get an open shot. In Naples, they call it "Sarrisimo" and it is beautiful to watch. It so great to see all of the players in cohesion and moving up and down the pitch together.
He also plays Insigne in a very important position. Mertens is a typical striker and Callejon a typical winger, but he gives Insigne the freedom to drift inside and involve himself in the buildup from midfield and make the connection from midfield to the attackers.
Q. What do you think Napoli are missing to be a real force in Europe/Italy?
A. Honestly, for me two things. First is depth. If they can compile backups to their starting level that are able to come in and provide them same quality, that would be step one, but I don't think they have the funds to do that unfortunately. Secondly, as great as Sarri is, he needs a little reality to his management. For example, that match against Madrid, if you want to get to the next round you should read the game and know it's time to play a little more conservatively and tighter and try to hold onto a 1-0 lead away to Madrid. That would be a great away result. Instead he kept enforcing his tactics and Madrid was able to break them down.
Q. You mentioned finances. Do Napoli have the means to become one of the superclubs of Europe? Or is this as good as it gets for them?
A. Right now it's as good as it gets for them. The owner De Laurentiis invests a lot in the club, but with Financial Fair Play they can only spend based on their revenues. He is trying to build a new stadium, like Juventus which would be around 40,000 people capacity, but they are getting a lot of push back from the local government. If they could build that and the surrounding area like Juventus has done, they could really increase the revenues and compete with the big clubs. That is still a dream at the moment though.
Q. What would you say the expectations are for Napoli this season?
A. For me, I think their first expectation should be to win the league. That is their focus and objective, it is something the city is starving for. The players all stayed to try and win it. If they do that it would be a great season. After that they should make it to the round of 16 of the Champions League, anything past that would be great.
Q. You mentioned finances earlier. A lot of Napoli's key players have been linked to other clubs, do you think we could see a mass exodus this summer? Or can Napoli keep their players and continue to build
A. The only ones I see potentially leaving are Mertens, Koulibaly or Ghoulam. They are all fantastic players that will attract attention from bigger clubs. I don't think the club need to sell them but if they want to move to a bigger club they won't stop them. I would like to see them keep everyone and build on them though, and I think the players enjoy playing for Napoli. The fans are extremely passionate and provide a great atmosphere.
Q. How would you rate Napoli against the big sides from the Premier League?
A. That's a very good question. I don't know if their style would work in a very physical Premier League. Based on talent, to me they are up there with the best of them. They are not as deep as Manchester City so they have a step on them, but they are just as talented as Manchester United or Chelsea and I think better at this time than Spurs or Liverpool. They just have a very compete starting eleven, without any major weakness, except for possibly Reina.
Q. Very interesting indeed! Final question what are your predictions for Napoli this season?
A. As I've mentioned to you before, I believe they will edge out Juventus for the Scudetto this season. This season they look different. They are winning matches like against Atalanta and Lazio where last season they probably would have struggled and tied or lost, but this season they are finding ways to win which is the hallmark of a championship squad. In the Champions League I'm predicting second in their group and getting knocked out to a big club in the round of 16.
Juventus to lose out on the Serie A! We shall have to wait and see.