Blog Written by Gennaro Episcopo (@NapoliFootball_):
Starting Saturday, Napoli will begin a stretch of 22 days in which they will play 7 matches. Head coach Maurizio Sarri has already proven that he's a maestro when it comes to coaching. He has coached his way up through the ranks like few other coaches have to date. He has received praise for the manner in which his teams work hard and the entertaining performances they put on the pitch. He was able to get the very best out of Gonzalo Higuain who himself praised the Napoli coach for helping him reach his potential. Past the halfway mark last season he coached a Napoli side that was making a serious run for the Scudetto. That run ended in the latter parts of the season as his team began to slow down while Juventus continued to steamroll through the competition.
If there was one criticism to lay on Sarri it was the fact that he seemed to drain the team by only rotating players out of bare necessity. Many will defend Sarri by pointing out that he had little option. The squad had very little depth last season and not much was done to remedy that fact during the January transfer window. Vasco Regini and Alberto Grassi were brought in but neither impressed their coach enough to earn his trust. Grassi never saw the pitch in an official match and Regini only came on in the final minutes of the very last match of the season against Frosinone. Neither player is on the Napoli squad for the coming season.
However, if we look at how Sarri utilized Dries Mertens, we might also be inclined to believe that the Napoli coach was hesitant to make changes to his normal starting eleven even when he probably should have. Surely the Belgium attacker deserved a bit more space; especially considering the less than impressive performances Lorenzo Insigne was putting in during the final portion of the season. The same could be said for Manolo Gabbiadini who, despite an impressive minutes played to goal ratio, only saw the field sparingly.
There will be little room for excuses come this season as Napoli have received great praise for their moves in this summer’s transfer window. This is without a doubt the deepest squad of the Aurelio De Laurentiis era. There are at least two valid options at every position for Sarri to choose from. It will be interesting to see how Sarri reacts and utilities this squad. He will no doubt have to be skilled in bringing all the new faces up to date, integrating them into his system and ultimately placing his faith in them when the time is right.
In responding to questions about the depth of the roster last year, Sarri retorted, “With 18 men you can perform a coup d’etat.” Well with a few more men at his disposal this year, nobody will be expecting him to overthrow any governments but they will certainly be wondering if it’s enough to challenge the current champions of Serie A.