Napoli Season Review: Coming Up Just Short

In previous years, Napoli have been the closest challenger to the dominance of Juventus. It was Inter Milan who bucked the trend last season under Simone Inzaghi. This year was another chance for someone other than the Old Lady, but it was ultimately a disappointment in Naples. Here is a Napoli season review for 2021/22.

A Review on This Inconsistent Napoli Season

Pre-Season

Starting before a ball was even kicked and it was a relatively quiet pre-season for Napoli. Tiemoue Bakayoko was on loan with Napoli last season but this time around he went to eventual champions AC Milan. The big departure was Greek centre-half Kostas Manolas who returned to Olympiacos after spending several years in Italy.

On the flip side, it was again all about the loans. Matteo Politano’s loan move over from Inter was made permanent. There was then a pair of players arriving on a temporary basis from the Premier League. Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzabe and Fulham midfielder Zambo Anguissa came through the door with the former’s transfer coming with an option for a sale.

Early in the Napoli Season

The early stages of the Napoli season were electric, the first loss of the season coming in week 13. By this point, Luciano Spalletti’s side had put four past both Udinese and Sampdoria as well as coming from behind at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium to beat Juventus. With this being the first season that the stadium was named as such, on top of the iconic duo Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne departing after a long time with the club.

Week 14 saw the first loss of the Napoli season, a lively encounter at the San Siro saw Inter come out on top 3-2. From week four to week 15, Napoli were sitting on top of the tree and flying high. It then went downhill with just two wins in a nine-game streak across November and December.

AFCON and Injury Struggles

A pressing issue that caused this drop-off in form was the African Cup of Nations as well as a number of injuries. There were a few positive results in and around January and February when AFCON was taking place, but the side suffered all the same. Victor Osimhen was leading the team in goals, performing very well in and around the box, and he went away to play for Nigeria. Anguissa, captain Kalidou Koulibaly and Adam Ounas also went to represent Cameroon, Senegal and Algeria respectively.

Going back to the late stages of 2021 for the Napoli season and they beat Milan on the road thanks to an early goal from Eljif Elmas. This was the only good result against those teams with similar ambitions in this spell. The Little Donkey drew away at Juventus whilst they lost at home versus Atalanta. Although they did get their revenge on Gasperini’s men in the reverse fixture.

Europa League Exploits

Along with trying to thrive on a domestic front, the Napoli season needed some European success. Having missed out on the top four last term, it was the Europa League that beckoned this time around. In a group that contained, Spartak Moscow, Leicester City and Legia Warsaw, they finished second to Spartak on goal difference. Interestingly enough, they lost both games against the Russians whilst collating ten points from the other four games.

It was a difficult draw straight out of the groups with Barcelona waiting for them. This was the first season that saw the new format and so a playoff was in store before entering the proper knockouts. Polish international Piotr Zielinski scored for Napoli whilst Ferran Torres was on target at the other end in a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou. An emphatic display in the second leg from the Blaugrana ended any Napoli hopes of a European title, losing the tie 5-3 on aggregate.

Napoli Season Review – The Last Word

As previously mentioned, the Napoli season got off to a very good start. Injuries to key players led to a decline in results and Spalletti’s men were unable to recover. They secured Champions League football for next season which is certainly exciting. They have a number of players on their hands who are worth a pretty penny so this transfer window promises to be worth keeping an eye on, both for incomings and outgoings.

Insigne is a Neapolitan through-and-through so it was an emotional send-off for him and Mertens too. It remains to be seen where the future of the latter lies, meanwhile, the former will be making the move stateside. The legend will be playing for Toronto FC.

Juventus are still in uncertain times, it remains to be seen whether Max Allegri will continue in charge or not. On the other hand, both Milan clubs were very impressive this year. Inter are rumoured to be losing a number of key pieces but AC are gearing up for a fierce title defence.

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