Blog by: Shamik
After yet another week in the Serie A, it looks as though the contenders have come forth to announce themselves – Roma, Napoli, Inter, Juventus, and Fiorentina are all undefeated after four weeks and it is clear who will be at the top of the table come the end of the season. All of them have shown that they have the potential to not only qualify for a Champions League spot, but to challenge for the Scudetto.
Few would have thought at the start of the season that Roma and Napoli would be at the top of the Serie A table after four games. Both the teams have won big games early on in the season to prove that they are no fluke; showing that they will be contenders for the Scudetto. Roma convincingly won the eternal city derby 2-0 against their bitter rivals Lazio while Napoli beat Milan at the San Siro for the first time in twenty seven years.
Just like their win over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday, Napoli’s win against Milan was set up by the tactical brain of Rafael Benitez. He deserves every bit of praise that is coming his way at the moment for setting about the task of bolstering the Partenopei as a proper unit. Equally important in the turnaround of Napoli as a tactical outfit is the players’ ability to take on his direction and produce their recent string of performances.
Benitez’s new shape and flexible approach to the job seems to be getting the very best out of his players compared to the weak underbelly that Walter Mazzarri’s side always appeared to have. They no longer look quite so beatable in the air and the question marks down either channel have also been well dealt with.
Factoring in their ability to change pace as and when required as well as the flair players like Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne, beating Napoli will take some doing this term.
Although Christian Maggio may not be the best defensive full-back in the world, he put in a good performance for the side in Wednesday’s win over Dortmund, while come Sunday, Giandomenico Mesto was solid on the right, which must surely rank high in Napoli’s list of positives.
Blerim Dzemaili and Valon Behrami ensured that Milan were very rarely allowed any kind of control in midfield, and one rarely felt the absence of Gokhan Inler, who was missing from the midweek marvels. Mario Balotelli looked a threat throughout the game but found Miguel Britos and Raul Albiol to be determined opponents.
While the Rossoneri had long periods of possession, there was rarely a time when a blue shirt wasn’t bearing down on a Milan player – such was the effectiveness of Napoli’s rigorous pressing game.
Napoli have a keeper who is back to his best again, a structurally disciplined back four, a midfield which possesses great ability and strength, one of the best forward lines in Italy and a deep substitutes bench which looks more reliable with every passing game. With a coach who knows how to send out teams to attack or defend as and when necessary, the other major teams in the Italian top flight should be very worried.
Early though it is, for the first time since the days of Diego Maradona, Napoli are looking like the real deal.