By no means was it a simple task, nor the ideal route to a result Stefano Pioli drew up, but Fiorentina managed to snag a hard-earned point at the Franchi from Saturday’s encounter with Napoli.
The Partenopei were perhaps the better side on the evening, winning the possession battle (60% to 40%) and showing a bit more going forward that led many to believe they’d leave Florence victorious. But the lack of an end product and clinical touch to finish off counter attacks were ultimately the difference between a road victory and having to settle for the point.
Here are four takeaways from Fiorentina vs Napoli.
Insigne, Mertens must reclaim scoring touch: Napoli stirred up the bulk of the chances in this one, but had nothing to show for it. Between the two strike partners, seven shots were fired towards goal, with two on target to test Lafont. This means Mertens and Insigne are a bit toothless in effectively finishing their chances via counter attacks. Besides last week when Insigne got on the scoresheet, the crisp finishing touch in front of goal has been missing, and the same could be said for Mertens. Sure, we should anticipate both punching them back in with a bit more regularity soon enough, but when playing catch up to Juventus, the pair cannot afford to spoil their chances like they did tonight as additional points were left on the pitch.
Alban Lafont showed maturity in best Fiorentina performance: Fiore’s defence entered the tie decimated with injuries and was without suspended young star Nikola Milenković. By default, the home side needed every single one of Lafont’s four saves, all of which he pulled off with near perfection and composure. Sure, there is room for growth and expansion in the distribution department of his game, but the reflexes displayed to prevent Fiore from heartache tell us Lafont is maturing.
Hysaj settling back into form: The Albanian has not enjoyed nearly as many of the customarily strong performances this season as he did in previous campaigns for Napoli; this, along with injuries, is why Malcuit’s name has been called on more frequently over the past few months. Despite this, Ancelotti recognizes the quality Hysaj possesses when fully fit and functioning down that right-flank, which means the job is still his to lose. A solid defensive exhibition like the one he turned in tonight should further boost his confidence to clamp down the starting role without much of a hassle.
Fiorentina prove they can dig deep for results: Napoli may have done Fiorentina a favor this evening through a wasteful collective effort in front of goal, but you cannot entirely discredit how the hosts dug deep to pick up a positive result. Pioli’s formation change to 3-5-2 bent plenty, but did not break as a makeshift defense kept a cleansheet against a usually potent. Captain German Pezzella, who finished the final 15 minutes injured, helped usher his young side along from folding at critical points in the match, and that is something a fully staffed Fiore side can draw inspiration from moving into a difficult stretch.
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