The start of the 2022/23 campaign could not have gone better for Napoli, with coach Luciano Spalletti’s team sitting comfortably at the top of Serie A with an eight-point lead, undefeated and having dropped just four points this term, and storming their Champions League group to progress to the knockout stages.
After losing a number of key players last summer, such as captain Lorenzo Insigne, many predicted a hard season for the Neapolitans as they dealt with that transition, but have instead been one of the standout sides on the continent and look set to win a first Scudetto since their Diego Maradona-inspired triumph in 1989/90.
Player of the season so far
Dubbed ‘Kvaradona’ largely because of the difficulties pronouncing his surname, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has been a revelation since arriving in Naples from Rubin Kazan for just €10 million, and has terrorised defenders up and down Serie A and across European competition.
Since netting Napoli’s first goal of the season against Hellas Verona on Matchday 1, the 21-year-old attacker followed that up with a double against newly promoted Monza, and finished at the winter break with an amazing eight goals and 10 assists in all competitions.
What has gone well
Alongside Insigne, the Partenopei lost a large part of the spine of their team, as David Ospina, Kalidou Koulibaly, Fabian Ruiz and all-time leading goalscorer Dries Mertens all waved goodbye to the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona at the end of the previous campaign.
However, the ability to shape their new signings, particularly those without previous Serie A experience like Mathias Olivera, Kim Min-jae and Kvaratskhelia, has been sensational, and a large part of the success they have achieved so far.
Cause for concern
Unless Mount Vesuvius erupts between now and the end of the season, it looks as though there is little the rest of Italy can do to stop their charge towards the Serie A title, unless coach Spalletti blows up when the pressure and expectation really builds in Naples
The 63-year-old has previously seen dominating starts to a campaign with AS Roma and Inter falter in the final weeks of a campaign and miss out on silverware, and his chance to become an Italian champion.
The Napoli juggernaut does not look like stopping in 2023 and, despite the pressure that will come from reigning champions AC Milan and Juventus, the eight-point lead will be too much to overcome and the Partenopei will lift the Scudetto in June.