Napoli are coming off a historic season that saw them miss winning the Scudetto by a mere 4 points. Certainly expectations are high for the club that challenged a highly talented Juventus side to the very end. While Napoli have done an amazing job this off-season to retain their top talent and deepen the quality of their squad, there are questions that need to be answered as they embark on a new era under Coach Ancelotti. So without any more drama, let’s countdown the 5 biggest questions facing this Napoli squad before the season begins.
5. “Will Insigne grow as a player and continue to be an offensive threat when he is asked to move inside with the ball at his feet to create offensive chances?”
Some will see this and say; “How can you question Insigne?” Yes he is a top player on Napoli and one of the best offensive weapons on the Italian National team. The question remains though. Lorenzo has been known to cut in from wide positions and use his thundering right foot to great effect, but Ancelotti is known to favor a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1 over Sarri’s favored 4-3-3. Certainly the new skipper will find a way to use the native Neapolitan but until we see it in action, we just can’t say for sure.
4. “When will we see Ghoulam back in action?”
Without a doubt the largest blow to Napoli’s chance at a Scudetto last season was the loss of Ghoulam at left back. After having a setback on his injured knee, Partenopei fans are left wondering when he will be fit to start. Ghoulam was so instrumental to Napoli’s attack on the left that it fundamentally changed the way the team played when he was gone.
Again, with Ancelotti’s preferred tactics where there is more emphasis on the position, will Mario Rui and Sebastiano Luperto be able to perform at the level required to start a very tough schedule and will Ghoulam be able to return to his old form? Let’s hope so!
3. “Where will the leadership come from?”
Long time fans of Napoli will immediately jump up and say, “We still have Hamsik!” Yes we do and he will go down as one of Napoli’s greatest players. El Capitan has been the field general for many years but this is not the leadership I am referring to. I’m talking about the leadership that comes from a player that has been there and done it and knows how to compete for a league title as well as Champions League.
The steady presence of a player that knows this week’s game against Parma is just as important as next week’s game against Milan. This type of leadership was not present on last year’s squad and it showed towards the end. To date, no players of this type have been signed. I understand Aurelio De Laurentiis wants young players to develop, but veterans that have walked the walk are crucial elements of championship teams. Will a player step up, or does it fall on Ancelotti’s vast and successful experience?
2. “How will the goalkeeping situation shake out?”
At the time of this writing it still looks like Napoli is set to secure the services of Mexican international Guillermo Ochoa. Although not yet confirmed, this would be a very important signing for the club. New signing Meret is a promising young talent with little experience. Karnezis is a veteran who’s better days have gone by. Ochoa has demonstrated on the international stage that he can perform in big games and make the tough saves but can he command the defense?
Koulibaly is arguably the best center back in Serie A and Aurelio De Laurentiis has secured his services for the next 5 years but he lacks a commanding leadership quality to command the defense in front of a young inexperienced keeper. Pepe Reina, now with AC Milan, was a vocal leader for the back line and someone needs to step up and fill that role. It is very important for a defense to have a calming presence between the pipes that they can feel secure with. Anyone who watched Argentina in this year’s world cup saw what happens when the defense is unsure about their goalkeeper.
1. “How long will it take for Fabián to develop into the offensive playmaker that Ancelotti invisions him to be?”
Ancelotti inherited Sarri’s squad but Fabián Ruiz and Simone Verdi are his choices and you better believe they will become important players to Napoli’s success moving forward. Some have likened Fabián to a more offensive minded Sergio Busquets.
The young Spaniard could develop into a premier attacking midfielder but so far in the preseason he hasn’t been a factor and hasn’t gained his footing within the system. His performance and development is key to how far this Napoli squad will go. There are other players that can fill in his slot if he is slow to catch on, but if the young Spaniard catches on and begins playing with confidence, he could be the difference maker in what looks to be a very competitive season.