Of the ten matches on tap last weekend to kick off the 2019/20 Serie A season, it was Fiorentina and Napoli inside the Stadio Artemio Franchi that provided the most action and drama. Serving as the perfect showcase for what people can expect from calcio, the thrilling, seesaw affair in Firenze, which saw the pendulum swing back and forth throughout with a full helping of goals pouring in from all over, ultimately ended with Carlo Ancelotti’s Partenoepei prevailing 4-3 over the Viola.
From a tactical standpoint, there is plenty to dissect and digest here. However, let’s break down the performance of one individual footballer who asserted himself on the pitch, stat sheet and scoreboard, Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne.Deployed out on the left wing of a 4-2-3-1 setup, early and often, the diminutive Neapolitan winger could be found making a real impact going forward as well as aiding in Napoli’s efforts to build effectively from the back. Vincenzo Montella committed many of his own Fiorentina players to a high-press that worked to stymie the Azzurri, but Insigne’s positoning, movement and ability to swiftly switch fields opened the offensive game up.
The 28-year old demonstrated his desire to be the attacking lynchpin in this one, finding tremendous comfort in exploiting the left-sided half space, as well as benefitting from Mario Rui’s overlapping runs which freed him to impact the scoreline entirely. A simple glance and acknowledgement of his two goals and two assists serves as sufficient evidence to conclude Insigne was the standout performer for Napoli, but the variety in his goal contribution warrants more thorough analysis.
After Fiorentina’s newly acquired midfielder Erick Pulgar tucked away his penalty to open the scoring, Insigne supplied a simple ball to Dries Mertens at the edge of the box who did the rest with a wonderfully struck curling effort exceeding the reach of Polish international Bartłomiej Drągowski’s outstretched arm. Minutes later, controversy arose as Mertens was awarded a soft penalty that was surprisingly upheld through VAR. Nonetheless, Insigne stepped up and confidently placed his attempt to Dragowski’s left as he stood motionless.
In the 56th minute, Insigne continued to settle in and enjoyed a wealth of time and real estate in that same left-sided zone, controlling possession after Piotr Zielinski did well to win it and quickly swinging the ball across the pitch towards a darting Jose Callejon who finished his one-time effort beautifully to the far post. Though Fiorentina attempted to overload the left side of the pitch and close down on Insigne, the Italian always looked self-assured and one step ahead with his decision-making, giving the home side very little room for error in their defensive lapses.
Fiorentina debutant Kevin Prince-Boateng came on in the 61st minute for Dusan Vlahovic, only to then introduce himself to the sea of violet by scoring minutes later to level the match at 3-3. But before the crowd could even begin to settle back into their seats, it was Insigne again who reclaimed momentum and sucked the air out of the Franchi with a simple poking header; a thoroughly deserved winner for the game’s Man of the Match.
The performance in numbers by Insigne (statistics by WhoScored):
-41/45 completed passes (91%), 5 key passes, 2 successful dribbles, 3 shots (3 on target), 2 goals, 2 assists, 8.64 rating
Suspect officiating and VAR controversy aside, Napoli picked up the desired result in round one. Without question, Ancelotti will take the three points and run, but the former AC Milan boss knows well enough from his travels all over Europe that performances like this must be outliers and improved upon if a league title is to be won. Both the midfield and defense looked disheveled and uncharacteristically off as Fiorentina managed three goals and left a few additional out on the pitch; off the 20 shots registered, only 6 managed to be on frame for Montella’s side. But, clubs tend to stray from the norm out of the starting gate after a prolonged period off, looking less than sharp in certain technical aspects and performing below par, which is where key men like Insigne come into play.
Highlighted as one of the five Napoli players with something to prove in 19/20, Insigne’s punctuating performance on the weekend revealed all he has in his locker and why supporters should feel optimistic about a potential career year.
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