After three seasons of decline the Chairman of Napoli, now want’s his side to focus on getting back up through the divisions. Napoli had been victims of asset stripping by previous management which left them with a squad value of less than £70 Million across 50 players and sitting 20 points adrift at the bottom of Division 1. Having appointed Glen Mullan when rock bottom of Division 1, with a Division 4/5 squad, it was inevitable the team would suffer a second relegation. Last season that slide down the divisions came to a halt, as the club managed a 12th place finish in division 3.
“Its been the best close season transfer activity we’ve has in a number of season’s. We are actually trading for players who can come in and impact the first team, and increase our overall starting 11’s rating. We go back three seasons, and we contacted most of the league asking the question if they had anyone they would trade for any of our players. 90% of the time it was either no response or a flat no, given the players we had at our disposal. We’ve had to be patient, we’ve had to try and find players from outside of the top 100 clubs and internal deals we managed to get over the line, we had to give away what was remaining of our best players in most cases taking 2 or 3 in return who we could potentially trade later. To bring in the likes of Vidal, Moutinho, Matic, Stindl and Costa this window is a clear statement from us, that we are slowly on our way back. The squad is starting to take shape, and we have to believe we can improve on 12th and push into play-off contention given the new players that have arrived. There is no guarantee’s, a team takes time to gel, you need a bit of luck suspension/injury wise and you need to be able to manage the squads fitness. The players we have brought in are very experienced, and are the wrong side of 30. However we need to look at our surroundings. We are in division 3, and our priority was to stabilise the club, and then kick it on again. We have 35 players 25 or under, this shows we have implemented succession planning when building this squad. Yes, many of the under 25’s are not going to rip up tree’s in the future, but are still assets that can do a job for us, or another club when we ultimately have to trade again.
There is an air of optimism around the place, we still have Erlinc, Brereton and Bamford due to leave in pre-agreed deals. They are being replaced by Wood and Vinicius, which is good business for us given that Moutinho for example arrived as part of the Bamford sale too. I’m excited by a few of our young players too, I think Leighton Clarkson is going to become a massive asset for us, as are Arriagada, Burch, Luquinha and Joseph. Again when we’ve looked at what young players we bring in, its been a little more calculated, we’ve done our homework, highlighted the target and in these lads cases, have gone external and bought without getting into the bidding war/lottery. Time will tell, like with any youngster if they can push on, but we are confident we have some great potential here, which over the next 12 months we are going to be getting the messages asking for their availability.
Can we make the top 6 and ultimately get promoted?????? I think 20 managers will start off on Sunday hoping to get promoted regardless of their chairman’s expectations. We have three strong teams coming down from Division 2, who will all fancy their chances of going back up. We’ve some impressive looking squads coming up from Division 4, on a high, in the habit of winning who will be looking for back to back promotions. Then we have the manager merry go around with new managers taking the reigns at new clubs, looking to make an impact. That’s before we look at the established squads of West Brom, Sporting etc. Who should be up there pushing from the first ball kicked. Here at Napoli, we are certainly in the strongest position we’ve been in, since I arrived. We have some real quality in the middle of the park, and decent attacking options. Last season we just could not score goals and had one of the worse goal returns in the division. I’m hoping we have addressed that a little with the business we have done. Defensively we do look low on ratings, but this is the same defence which last season managed 14 clean sheets and finished the 4th best in Division 3, so I’m not overly worried on that front, and do have quite a number of potential improvers who could force their way into the back four next season.
On the whole, there is not much gulf in class from one player to another in our squad, we have players who if they get a plus 1 or plus 2, are suddenly starters, they are much closer to our first 11, than perhaps other clubs have with their squad players. I do think this will come into play a little this season, especially managing the fitness side of our squad. We will go into the weekends fixtures optimistic of a top 6 finish, we will need to show we’ve improved by 6 positions with our summer activity, but that’s 6 points from last seasons total. Can this team win 2 more games than they did last season? 100% the squads best 5 players were not here last season, so on that basis I fully expect us to be hard to beat and to be one of the teams in that promotion mix.