Serie A Weekend: The New Napoli Taking Shape

20th January 2019, Stadio San Paolo, Naples, Italy; Serie A football, Napoli versus Lazio; Arkadiusz Milik of Napoli celebrates after scoring his goal for 2-0 in the 37th minute (photo by NaFoto/Action Plus via Getty Images)

Serie A returned from its winter break with some absolutely cracking results. There was the outstanding 3-2 between Roma and Torino, or the even better 3-3 between Fiorentina and Sampdoria. Not to mention Duvan Zapata and his four goals against Frosinone. However, let’s start with the big game of the weekend; Lazio vs Napoli.

Serie A Weekend: The New Napoli Taking Shape

It has been a strange season for Napoli. The departure of Maurizio Sarri was supposed to signal a shift at the San Paolo, with most people unsure about how Carlo Ancelotti would do in Naples, but his introduction has brought about the changes needed at the club and he has done quite well filling the gaps Sarri left behind.

Filling those gaps started with the rotation of the squad. One of the issues with the Sarri-ball era at Napoli was how poorly the team played whenever Sarri was forced to rotate the squad. No matter the player, no matter the reason, Napoli really struggled without every member of their first choice eleven. However, that has not at all been the case for Ancelotti as his team has thrived.

On Sunday, they took on Lazio without some of their best players. No Marek Hamsik, no Lorenzo Insigne, no Kalidou Koulibaly and no Allan. That many missing players would have almost certainly meant a loss for Napoli, but that’s not the case for Ancelotti’s new Napoli.  They put together a very strong and controlled performance in their 2-1 win over Lazio.

Napoli 2-1 Lazio

It was one of those games that, from the moment it began, everyone knew it would be wild. The first half was played a frantic, end-to-end pace that if not for two outstanding goalkeepers, it could’ve been 4-4. The player who had to feel most aggrieved was Arkadiusz Milik. The Polish striker hit the post and forced an outstanding off-balanced save from Thomas Strakosha in the first 30 minutes.

He was not aggrieved for very long. First, he played a key part in taking a turnover in possession by Lazio and making it into a Jose Callejon goal. Then just a few minutes later, Milik fired in a world-class free kick that gave Napoli a 2-0 lead. They had been the better side, but Lazio had played quite well to still be down 2-0.

Lazio did well to stay in the game but, apart from Ciro Immobile’s lovely equalizer, did not create enough. Luis Alberto and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic were not at their best in the second half and Lazio suffered for it. The loss takes Lazio out of the top four, which is so tightly compact.

Roma and Milan Move Up

Lazio dropped in the table because both Roma and AC Milan were able to pick up all three points in their return to Serie A action. The Roma game was all about Niccolo Zaniolo, the 19-year-old Italian midfielder who is here to stay. The ex-Inter youth had already produced a world-class goal, sitting down the entire Sassuolo defence, but on Saturday he did a great job rebounding his own miss and putting in the back of the net.

Zaniolo has been a revelation for Roma this season. The 19-year-old was used as a throw-in for the Radja Naingollan summer transfer and Inter Milan look like they’re going to regret that. Zaniolo’s recent play has been giving some pretty lofty praise, with comparisons to Paul Pogba and Milinkovic-Savic already coming up. Truth be told, he has been that good but only time will tell.

As for Milan, they got a very professional 2-0 win over Genoa in their first game without Gonzalo Higuain. Suso returned and scored a lovely right-footed goal after Fabio Borini had broken a tight deadlock. With Genoa’s own Krzysztof Piatek making a Milan move in the coming days, things could be getting even better.

Quagliarella and Zapata

Neither Fabio Quagliarella or Duvan Zapata are the type of players that draw attention to Serie A. Yet, after 20 games of Serie A action, the pair sit tied with Cristiano Ronaldo atop the Capocannoniere standings, and it has taken some incredible form for them to get there.

Zapata only had one Serie A goal at the start of December but has since scored 14 in his last eight games. Quagliarella, someone featured quite heavily in this space, is having his best Serie A season at age 35. He has scored in each of his last ten games bagging, 12 goals in that time; a fantastic story for both.


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