It has been a sensational season for Napoli so far in 2022/23, having progressed to the Round of 16 of the Champions League and they have mounted the strongest challenge for the Serie A title.
The Partenopei gave Italian giants Juventus a lesson in how to play football on Friday evening, destroying the Bianconeri 5-1 on Matchday 18 and extending their lead at the top of the table to 10 points.
For many years, Napoli have shown potential, but they would eventually crumble under the pressure and fail to maintain a challenge for the scudetto. This comprehensive win not only improves their momentum, but they were also able to halt the run of an in-form Old Lady side that had not lost in Serie A since September and not conceded a goal in eight straight wins.
Napoli leave Juventus humiliated
It seemed that 2023 might be a little less impressive than 2022 for Napoli as they lost 1-0 away to Inter in their first Serie A game back from the World Cup hiatus. However, the Neapolitans tend to fare badly travelling to Milan to play the Nerazzurri usually does not result in success as it was their fifth consecutive defeat to the Biscione at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Napoli bounced back with a solid 2-0 win away to Sampdoria but not many people could have predicted what they were going to do against Juventus. Goals from Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia gave the Partenopei a two-goal lead, only for Angel Di Maria to give the Bianconeri some hope with his strike before half-time.
In the second half, it was all Napoli. The cracks were appearing in the Juve defence, and they could not handle the quick transitions and technical brilliance of the southern Italian side. Amir Rrahmani, Osimhen, and Eljif Elmas sealed the win with goals in the second half, further illustrating the team’s ability to score at will.
Coach Luciano Spalletti has created a Napoli team with great balance. They are not an easy team to break down, but they can pass the ball around, use the full width of the pitch, and they can score in devastating fashion. The Partenopei put five past Juventus, but they never got complacent and looked capable of scoring more.
Knives being sharpened for Juventus and Allegri
Throughout the 2010s, Juventus dominated Italian football in an unprecedented manner, winning nine consecutive Serie A titles and playing in a pragmatic way for most of the time.
Massimiliano Allegri won five of those titles between 2012 and 2020, achieving those victories thanks to defending resolutely and relying on gifted individuals to score the goals. However, his predominantly defensive approach to football is not bringing him much success in his second spell in charge of the Bianconeri.
Juventus have shown that they can defend well in a deep block and pose a threat on the counter-attack, but if an opponent applies pressure on them and attacks them at pace, they are vulnerable.
Juve have a motto that is “conta solo vincere” or “winning is the only thing that matters”. This was often applicable in Allegri’s first spell at La Vecchia Signora as they were able to win regularly by playing ugly. However, their attempts to nullify Napoli on Friday evening came to nothing.
It is pointless to play defensively if you end up losing. A defensive approach should be implemented if you are able to win that way. If not, Juventus would be better off attacking opponents and throw caution to the wind.
Napoli demonstrated that an Italian team can win by being entertaining while Juve showed that defensive football is not the be-all and end-all in Italy.