Napoli have secured the Scudetto with a draw away at Udinese (1-1), but it has been evident for a while that the Partenopei would eventually be crowned champions this season. GIFN’s Jurre van Wanrooij takes a look at Napoli’s winning formula.
With five rounds left in the current Serie A season, Napoli have already confirmed themselves as Champions of Italy. After Lazio beat Sassuolo on Wednesday, the Partenopei only needed a draw to clinch the Scudetto. That is exactly what the result was at the Dacia Arena in Udine. Sandi Lovric opened the scoring for Udinese, while who other than Victor Osimhen equalized for the Partenopei. Osimhen’s goal would be the last one of the match, which meant that nobody could take away the Scudetto from Napoli anymore. Celebrations began in Udine, Naples and other places around the world.
Obviously, it’s very easy to point towards the masked Osimhen and his companion in attack Khvicha Kvaratskhelia when talking about Napoli’ success. The duo undoubtedly play a massive part in the southeners title charge this season, with 22 and 12 league goals respectively. The Georgian wonderkid was also Napoli’s top assister in Serie A with 10. But there are other reasons for Napoli’s successes as well.
Kvaratskhelia was only one of the excellent deals (approximately €11.5 million) completed by Napoli last summer to build their super squad, which brings us to another pillar of the Azzurri’ Scudetto – Cristiano Giuntoli. Napoli’s Sporting Director, rumoured to be interested in a new challange at rivals Juventus, managed to put together an amazing squad for Luciano Spalletti. Min-jae Kim, Mathías Olivera, Giacomo Raspadori, Tanguy Ndombélé, Leo Østigård and Giovanni Simeone were all added to the Partenopei’s roster, while Pierluigi Gollini joined Napoli in the winter.
All of these players have played a part in Napoli winning the Scudetto. Personally, I think Napoli came out victorious this season because of their big squad. At almost every position, there were at least two quality players that could rotate or fill in for guys in the starting eleven. Even Gollini, who almost never featured in the first half of the season on loan at Spurs, came in clutch with some big saves against Atalanta when Alex Meret got injured in the warm-up.
When talisman Osimhen struggled with an injury, both Raspadori and Simeone stepped up to bail Napoli out. The former managed to bag a late winner against Spezia at the Maradona, while the latter headed the Partenopei towards victory at San Siro against Scudetto holders Milan. Those two moments prove again how important it is to have a great bench.
Raspadori was very important for Napoli in their Champions League campaign, but is yet to really show his full potential in Serie A. However, that may also have to do with finding the right position for the Azzurri player. Apart from that last minute goal against Spezia, Raspasdori added another last gasp winner at the Allianz Stadium against Juventus. He came on as a substitute and banged in a cross by Eljif Elmas to grap all three points in Turin, putting Napoli even closer to that Scudetto.
Season of a lifetime
A lot of members of the Napoli squad had the season of their lives (at least, up until now). Meret was doubted by many people, but showed to be one of the better goalkeepers in the league. Il Capitano Giovanni Di Lorenzo is the prime example of why you should never give up and was important is both the defensive and offensive phases.
In midfield, Stanislav Lobotka even earned the nickname of Napoli’s Andres Iniesta throughout the season for his calmness in build-up and elite line-breaking passing. After some struggles in his early Napoli career, he proved to be an incredible player in the prime of his football life. Next to him in the middle of the pitch, we can find one of the unsung heroes of the Partenopei. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa was already on loan at Napoli last season and that move was made permanent in the summer. He was a great choice by Giuntoli and co, because Zambo Anguissa dropped many exceptional performances against the best midfields of Italy and Europe.
Honestly, we don’t really need to touch upon the attack. Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia have carried the Neapolitans many times this season and have deservedly received tons of credit. While they’re the poster boys for Napoli’s Scudetto, it can’t be emphasised enough how important the strength of the overall squad was.
You’d almost forget that this team has an excellent coach too. Luciano Spalletti deserves a massive round of applause for his achievements this season. His team almost single handedly changed the way other countries looked towards Italian football because of his positive approach and enjoyable playstyle. He’s managed to put almost every player in a position that gets the most quality out of them, thus creating a well-oiled machine. Kvaratskhelia and Kim looked like they’ve been playing at Napoli for years, which Spalletti plays a big role in.
The only criticism that I would give against Spalletti is that Napoli didnt really have a ‘plan B’. Whenever their tactics didn’t work out, Spalletti was often hesitant to change tactics and personnel. A lot of it came down to just smashing it long to Osimhen (not a bad plan either). Towards the end of the season, more teams found out how to effectively battle Napoli. Milan proved to be their Kryptonite, beating Napoli twice (0-4 and 1-0) and drawing them once (1-1) in the month of April. The Rossoneri also knocked Napoli out of the Champions League.
Of course, this shouldn’t take away anything from the monumental season this Napoli squad has had. They deserve the Scudetto more than anyone, and so does the city of Naples. Like we could see in all of the footage, it is a city that breathes calcio like no other, and this Championship will have a great impact. Where to next for this squad? Even though nobody quite knows who’ll still be there come September, owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has already set a new goal: the Champions League.
Jurre van Wanrooij | GIFN