Napoli went into season 16 one of the rank outsiders for promotion with odds of 28-1 given for a unlikely promotion. Mullan was busy over the summer bringing in veterans Moutinho, Vidal, Costa and Matic to try and add some spine and experience to a very below standard squad. Bamford was sold on a pre agreed deal to Partizan, but would be available for the teams start.
Napoli were quick out the traps racking up 5 wins on the spin to take a maximum 15 points from 15 available, giving the manager his 10 game point target after just 5 matches. It surprised many, some of whifh had been derogatory in their comments about the teams summer business.
Napoli exited the cup in the first round against River plate, then tasted their first defeat of the season against newly relegated Hamburg. 1 defeat in the next 5 games had the Italian side very much in the promotion race after 11 games.
Napoli progressed to the last 16 of the shield however a run of just 1 win in 8 games has seen the side slip to mid table. Injuries and suspensions have played a big part in the sides worrying slide down the table, plus the earlier agreed departure of Bamford who started the season in scoring form for Napoli.
The manager has today rolled the ultimate dice, by surprisingly agreeing to sell arguably the clubs best two players. Moutinho although 35 has been the one stand out performer when he has been fit or not suspended. With 3 goals, 6 assist and a solid 7.5 season rating, his departure could see the team go on a steep decline unless someone else can fill that void. “I really did not want to part with Moutinho, he has been key to our team and I felt letting him and Stindl go for a highly promising young player may not be my wisest move. We negotiated most of sunday over Kiao Jorge, where the buying club wanted Stindl first and foremost and it was a case of who went with him. We had hoped that Matic would be the one, but the deal at 6pm was pretty much dead, with Celta Vigo unwilling to move on their valuation which was for us to add Moutinho. We were again scratching around to field a strong side against Sassaulo, with a number of players not fit enough to start, it meant a formation change to a 4-4-2 diamond which in the end probably cost us the match. When making the tactical change, I sort of decided in my mind, if we lost the match, then we would reignite the Jorge deal and give Celta their asking price. My rationale? With Moutinho 35, it was probably the last chance i’d have of securing a top young player, before he becomes unsellable.
We have not had to re-evaluate our season target, which is to improve on last seasons 50 points, although the loss of two of our starting 11, is going to make us much weaker and we need to try and battle our way now to around 21 points from the remaining 57 to ensure we dont go down. I’m hopeful we can get 24 points which will give us some improvement on last season.
Looking long term, we now have 19 under-21 players. With Kaio Jorge very much the jewel in that crown. We are going to need some luck with the updates amd real life transfers, hoping some of these young players get the opportunity to move to one of the bigger leagues. First team wise we have 5 players over 30, which from a squad of 50 is excellent progress. From the outside looking in, many will struggle to see where the progress will come from. Our team is not littered with big name players, or indeed household name players. The squad player ratings are very low, and most would need to google 85% of our squad to work out who they actually are. We’ve done a lot of scouting and really widened our net in our search for obscure young players who have half a chance of perhaps becoming a decent asset. Some are closer to rises than others, but they will all rise at some point, to what level, well thats the million dollar question. I’ve always said this team is nowhere near ready for Division 2, and to stay in division 3 is a big achievement. We are on a slow rebuilding path, with many incomings and outgoings as we look to build long term foundations. We’ve a big squad, but one i’m not looking to part with any more players at this stage. I want to see how this squad develops now, it will either become one of my greatest sm achievements or will completely bomb out.
“We’ve 19 games now and all to play for, we’ve lost players before and comeback stronger for it. Others will now step up, get their opportunity and try and cement their place in the team. I’m not affraid to chuck some of these kids in the team and despite being rated just 82, i’m sure the likes of Jorge will play a some part in these 19 games”