Maurizio Sarri has Napoli’s best interests at heart. A Naples native since birth, he joined the Italian giants from Empoli in 2015 and hasn’t looked back since. Napoli have been there or thereabouts in each of the last two years but the same old issues have tended to crop up – this current squad is arguably well-equipped to win only a third Serie A crown and their first since the 1989/90 campaign.
A quick glance at the Serie A table tells you everything you need to know: Napoli are in pole position to win the Italian title this season. Defending champions Juventus, Scudetti winners in each of the last six years, are just one point behind Sarri’s side and Napoli know that this is far from over. Every win is crucial in the race to knock Juve off their perch and Sarri will be quietly confident of masterminding a Serie A title triumph.
Some people will read this title and scratch their heads, and rightly so. Napoli have been the standout team in Serie A this campaign, both in attack and defence. Only Juventus (35) have scored more goals than Sarri’s side (32) and only AS Roma (7) have conceded fewer than the current league leaders (8). Rotation isn’t obligatory but Sarri must react if Napoli begin to show signs of weariness at any stage of the season.
The Napoli boss has been quite particular about who plays on a weekly basis; some players have been sat on the sidelines for the entire season whilst others have played every minute of every game. According to WhoScored, Napoli’s four main defenders have featured in nine games or more this season. The next highest figure is four appearances, and two of those were from the substitute’s bench.
Every manager has their favourites but Sarri can’t afford to become predictable in style, strategy and squad selection. Take Juve for example. The defending champions are blessed with one of the strongest rosters in world football and Massimiliano Allegri has a few game changers on the bench. If needed, he can turn to his substitutes when Juventus are chasing a contest. More often than not, Juve will end up winning.
And that is what separates the good teams from the great ones. Sarri could consider giving somebody like Dries Mertens or Marek Hamsik a brief rest on the bench – either player would give Napoli a major boost coming onto the field midway through the game. In tight contests, punters may be tempted to wager on Napoli in live betting markets if somebody like Mertens is fresh and running at the opposing defence.
We’re only 11 matches into the 2017/18 Serie A season and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. For now, Napoli have the edge but Sarri cannot afford to take his foot off the gas. Is he an elite manager? The jury is still out – this is the perfect opportunity for him to rewrite the history books. And with a bit of tinkering with his current selection policy, Napoli might just win a third Serie A crown.
– Games: 12
– Wins: 10
– Goals: 35
Title number 7 incoming
— The Sportsman (@TheSportsman) November 6, 2017