Three Things Napoli Should Do to Get Back on Track

Going into the new season, much was expected from Napoli under Carlo Ancelotti. Having added Kostas Manolas, Giovanni Di Lorenzo and Hirving Lozano among others, the partenopei were expected to make a Scudetto push after consecutive seasons as runners-up. However, nothing of the sort has taken place and Napoli are currently languishing below mid-table and have replaced Ancelotti with Gennaro Gattuso. Here are three things Napoli should consider to get back on track.

1) Squad revolution: Sell, sell, sell! 

Most of the current Napoli side have been with the club for the greater part of the decade, and have experienced incredible highs and lows. For example: Winning 1-0 in a title decider against Juventus away from home, only to lose the following game to Fiorentina and squander their lead at the top. This undoubtedly remains in the psyche of most of their players.

After a rough start to the season, the club’s veterans turned against Ancelotti and demanded change from the upper hierarchy. Moreover, many of their ageing stars on expiring deals are asking for pay-rises due to their past exploits with the club. Exploits they probably won’t be able to recreate, if we’re being honest. Football works in cycles and one thing is clear: This cycle is over for Napoli and it’s time for a rebuild. Sell Insigne, Mertens, Hysaj and anyone in between. Out with the old and in with the new. That sounds equally exciting as it sounds scary.

2) Stick with Gattuso

This may seem like a stretch especially after the rough start to his tenure, losing four of his first five games, but Napoli would be wise to stay with Gattuso. With a full pre-season under his belt and an entire summer to sign players he wants, the former Milan tactician will have the weapons he needs to make a push for the title next season. In addition, most of his current players appear to have their heads elsewhere and could use a move away and start fresh.

While this season won’t amount to much, it will be a good opportunity for Gattuso to acclimate himself to his new surroundings and establish players he can count on. This will undoubtedly come in handy moving into the new season. In his final season at Milan, the World Cup winner almost got the rossoneri into the Champions League with a far worse roster. Given time and a roster upheaval, Gattuso will prove to be a good fit for Napoli.

3) Establish your core. 

Speaking of finding players to count on, Napoli’s top brass should use the rest of the season and evaluate their squad. Who is sellable and who is untouchable? After this year’s shocking performances, you can argue only Meret, Koulibaly, Di Lorenzo and the newcomers are off-limits. The rest should and arguably will be on the market for the right price. Fabian Ruiz, for example, has shown signs of brilliance but doesn’t look as implicated as he could be for the Napoli cause. Reports suggest Barcelona and Real Madrid are keeping tabs on the Spanish international and could present a bid upwards of 50M for the midfielder.

Another player’s future to consider is Lorenzo Insigne. While the diminutive playmaker is one of the last true bandiere in Italy, it may be time for a move away. After all, he did lead the mutiny against Ancelotti and hasn’t exactly performed on the pitch. As a result, the list of sellable players should far exceed the “untouchables.” In any case, Napoli’s season does present a silver lining: A unique opportunity to reboot and start a new cycle. Hopefully, for them, this one will be filled with silverware and that elusive Scudetto.

Join the most popular Serie A Fantasy game here: www.fantasyseriea.com now!

 

PREVIEW: Napoli-Fiorentina a match between two sides looking to recover

The wait finally ended on Sunday, Fiorentina recording their first Serie A win at home since October 6 as they held off a resilient SPAL to notch a 1-0 victory. The delight on boss Beppe Iachini’s face reflected the relief felt in the stands of the Stadio Artemio Franchi, and four days later they would grab another victory that arguably meant even more.

Continue reading

Early Trends in the January Transfer Window

The beginning of the January transfer window saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return to Milan and Juventus defeating bitter rivals Inter in the race for the breakout player of the season Dejan Kulusevski. While those were the sexy moves, some significant trends also emerged in the first third of the winter window:

 

Napoli rebuilding their midfield

Many praised the partneopei for their work in the summer transfer window, including yours truly. But the fact that they made a coaching change and acted quickly to bring in two veteran midfielders with international experience clearly shows things haven’t gone according to plan for De Laurentiis and sporting director Giuntoli. 

With Gattuso bringing back the 4 3 3 formation following Ancelotti’s varied approach, Napoli’s priority was to find a regista- Lucas Torreira was the their top choice but Arsenal were determined to keep him, so Giuntoli quickly closed the deal with Leipzig for Diego Demme, who was named after Maradona and idolized Gattuso growing up, as well as Celta Vigo for Stanislav Lobotka who was recommended by the club’s former captain Marek Hamsik and had been a target dating back to last summer.

While Napoli always did feel a midfielder short following Hamsik, Rog and Diawara’s departures in 2019, the acquisition of both Demme and Lobotka will impact Zielinski, Allan and Fabian Ruiz’ playing time and may lead to the departure of one of them. Allan has improved since Gattuso’s arrival while Fabian Ruiz has been unrecognizable dating back to the botched team retreat- it will be interesting to see if De Laurentiis chooses to cash in on one of them with a spot in the next Champions League a remote possibility.

 

 

 

Hellas Verona selling their jewels early

In addition to Demme and Lobotka, Napoli are also trying to close the deal for Sofyan Amrabat, one of the best new additions in Serie A following his transfer from Club Brugge to Hellas Verona. The 23 year old Moroccan midfielder is a more technical version of Allan, his arrival would complete the overhaul of the midfield. Amrabat cannot join Napoli in January since he has played matches for two clubs this season and is also a target for Inter.

Amrabat isn’t only Verona player drawing a lot of interest from top teams in Serie A. Central defender Amir Rrahmani has drawn comparisons to Milan Skriniar because of his physicality and effectiveness while Marash Kumbulla has been the leader of Juric’s staunch defense this season despite only being 19 years old. Napoli are set to close the deal for Rrahmani while Inter are leading the race for Kumbulla with both moves being delayed until the summer. 

Inter going all in for scudetto by shopping in the Premier League

Following the home draw to Atalanta, Conte once again brought up the fact that he can’t count on a deep squad after reminding us earlier in the week that in the summer they had to replace three key players in Icardi, Perisic and Nainggolan. Which is in sharp contrast with Juventus since they can essentially field two different starting elevens that could compete for a Champions League spot, leaving directors Marotta and Ausilio with the responsibility of adding a few pieces to the squad to keep up in the scudetto race.

The first need is at the wing back position where Biraghi hasn’t moved the needle and Asamoah has battled injuries, Ashley Young is expected to arrive next week to provide coverage on both the left and the right- he could be Conte’s new version of Simone Padoin who arrived at Juventus during the January window back in 2012. Conte had tried to acquire Young two years ago while at Chelsea, and is now set to get him also because his new club Inter have developed a good relationship with Manchester United.

Following Alexis Sanchez’ injury, Inter have had no choice but to consistently trot out Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez in almost every match, Olivier Giroud- who just like Ashley Young has an expiring contract- will likely come to give them a breather after a recent phone conversation with Conte who managed him at Chelsea.

While Young and Giroud would bring experienced depth to the squad, Marotta is looking to make an addition that truly moves the needle in the midfield. With Arturo Vidal less likely to arrive now that Barcelona are set to make a coaching change, Inter have intensified their pursuit of Christian Eriksen. The Danish midfielder has an expiring contract so the nerazzurri want to first get him to agree to a long term deal and then convince Tottenham to let him go in January rather than losing him for nothing in the summer- while Matias Vecino will probably not get it done in a swap deal, Spurs are asking for about 20 million.

 

Atalanta cashes in while taking a worthy gamble

Few clubs had a better 2019 than Atalanta, who on top of great results on the pitch modernized their stadium while signing their manager Gasperini to an extension. At the start of the new year Atalanta cashed on the breakout player of the Serie A season by selling Dujan Kulesevki to Juventus for the highest transfer fee the bianconeri ever spent on a midfielder- which sounds bad until you realize Kulusevski wasn’t even part of the squad that got achieved all of the recent success.

Atalanta did bolster their defense by bringing back Mattia Caldara on a low risk/high reward move which should help them in stretch run of the season. Caldara has struggled with injuries and the pressures of being at a top club, but he should be able to relaunch his career in a system he knows very well.

 

Bologna continue to add talent

Last summer they followed the Atalanta blue print by targeting players in the secondary leagues abroad for better values- they brought in Tomiyasu Denswil, Schouten and Skov Olsen. In January, Bologna welcomed very highly rated Argentine prospect Nicolas Dominguez who has all the tools to be added to the list of talents discovered by Walter Sabatini and are set to acquire Atalanta’s Musa Barrow who should be an intriguing partner for Palacio and Orsolini upfront.

 

Ending Napoli curse could be watershed moment in Lazio’s Champions League chase

IMG_1556

It’s all too easy to get lost in football statistics nowadays.

For followers of Lazio, this has been truer than ever of late. Every match, every win, every goal, seems to set a new historic landmark or shatter some long-standing record.

Among the avalanche of numbers and information that has tumbled from the slipstream of the Roman club’s nine-match winning run in Serie A was an important moment for Simone Inzaghi.

The Lazio coach had never beaten his Juventus counterpart Maurizio Sarri until December’s thrilling 3-1 victory at the Stadio Olimpico, only to then go and repeat the feat just two weeks later to win the Supercoppa Italiana in Riyadh.

Continue reading

Inter Reinforcing Ahead Of Scudetto Push

Before the season started, many expected Inter to challenge Juventus for the Scudetto, but few foresaw the nerazzurri going toe-to-toe with the Italian champions like this. After seventeen match-days just eight goals and their head-to-head encounter separates the two at the top of the table. Since his arrival, Antonio Conte has already imprinted a clear identity at the San Siro, something that was lacking for years at the club.

Along with his trade-mark 3-5-2 and defensive solidity, the former Chelsea tactician has ensured his Inter side are among the toughest to break down in the peninsula. However, their lack of squad depth has been pegged as the defining factor in their title bid. As a result, Inter sporting director Giuseppe Marotta appears to be dipping into their war-chest and taking to the January mercato aggressively.

Reports suggest that former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is on his way to the club, but Inter will reportedly not stop there. In recent times, they have also been linked with Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Marcos Alonso, Olivier Giroud and Marcos Acuna among many other names, highlighting clearly Inter’s intent. While their list of targets grows as the mercato is set to open, Inter’s needs are clear: Midfield depth, another wing-back to compete with Asamoah and Biraghi, and a striker to provide Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez with some much-needed rest. Alexis Sanchez is also expected to return to action shortly, giving Conte another weapon in the final third. Beyond bolstering the side in key areas, Inter’s reported winter activity highlights one thing clearly: The title is there for the taking this season and they’re going for it.

When Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi went down injured, Conte’s men struggled to create chances and Inter barely overcame their opponents in tight affairs. Recognizing this, Inter loosened their purse strings. That’s where the experience of Vidal comes into play. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, the Chilean remains one of football’s elite box-to-box midfielders and will add some valuable experience in the middle of the park, in what is a relatively young midfield trio.

Up front, Lukaku and Martinez deserve a break. Up until now, the former Manchester United man has featured in all of Inter’s 17 Serie A clashes while his Argentine counterpart has appeared in 16 of the nerazzurri’s domestic affairs. While Sanchez’s injury complicated things, Conte will be eager to add another forward to his offensive ranks. Given he’s already familiar with Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud, the Frenchman’s arrival makes perfect sense. The former Arsenal man still has plenty to offer as a link-up man in the final third and could form quite the partnership with any of the nerazzurri’s front-men.

While adding another fullback is a luxury more than a necessity given Inter’s depth out wide, it demonstrates Conte and Marotta won’t stop until they’ve built a comprehensive side capable of competing on multiple fronts. With the title race likely going down to the wire this season for the first time in years, Inter are reinforcing significantly and won’t go down without a fight. Brace yourselves, we’ve got a title race.

Join the most popular Fantasy Serie A game here: www.fantasyseriea.com

 

 

 

Transfer Watch: One Player For Each of Italy’s Big Six

With the transfer window set to re-open, Serie A clubs are taking to the mercato with differing objectives. While some will be looking for that one missing piece of the puzzle, others are in need of significant retooling. In any case, the January window tends to be quiet, but may present unique opportunities; opportunities clubs simply can’t turn down. Zlatan to Milan, for example.

Here’s one player for each of Italy’s big six.

Juventus - Arturo Vidal: The Italian champions are off to a relatively good start in the Maurizio Sarri era and are looking primed for a deep European run. Despite this, their midfield options leave a lot to be desired and are in dire need of reinforcement. Sami Khedira will spend most of the season sidelined while his stunt-double Emre Can appears to be on his way out.

New signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey haven’t exactly hit the ground running and will need more time to adapt to their new surroundings. As a result, the Chilean midfielder is an ideal target as he is already familiar with the club and will add some much-needed industry in the middle of the park. Juventus, however, will have to stave off significant interest from Inter. After all, it was Giuseppe Marotta who initially brought Vidal to Italy in the first place.

Inter – Dejan Kulusevski: The Atalanta loanee has been in great form this season and has emerged as a significant creative threat in the final third. While Parma will be reluctant to terminate his loan and Atalanta will be looking for an inflated fee, the Swedish international is everything Antonio Conte needs. Industrious off the ball and creative on it.

Currently, the nerazzurri are running with Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, but will need to add depth if they want to compete with Juve’s deep squad. If he’s available, Inter should be all over it.

Roma – Andrea Petagna: Roma go into the New Year in a comfortable position, four points ahead of fifth-place Atalanta and into the knockouts of the Europa League. While Paulo Fonseca has done an incredible job with the tools at his disposal, the giallorossi could use some reinforcements in the January mercato, most notably at backup striker.

Nikola Kalinic frankly has not worked as Roma need someone more reliable in Dzeko’s absence. SPAL’s Andrea Petagna has demonstrated he’s worthy of a shot and has an abundance of experience in Serie A. Other options are Premier League newcomers Patrick Cutrone and Moise Kean. Both have struggled to adjust to life in England, but the latter is unlikely to move now with Ancelotti’s hiring. Cutrone, however, may be worth a punt.

Napoli – Sandro Tonali: While the Brescia midfielder is arguably on everyone’s Christmas wish-list, Napoli should do whatever it takes to acquire Tonali. Whether they secure him and loan him back directly to his parent club for the rest of the season, or slightly overpay to acquire him immediately, Tonali is exactly the type of player the partenopei need.

He is equally capable of dictating play as he is breaking it up and is a self-proclaimed Gattuso fan-boy. Many may liken him to Andrea Pirlo, but Tonali himself admits his style of play is closer to that of the Napoli tactician. Who knows if that plays into his decision? Regardless, it’s worth a shot.

Milan – Jeremie Boga: Milan have been crying out for a creative force down the left for years now and have yet to see anyone of note arrive. The Sassuolo midfielder is a constant menace in the final third and is regularly beating his man with ease, averaging 4.1 successful dribbles per game. At just 22, Boga would fit in with Milan’s supposed youth movement and should be available for a decent price.

In addition to playing on the left, he can also slot in as a trequartista should a new manager arrive in the summer and shake up the system. Boga to Milan is a no-brainer.

Lazio – Daniele Rugani: This seems like a long-shot, but Lazio could use another defender, especially if they want to compete with Juve and Inter for the Scudetto. Rugani desperately needs a change of scenery and could benefit from playing under the inspiring Simone Inzaghi. The biancocelesti could use another ball-playing centre-back alongside Francesco Acerbi, something Rugani proved to be at Empoli.

The Juventus man is currently out-of-favour in Turin and could be available on a short-term loan with an option to buy. Under the right conditions, Rugani to Lazio may just make enough sense.

Join the most popular Fantasy Serie A game here: www.fantasyseriea.com

 

 

 

Carlo Ancelotti is not the manager Everton are looking for

Everton have been without a manager for two weeks after sacking Marco Silva once the club had dropped into the relegation zone. But no Everton fan could have predicted that the next man coming in would be Carlo Ancelotti- but is the Italian the right manager for Everton?

In Silva’s absence Duncan Ferguson a bona fide club legend stepped up and was given the care taker job. From the minute Ferguson took his position inevitably Everton have looked like a different team. Suddenly they are good enough to beat Chelsea, to draw away to Manchester United and to take Leicester to penalties in the Carabao Cup.

But enough of the players what about the Scotsman Ferguson who bleeds Everton blue blood- he loves the club and it shows. No one will forget his touchline joy with two ball boys when Everton scored against Chelsea- and went on to win the game 3-1. Against Manchester United in his 2nd game in charge he took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, except it wasn’t sunny, it was windy and rainy. But that is Ferguson all over, he wants to involve himself in the game as much as he can without playing on the actual pitch. For any Everton fan it would have been a joy to witness the last few weeks of what has been a miserable season so far for the club.

In post match interviews Ferguson has sounded like a fan given the caretaker job- but underneath it all he is a professional and has so much pride having this chance to manage the club. However he has filled fans hearts they will know himself that the club are going through that honeymoon moment and sure enough the penny will drop and the club will go back to poor form. They need investment and they also need a manager with proven skills. Ferguson is building his up, and it seems only natural he will step aside for whoever comes in. That man seems to be Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti has won over 15 major trophies as manager. He has won Champions Leagues with AC Milan and Real Madrid, countless league titles with Juventus and won the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich. He has of course coached in the Premier League and won the double for Chelsea. In short he would be massive for the club, and he is one of the best managers the game has witnessed in the last 20 years no doubt about it.

The problem is will Ancelotti and Everton be a good fit? Everywhere Ancelotti has gone he has already had world class players at his disposal and then a generous owner who has given him many millions. True Everton owner Farhad Moshiri does have some deep pockets, and Everton are one of the highest spending clubs in the league- but they have sold many players too to raise funds. It seems unlikely that Ancelotti will be given upwards of £200m in the summer- that is evidently what it will take to move Everton onto the next level.

In one sense Anceotti should be congratulated. He is taking a step down and a risk to go to a club like Everton who have flirted in recent seasons with the bottom half of the table. At the same time one wonders if Ancelotti’s best days are behind him? He was sacked as manager of Napoli after they lost distance in Serie A and his normal win rates of between 65-70% diminished to just 50% under Napoli.

Ancelotti will come into the club and should raise the standard, no doubt about that, but it may not last as long as one would hope. He needs to come in and understand the clubs philosophy, the players he has, the owners, the fans- this takes time and it could well be a difficult six months until the summer where he will have proper transfer funds. So would it not be better to stick with Ferguson until then at least? Or would it be better not to pay Ancelotti a kings ransom which he will surely get and look for a more hungrier, younger manager with a proven win rate?

Look at Arsenal a club in crisis who have reportedly lost interest in the highly experience Ancelotti for Mikel Arteta, who has no first team coaching experience but is being mentored by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

In getting in Ancelotti and saying good bye so quickly to Ferguson it just seems that we were given some insight to a football free from the powers of money and Premier League marketing. Everton had taken a time travel machine but of positive vibes. Before you can say suited and booted they are back with a classy Italian in charge. Hopefully he will be able to understand the club and his job quick enough not to be picking up an early P45.

He deserves all of the plaudits and hopefully if Ancelotti is indeed appointed as manager he can really move the club up to the next level, one just wonders if this move is a smart one or a vanity one?

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Sassuolo vs Napoli: Team news, stats and prediction

After spoiling AC Milan’s 120th birthday festivities last weekend at the San Siro, and winning midweek vs Brescia, Sassuolo return home to host Gennaro Gattuso’s Napoli where they hope to continue feeding the coin in the Azzurri’s rollarcoaster season. 

Life in Naples did not get off to a roaring start for new boss Gennaro Gattuso last weekend. Gervinho and Dejan Kulusevski sawed the Partenopei open for two goals, with the Ivorian delivering a gut wrenching blow in the dying embers of the match to pick up the 2-1 win for Parma. Certainly, the Calabrese will look to rebound quickly and please his new boss Aurelio De Laurentiis with a positive result this Sunday against a Sassuolo side on the rise.

TEAM NEWS

As Gattuso enters week two on the job, he is without question still feeling out the roster and trying to determine who fits best in his system. Though the 4-3-3 should remain largely unchanged, it will see at least one personnel switch at the back with Kalidou Koulibaly out for projected starter 23-year old Sebastiano Luperto.

The world class Senegalese defender has not enjoyed a strong season, uncharacteristically prone to errors and out of the form that stirred quite the debate on who was the best central defender in Europe today. After coming off with a hamstring injury, Koulibaly will need to be picked up by Luperto or Maksimovic and help restore some order to matters in the back where Napoli have leaked in far too many goals this season.

In the midfield, we can expect the same three of Piotr Zielinski, Allan and Fabian Ruiz to get starting nods, with perhaps the possibility of the Spaniard occupying the deeper role. Ruiz registered four shots last weekend vs Parma, two of which tested Luigi Sepe’s net. Spraying the ball around at 95% clip, expect the success of Napoli’s performance to rest on the shoulder of Ruiz.

Up front, Hirving Lozano is projected to replace José Callejon on the right wing, with Arkadiusz Milik and Lorenzo Insigne maintaining their starting positions from last weekend. Regardless of who spearheads Napoli’s attacking assault, they simply must improve their finishing and efficiency, concerns that have persisted for much of the campaign. In defeat to Parma, the San Paolo outfit launched 33 shots, only 8 of which found the target and 1 the back of the net. Napoli are getting in the right positions, but lack cutting edge and end product to make it all count.

Projected Sassuolo XI (4-2-3-1): Pegolo; Muldur, Romagna, Ferrari, Kyriakopoulos; Magnanelli, Locatelli; Berardi, Djuricic, Boga; Caputo.

Projected Napoli XI (4-3-3): Meret; Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Luperto, Rui; Allan, Ruiz, Zielinski; Lozano, Milik, Insigne.

STATS

In previous years, Napoli would have been the heavy favorite in this fixture, but both times and performances have surely changed. As for Sassuolo, Roberto De Zerbi’s young side is hitting quite the patch of form, even if they have not been picking up wins. During these previous four matches, the Neroverdi earned draws against the following sides: Juventus (A, 2-2), Cagliari (H, 2-2) and AC Milan (A, 0-0). They also enter this challenge having won midweek 2-0 over Brescia.

Here are a few more key facts below:

  • Napoli are unbeaten in their previous 6 meetings with Sassuolo, winning 3 and drawing 3.
  • The Partenopei have failed to pick up a win in their last 8 Serie A matches.
  • Sassuolo have conceded at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 6 home matches in Serie A.

PREDICTION

It is becoming increasingly difficult to read what type of Napoli will show up each weekend. There is a certain sharpness they have lacked the entire season under Carlo Ancelotti and the one match Gattuso has been in charge. If it is not the defence committing costly errors, it is the midfield or attacking letting them down. Collectively however, Napoli simply have left much to be desired and until they turn in a performance more in line with previous seasons, it is hard to expect them to handle matters at Mapei Stadium in convincing fashion. Having said all this, there is belief in Gattuso getting a reaction from his men after losing at the death last Saturday, which is why this has the potential to be a scrappy fight and one with plenty of goals. Napoli’s back four will have their hands full with Jeremie Boga, Domenico Berardi and Francesco Caputo, but this will be where the winless streak is snapped.

Sassuolo 2-3 Napoli

How well do you know Italian football? Do you want to battle the best Serie A Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

What to Watch for in Serie A: Round 16

In the wonderfully enthralling world of Serie A calcio, it can be incredibly difficult to keep up with the current news, developing storylines, team performances and individual efforts on a weekly basis. This is where we come in.

As we head into round 16 of play on Italian soil, and rapidly approach the midway point of the 2019/20 season, we will begin to establish what is worth keeping an eye on and what should be less of a priority.

Here are five things to watch for in Serie A this weekend. Continue reading

Lazio won’t win the Scudetto – but that doesn’t mean their herculean efforts don’t deserve celebration

IMG_1556

Lazio’s win over Juventus on Saturday was a statement.

Coming from behind to become the first team to beat Maurizio Sarri’s side this season certainly peaked the attention of any dozy onlookers who hadn’t noticed the momentum building on the blue side of Rome.

The result spoke volumes about the progress this team is making. And it spoke loudly.

It said that Simone Inzaghi’s side are no flat-track bullies, that this is a team capable of beating anyone on their day.

It said that the days of flopping on the big occasion, of failing to respond to adversity, of choking at crucial moments, are behind them. Continue reading