“Rather Than Winning Once…”By: Neil | October 16th, 2013
The biggest philosophical difference between Mazzarri and Benitez is that one had a short term view, while the other is always looking ahead and preparing for future success. Mazzarri’s goal was to win once, and to approach each match like it’s a final. For him there was no point in looking past the next ‘final’ because who knew what all these decisive single matches would reveal? Of course, Mazzarri often excelled in this short term approach and because of this immediate success it was often difficult to anticipate troubles around the corner. By contrast, Benitez’s long term vision has won over many Napoli fans, who want to see the team compete for years. “Rather than winning once,” Benitez argues, “I’d prefer to remain at the top for five years.” Suddenly the short term panic and pressure is off the players, as there’s always the next four years if Napoli can only compete for 3rd or 4th this season.
I can’t lie, I’m looking forward to the Roma match more so than any other match this season. The Roma match for me trumps the Champions League opener against Dortmund only because I have limited expectations for Napoli in the Champions League this year. Getting out of a difficult group would be a pleasant surprise, but as we saw with Mazzarri’s excellent run two seasons ago it came with a price as Napoli finished 5th in the league, and even then Napoli had already qualified for Europe by reaching the Coppa Italia final, so who knows what might have happened if Napoli needed wins at the end of the season to reach even the Europa League? This is where Benitez’s sense of balance prevails over Mazzarri’s “you’re only as good as your next game” mentality.
Napoli have had mixed fortunes in their two big away matches this season: they played quite well against an injury-hit Milan side and won that fixture for the first time in almost 30 years. However, you can’t read too much into that as AC Milan is experiencing a very unusual slow start for the second year in a row. Plus, it required a sparkling Pepe Reina save from a Balotelli penalty to hold a two goal advantage into the final minutes. Against Arsenal, Napoli was brought back down to earth. The Gunners were very sharp in a way that Milan certainly wasn’t, and Napoli struggled and couldn’t generate any sustained build up in the Arsenal end.
The Roma match will be interesting in that Roma doesn’t have a European distraction and have been clinical like Arsenal rather than error prone and stumbling out of the gates like Milan. Throw in the usual derby del sole atmosphere and this game could be more revealing than any of Napoli’s September and early October matches.