Warning: The title of the post should only be “the Bad and the Ugly” for this match.
Napoli tied 1-1 vs the last place team, Sassuolo. First off, every Napoli fan jumping off a bridge or screaming that now the Scudetto is out of reach, need to take a breather and calm down. Napoli was not going to go 38-0. Granted they lost two points to the last place team and, we, the fans, did not expect that to happen especially playing at home. Although Napoli got off to a good start with Blerim Dzemaili scoring one of his bookmark screamers 14 minutes into the match, after that it was just bad in all fronts for Napoli. Only five minutes later, Simone Zaza took a bad angle shot that caught Pepe Reina sleeping to tie the game up at 1-1.
- US Sassuolo: Need to give credit when credit is due. This was the first ever point in their history in Serie A (it is their first season). They deployed a 4-3-3, with Simone Zaza and Domenico Berardi leading the charge. The manager made changes to their line-up from the previous week, which looked like it worked. Another player who had an imppressive performance was Jasmin Kurtic; both he and Zaza exploited Giandomenico Mesto side of the pitch. The team was also very efficient with under 40% of possession they had having 18 total shots directed to the net (6 on, 4 off target and 7 blocked). Also, considering Sassuolo has a population of just over 40K went into a stadium that has a capacity of over 76K
- Blerim Dzemaili: Perhaps the only bright spot of Napoli side was Dzemaili. He had the opening goal and throughout the rest of the game played well, with an 84% pass completion rate, two tackles and two interceptions.
- Honorable Mentions: Dries Mertens (still finding his way but looks like he is getting there), Pepe Reina (besides the first goal, made 2 key saves)
- Napoli: I literally can put almost every single player that was on the pitch for this game (I will put a few). The team lack cohesion, pace and urgency. It seemed that Napoli took Sassuolo match lightly and the end results showed it.
- Goran Pandev: Can Pandev from pre-season please stand-up? He can’t because he is no longer on the squad. I do not understand what goes on with Pandev when matches are important. His experience and play are needed especially for squad rotation and matches like this to step up.
- Marek Hamsik: As fans, we need to hope that this very bad game from Hamsik is due to fatigue. He was just off base during the game. Did not create much, missed passes and was never in any dangerous zone.
- Pablo Armero: His crosses into the box were not up to his usual standards and was simply disappointing. He needs to get better in a hurry as well, with Christian Maggio out for a few weeks.
- Giandomenico Mesto: Besides his goal line clearance, Mesto was not able to keep pace with Zaza/Beradi/Kurtic and when he got involved in the play it was just bad.
- Rafa Benitez Squad Rotation: I am not against the squad rotation – I find it important considering Napoli schedule. However, I believe Benitez made the wrong choices. Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain should have rested. He should not have started Frederico Fernandez and Paolo Cannavaro together. Obviously, we do not know the fitness level of players like Napoli coaching staff does, however inserting Duvan Zapata in the place of Higuain, should have happened. Perhaps the mentality of not having Higuain on the pitch would have made the other players play with more urgency. Hindsight it is always easier to judge.
- Frederico Fernandez: I am commenting not on the actual player, but on the post-game comments, twitter reaction and articles about Fernandez – reading that he doesn’t deserve to wear a Napoli shirt, never play for Napoli again. Here, again, everyone needs to calm down. It was his first game of the campaign. The holding midfield and the front four did not play well. He is 24 years old and a starter for Argentina (where he does well when he plays) so give him a chance. The fact he missed a golden opportunity to give Napoli a lead did not help his cause with critics, however, he is not paid to score. He was still the best passer with a 92% success rate (he has a very good first pass).
In the end, the previous week Napoli were on a high with wins in Champions league and away vs AC Milan, so I guess the player came down from their emotional high (I think the match would have been better playing away from Stadio San Paolo). There is a quick turnaround as Napoli play on Saturday away versus Genoa (who are coming off a loss to Udinese 1-0). We should see more squad rotation (seeing as on Tuesday October 1, Napoli are away at the Emirates Stadium versus Arsenal). Hopefully Napoli rebound and not lose more points in their chase of the Scudetto.
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