Will the Old Lady Finally Lose Her Crown?

Feb 12, 2018

For six consecutive seasons Juventus have earned the right to call themselves the best team in Italy, yet for the first time in years, the ‘Old Lady’s’ coronation is not a forgone conclusion. Under the stewardship of Maurizio Sarri, Napoli finally have the means to win their first Scudetto since the days of Diego Maradona.

Holding a one-point advantage, and with just fifteen games remaining, Napoli are more than capable of toppling the existing hierarchy. Indeed, there are a number of 1Xbet bicoin bonus code users that are lucratively rewarding were you to back such a thing to occur.

It is hard to underestimate just how good Napoli are under Sarri’s guidance. A disciple of the legendary Marcelo Bielsa, Sarri has managed to fuse together a side that is all at once razor sharp in attack, but never brittle, complacent or unaware. A fact best evidenced in that Napoli have managed to score fifty league goals yet maintain the best defensive record in Serie A.

So much of this has to do with the near perfect cohesion of the side.

In goal, far from his Liverpool heyday, Pepe Reina continues to be a reliable shot stopper, while in front of him in the heart of defence Koulibaly and Albiol are the ideal synthesis between technically and physically proficient.

On either flank, Napoli have perhaps the best fullback combination in world football; Algerian Faouzi Ghoulam on the left and Albanian Elseid Hysaj operating as his mirror image. The two operate in perfect harmony, rotating the labours of supporting the attack endlessly, looking like pistons from some enormous engine.

Napoli’s most famous aspect of their team is their forward triumvirate of Dries Mertens, José Callejón and Lorenzo Insigne. The three combine, demonstrating the saying, ‘great things come in small packages’ to be unequivocally true. Despite all being under five-foot- eight, Napoli continue to carve sides open with startling regularity. Punishing teams with a heady mix of pace, skill, balance and finishing so cool it would put the Artic Tundra to shame.

For all the endless gushing praise Napoli’s attack receive, it is perhaps its midfield trio that are the sides best aspect. Screening the defence and launching play, sits Jorginho and his one-time compatriot Allan. The two make the laboriously difficult job of setting the sides tempo look almost mundane, such is the ease with which they operate.

Finally, we have the talisman, Marek Hamšík. A player so good he may even surpass the legendary Diego Maradona in terms of importance and legacy for the Neapolitans, just as he recently surpassed his goal scoring record.

Napoli’s biggest threat to domestic domination doesn’t come from Juventus, it stems from a lack of resources within their own disposal. While Juventus can rotate their squad, and see no position suffer, Napoli have no such embarrassment of riches.

Already the loss of Arkadiusz Milik, the side’s plan B, has been keenly felt. The luxury of using the talented Pole on those rare occasions in which Napoli fail to threaten is something that is hard to underestimate.

The continued absence of Ghoulam has been lessened by the fine displays of Mário Rui, on loan from Roma, yet in the season’s closing fixtures Napoli will no doubt miss the Algerian’s brilliance.

The one area of the park in which Napoli are well stocked is in midfield where Marko Rog, Amadou Diawara and Piotr Zieliński have all made their impact felt and aided the team substantially – even if they aren’t at the level of the starting eleven.

The closing months of Serie A will hopefully showcase something that no other ‘Big Five’ league can – a gripping title chase.

With Sarri in the dugout, and a little bit of luck in the injury department, we may see what so many in Italy have longed for; The Old Lady cast from her throne, crown removed from her brow sent cascading to the Turin turf….


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