Il Nuovo NapoliBy: Neil | July 9th, 2013
With the acquisitions of two traditional wingers, Dries Mertens and Jose Maria Callejon, new manager Rafa Benitez is really putting his stamp on this team. The core of the team from the last 5 seasons: Lavezzi, Gargano, Campagnaro, Mazzarri, Aronica, almost certainly Cavani, and maybe even De Sanctis, have moved on to new projects. When Lavezzi and Gargano left last summer it was the proverbial beginning of the end. While the remaining core put in a good performance last season and captured 2nd place, it will be a new core of players at the San Paolo next season. I can’t remember this many important new faces since the summer of 2007 when Lavezzi, Gargano, and Hamsik all arrived. Let’s hope the new cycle works out just as well.
Let’s look at what’s happening position by position.
Napoli are in the market for a new keeper after Rosati moved to Sassuolo. The big question is does Napoli get another backup, or someone to replace De Sanctis? Rafael Cabral seems to be on his way from Santos and there are rumours of Julio Cesar arriving from League Championship side QPR.
For now it’s De Sanctis, Luigi Sepe, and Colombo, but they could be replaced by an all-Brazilian tandem. Rafael, if he does arrive, seems destined to be a backup to a more experienced keeper. Let’s hope he develops better than Rosati.
Outside: Maggio, Zuniga, Mesto, Armero, Fideleff
Inside: Cannavaro, Britos, Gamberini, Fernandez, Uvini
Lots of uncertainty here. Maggio and Mesto are potentially wingers more than defenders, and if they’re considered defenders would anyone start Maggio ahead of Zuniga on the right?
Inler, Behrami, Dzemaili, Donadel, Radosevic, Bariti
Pretty straightforward – as of now Inler, Behrami, and Dzemaili compete for 2 starting berths with Donadel and Radosevic trying to climb up the depth chart. Benitez was desperate to sign Maxim Gonalons but Lyon did not want to sell.
Hamsik, L. Insigne, Mertens, Callejon, Pandev, R. Insigne, Vitale
Marekiaro seems a lock at attacking centre mid, leaving the wings open for 2 of Mertens, Callejon, and Insigne. Pandev’s days at Napoli could be winding down unless he gets some time in at striker…
I am going to assume media speculation is correct and Cavani will be sold. Sadly, Napoli are yet to find a suitable replacement for a fair market price and this position looks thin. Vargas is still on loan at Gremio so he’s not an option until his loan spell is over. Any chance of Benitez trying Callejon as prima punta?
Pandev, Calaio’, Chavez, Hoffer
I believe that covers everyone, except I don’t know where to put Gargano, Dossena, and Santana who are technically Napoli property but don’t feature in the team’s plans. Is it any surprise that Inter didn’t pick up their loan option on Gargano? His skill on the ball just never developed to match the more attractive part of his game and he is once more looking for a new club.
Our midfield – the two holding mids plus the three attacking players – seems to be Napoli’s strong point. Hamsik, Insigne, Inler, and Behrami will guarantee some continuity from last season, Mertens and Callejon seem like solid additions and there’s lots of depth in all parts of the midfield. The backline could also turn into a strength if Cannavaro and Britos form a strong wall in the middle with Zuniga/Maggio and Aremero bombing up the wings to support the attack. But the prima punta and keeper are worrying positions. I have confidence in De Sanctis if he’s the #1 portiere again but Napoli need another potential number one besides Luigi Sepe who is 22 and has spent the last two seasons at Pisa.
One thing is certain: Benitez is not done shaping his team, and there’s bound to be more players coming and going in the next three weeks.
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