Napoli fall from grace, Garcia’s future, Osimhen dilemma
Napoli are away to Salernitana this weekend in Serie A.
Last season, you would have predicted an easy win for them. But not this term.
Against AC Milan last week, the Italian champions had to fight back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home.
It follows a poor run of form, which sees Napoli sit in fifth place with 18 points from 10 fixtures.
So far, they have won five, drawn three and lost two.
A few people might think it is too early for the alarm bells to go off. But there is something distinctly wrong with the side from Naples this season.
Let’s unpack this.
When they won the Scudetto for the first time in 33 years last May, they had the charismatic Luciano Spalletti in charge.
Spalletti walked away from the role after the title celebrations.
The 64-year-old asked for a sabbatical, saying his departure from the club was the right decision after giving it everything he had.
“I no longer have the energy to be up to the standard of what people love so much, so I have to take two steps back and leave,” Spalletti told a press conference.
He was replaced by Rudi Garcia.
Garcia, who was a surprise appointment, has not pulled up trees since he arrived in Naples.
Clinton McDubus, a top football analyst and podcaster, believes the former Lyon boss is solely responsible for the decline this season.
“The key issue here is Rudi Garcia, a manager who is out of his depth and no longer a coach to be relied on,” McDubus tells MTC.
“He’s not a great tactician and he makes questionable decisions. His management of games is appalling.
“There is a reason why his stock dropped so much that he couldn’t land great jobs before Napoli — his last years at Marseille and his time at Lyon were poor. Everyone lost faith.
“As a replacement for Spalletti, he was the wrong choice. There has been no continuity from what worked last season and Garcia does not have the tools to reinvent the team and mould them into something better or more lethal.
“He is ultimately taking them backwards.”
There is also the small matter of the social media fiasco that involved star striker Victor Osimhen.
Osimhen’s 26 goals in 32 league appearances drove Napoli to the title.
The Super Eagles striker’s future is in doubt, after the club’s official TikTok account mocked him for missing a penalty against Bologna.
But McDubus argues that Osimhen is a serious professional and although the incident hurt him, he can be relied upon to deliver goals.
“I believe that Osimhen is no different from what he was last season. He should still be expected to hit 20-25 goals, barring injuries.
“Osimhen, like the rest of his teammates, is paying the price for the manager’s incompetence.
“He will still deliver performances and numbers of a certain level, but we all know he can be so much more with a proper tactician in charge.
“It looks like Rudi might be fired soon, so it remains to be seen if things improve after he is gone,” he adds.
Some others have insisted that Napoli is suffering from a second-season syndrome.
They compared their achievement last season with Leicester City winning the Premier League in 2005.
It is hard to argue against them, as Napoli are currently behind the two Milan clubs and Juventus – the traditional champions in Serie A.
Whatever the case, Garcia has to get his wits about him, while Osimhen has to overcome a slow, eventful start to the campaign to ensure Napoli don’t drift into oblivion.