Usually, we get the opposition point of view going into a match, but this time we decided to do something a little different. Along with our match recap, we spoke with Joe Fischetti to get the Napoli perspective on Inter’s 1-1 draw with the Partenopei. Despite an even split of the points, Saturday’s draw has huge implications for the Scudetto race and the seasons of both teams, and Joe’s Napoli expertise gives us another lens to consider yesterday’s events from.
Q: Saturday’s clash was very much a tale of two halves, with Napoli dominating the first period before an Inter equalizer made the second half a more even affair. Do you think a draw is a fair result? What regrets do you have from a Napoli perspective?
A: Overall, I thought a draw was a fair result. Both sides squandered opportunities to score. Napoli could have potentially put the match away in the first half but didn’t. Zielinski was unlucky to see his effort hit the upright. Inter closed the first half strong and carried that momentum into, and throughout, the second half. While the draw was fair, this was a disappointing result for Napoli. The Partenopei squandered an opportunity, at the Maradona, to go top of the table, even if temporarily given Inter have a game in hand. With the final three changes, it seemed Napoli were playing not to lose rather than to win. That’s consistent with the club’s goal of qualifying for the Champions League, but it would have been nice to see Napoli be more aggressive and perhaps even gamble a little bit to try to overtake Inter in the scudetto race.
Q: How does this affect the Scudetto race in your eyes? What does a successful end to the season look like for Napoli?
A: This is a setback in terms of the scudetto race. Assuming Inter beat Bologna, Napoli would be four points back of Inter with 13 rounds to play. Inter now owns the head-to-head record, so Napoli would need to make up five points to overtake Inter. While a scudetto is certainly not out of the question, a victory in this match would have made winning the scudetto significantly more likely. Looking at Inter’s remaining schedule, it would be surprising if they dropped five points. However, Inter has a busier schedule than Napoli, as Napoli was eliminated from the Coppa Italia. That said, the goal from the very beginning of the season was and remains Champions League qualification. Despite the draw, Napoli still has a comfortable gap ahead of Juventus and Atalanta.
Q: The man that scored Napoli’s goal, Lorenzo Insigne, is headed to MLS with Toronto FC this summer. How will Napoli replace him? Who would you want to see fill his shoes in Naples?
A: At the moment, it seems most likely that Insigne’s replacement is already in the squad. Even without Insigne, Napoli currently has an abundance of wingers in Politano, Lozano, Ounas, and Elmas. You could argue that both Lozano and Elmas are better suited for the left-wing than the right-wing. Those resources can then be used to address other areas of weakness, such as left-back. They could also be used to sign the next generation of players. De Laurentiis has made it clear that he intends to significantly reduce the wage bill. This suggests that he will take the same approach he did in the early 2010s, which is to sign players just before their prime, nurture them, and sell them at a profit when they hit their prime. Two players that fit this mold while also addressing gaps in the squad are Empoli’s left-back Fabiano Parisi and attacking midfielder Nedim Bajrami.
A big thanks to Joe for his time!