Maurizio Sarri B+
While the tactician has his side atop the table past the halfway mark, the question was always what he would be able to get out of his men in the second half of the campaign. After all, it was just two years ago in Maurizio Sarri’s first season at the helm that the Partenopei were also crowned Winter Champions, but ultimately ended up stumbling towards the finish line.
Unfortunately for Napoli supporters, we could see the same occur again this season if Sarri isn’t careful. Lack of depth has consistently been an issue for the Southern giants, and until the Italian learns to utilize his entire roster fatigue could once again set in as the season progresses.
Although Sarri has proven his brilliance in league play, cup competitions continue to be an issue. Unlike his two predecessors, he has never been able to lead Napoli to a Coppa Italia triumph and his team find themselves on the outside looking in once again. They were also eliminated from the UEFA Champions’ League without making it out of the group.
Despite his shortcomings in cup competitions though, the goal for supporters and players alike was always the Scudetto. The biggest issue plaguing Napoli sides of the past has been their inconsistencies and dropping points against so-called lesser sides, but we haven’t seen much of that this year. Only four sides have managed to take points from the Partenopei through their opening 20 matches, with Chievo the only side outside the top ten to cause damage.
If Napoli are still sitting atop the table come May, Sarri will forever go down in history as one of the greatest.
Aurelio De Laurentiis & Cristiano Giuntoli — B
The President and his right hand man have done well up until this point, finding a way to keep all their biggest stars at the San Paolo and eager for success. While questions continue to remain regarding the departures of Ivan Strinic and Duvan Zapata to Sampdoria over the summer, the biggest names all remained in Naples. Although, Strinic and Zapata could both be very useful right now given the club’s lack of depth in the left-back department as well as up front, it was clear that neither was really going to factor in Sarri’s plans – especially the latter.
The real work for the two businessmen is just beginning though, as they will likely be busy right up until the end of January. Unlike two seasons ago when Napoli stayed fairly quiet throughout the winter mercato despite sitting atop the table at the winter break, expect the Partenopei to be quite active this time around.
They have already secured the services of French-Alergian youngster Zinedine Machach on a free transfer, and are looking at several other players to acquire on a Bosman move. Machbach is just 22-years-old and although he had his contract terminated by Toulouse for a dustup with one of his coaches, he also has a massive upside. If the Italians can get his temperament under control, the signing could prove to be a real steal for years to come. He won’t make an immediate impact, but he isn’t expected to either.
“Napoli must also think about the future, not just the needs of the moment,” De Laurentiis told Radio Kiss Kiss earlier in the week.
“Machach is a prospect signing identified by Giuntoli, there will be other young players with him”.
We will likely see the arrival of another winger as well, whether it is Simone Verdi or Gerard Deulofeu remains to be seen though.
De Laurentiis and Giuntoli have also been working hard on extending the contract of Dries Mertens. The striker would receive a healthy pay raise, but more importantly for the club he would also have his buyout clause of just €28 million removed from his contract. This would prevent the Belgian from being easily pried away from the Partenopei in the summer.
It is a positive sign that the two have been taking care of business for both the present and the future during the current transfer window, and should bring a smile to the faces of supporters. Again, only time will tell if the moves pay off, but fans should definitely be optimistic about what the future holds.
By Marco “Kubani” D’Onofrio Follow @Kubani7