As the new Serie A season begins, Napoli are coming for the crown. They now have their best shot at winning Serie A for years. For the last eight seasons, Juventus have had a stranglehold on the Scudetto, but it has been a strange and turbulent summer for the Biaconneri, and there is still more to come. Meanwhile, in the south of Italy, their biggest competitor has gotten a lot better.
Napoli Have a Huge Chance to Win Serie A 2019/20
Last season was a bit of a transition for Napoli. Obviously, a change in manager from Maurizio Sarri to Carlo Ancelotti is going to bring, at the very least, a large transition. The players had to get used to a new formation, new tactics, and most importantly, a new person in charge.
That stuff is easy – most of it is down to basic human interaction. Where Napoli’s transition really could’ve been hard was with the players. They were not only transitioning away from players who were getting old but players who had thrived under Maurizio Sarri.
For example, players like Raul Albiol, who had been Kalidou Koulibaly’s defensive partner for four seasons, was suddenly displaced. Dries Mertens only started 23 games after starting 35 the season previous. Ancelotti wanted to see what the squad could do, see what positions he still needed to fill.
Some decisions were obvious. Mertens lost his starts to Arkadiusz Milik, who scored 17 goals in Serie A. Marek Hamsik left for China in January because he knew Fabian Ruiz was the real deal. Moving on from Albiol may seem simple with hindsight, but they didn’t know who would replace him then.
So they went out and made replacing Albiol their top priority. Almost immediately after the window officially opened, Napoli had signed Kostas Manolas from Roma. The 27-year-old Greek international has been one of the best centre-backs in Serie A for years. His conservative, recovery-based playing style will fit perfectly alongside Koulibaly in defence.
They weren’t done there. They spent the next month flirting with James Rodriguez, Nicolas Pepe and Hirving Lozano. They tried but failed to get Rodriguez and Pepe, though they put a good effort. They ended up signing Hriving Lozano, and while he may not be considered on the same level as those other two, there is a top player there.
Lozano had been playing as a traditional right-winger for PSV Eindhoven. He stays on the touchline and gets to the byline with incredible pace and dribbling skills. His creating ability has a lot to do with why Luuk de Jong scored so many goals for PSV over the past few years. Plus, he has a fantastic performance and goal in the 2018 World Cup against Germany on his resume as well.
Manolas and Lozano are joined by young Macedonian prospect Eljif Elmas and Italian right-back Giovanni Di Lorenzo. Elmas probably isn’t going to play much this season but he seems like a really interesting future prospect in midfield. Di Lorenzo is another solid right-back that can plug and play solid for Carlo Ancelotti.
All of these new additions make Napoli possibly the deepest team in Serie A. They will be able to rotate across the back four with proven Serie A players. Obviously, some are more limited than others, but with a back four of Elseid Hysaj, Manolas, Koulibaly and Faouzi Ghoulam, Napoli fans can feel comfortable.
Plus, they have goalkeeper Alex Meret healthy and ready to start the season. The 22-year-old did well for himself despite an injury-plagued first season at Napoli. With continuity and a strong centre-back partnership in front of him, Meret could be the x-factor fir them. If he struggles, both David Ospina and Orestis Karnezis filled in well when called upon.
As we go forward in Ancelotti’s team, the options get even better. His double pivot in midfield is going to see Allan and Fabian Ruiz starting, with Piotr Zielinski and Elmas rotating in. Most of last season, Zielinski started on the left side of a midfield four, with Jose Maria Callejon opposite. With Amadou Diawara gone to Roma, Zielinski is going to be required to be inside more often.
Napoli’s Attacking Threat
But that shouldn’t be a problem with the depth Napoli has on the wing. We mentioned Hirving Lozano, his addition adds real depth and star power to the Napoli wing, and they know what they will get from Jose Callejon. The Spanish winger always has been and always will be an expert at getting to the byline with pace.
It’s not just Lozano and Callejon, they’re backed up by solid pros Simone Verdi and Amin Younes. Younes is as much of an x-factor as anyone in Serie A. Its now been two-and-a-half years since he tore his anterior cruciate ligament after lighting up the Europa League for Ajax. It says a lot about their expectations for Younes that they are sending another winger, Adam Ounas, out on loan.
The real quality in this Napoli side has always been upfront. Lorenzo Insigne, Arkadiusz Milik and Dries Mertens make up an exceptional rotation of attacking players. Ancelotti has tried to play all three of them, with Insigne playing as a winger. It did not work as well as one might hope last season, but it is another option available to Ancelotti.
Napoli Can Catch Juventus
Despite all the positive things about Napoli, they are still going to need some help. Juventus are going to have to regress in the league. Whether that be via a Champions League push, or in their squad, Napoli are counting on it happening this season. To be fair to them, there are plenty of signs that Juventus will take a step back.
For starters, no matter how great he still is, Cristiano Ronaldo is still 35-years-old. He only scored 27 goals in all competitions last season, his lowest total in ten years. He might not even get that many goals this season, so it will be on his Juventus teammates to step up.
Paulo Dybala, the world is looking at you. The Argentine superstar really struggled to find his place in the Juventus team last season. After scoring 22 Serie A goals two years ago Dybala only managed five last season. That poor season has sparked all kinds of debates about what his best position is – can he play with Ronaldo, or what will happen with Maurizio Sarri in charge?
All the while, Juventus tried selling him to Manchester United before he ultimately declined the move, which all culminates in a giant question mark surrounding the start of his season. It could go poorly quickly, and Juventus don’t seem to have the attack options to survive another poor season.
We Will Find Out
The best thing about the start of this Serie A season is that we get to see this matchup in Week 2. That’s right, Juventus play host to Napoli in just over a week. Now it’s already been announced that Maurizio Sarri is going to miss this game due to pneumonia, so we hope he has a speedy recovery.
What we can be sure of is that no matter who the managers are this will be a fiery game. After back-to-back second places finish Napoli have built a squad ready to take the crown. A result in Turin would be a giant step in that direction.