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Written By Onyeka Daniel

It’s almost 6 months since Napoli won the Scudetto for the 2022/23 season and with the new season almost half way, it’s looking more likely that the Partenopei will be fighting for a top four place, rather than trying to defend their title. While not much has changed from that team, the departure of Luciano Spalletti and Kim Min-Jae can be said to have definitely weakened the team from Naples.

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But the club, president Aurelio De Laurentiis, has taken full responsibility for Napoli’s poor results this season and promises new signings in January, but blames FIGC President Gabriele Graviana and referee designator Gianluca Rocchi. Napoli were held to a 0-0 draw by Monza at the Stadio Maradona on Friday in the last game of the year.

It means the Partenopei are five points below fourth-placed Fiorentina. The Partenopei remain in crisis mode after this disappointing goalless draw with Monza, especially as they were only able to scrape a point because Alex Meret saved the Matteo Pessina penalty. No need to say ADL and Napoli fans expected more from a team that dominated Serie A in 2022-23 winning the first Scudetto in 33 years.


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De Laurentiis surprisingly showed up for a post-match press conference taking all responsibility for Napoli’s poor results this term. “I hope 2024 brings health and makes you fulfil your dreams,” he said. “I wanted to see you and say that everything that happened until today is just my responsibility. So, all the blame is on me and I take all the responsibility. I must apologise to all Nepeolitans and most importantly to all the fans for our position in the table.

“However, the season is long and we’ll move on the market to make up for what has happened,” ADL continued. “The truth has more faces, but I don’t want to annoy you now. When I’m back from the Supercoppa, we could meet at Palazzo Petrucci, have a nice dinner together and I’ll tell you my point of view.

“I understand you have pages to fill up, radio stations and TVs with great pundits where everyone says his opinion. However, fans must be protected and know the truth, and only those inside know it. This is what I wanted to tell you.” ADL didn’t seem as friendly in the second part of the press conference. “Then, I beg Gravina and Rocchi to try to give Italian football a sense of equity and entertainment.

“I read that Serie A has become less important. It is true if we watch rugby games rather than football games, where the play is stopped continuously and where there is no equity in giving [yellow and red] cards to the teams. “I am not saying our players should not get yellow or red cards when they deserve them. I don’t want to talk about refereeing decisions against Napoli this season.

“Other teams have been affected, too.” Monza were given a penalty kick but Matteo Pessina missed it while both coaches, Walter Mazzarri and Raffaele Palladino were sent off for dissent in the second half. “Dear Rocchi, you can’t allow a referee to send off two gentlemen like Palladino or Mazzarri because this is not football,” argued ADL.

“This was made to prove his strength, but being a referee means having a sense of equity. If, by running too much, they [refrees] lose focus, maybe they must also be substituted. “Again, happy new year to you all, see you on January 24 or 25, thank you.” ADL left the press room without answering questions from reporters. The next game for Napoli is away at Torino on January 7, 2024.

Meanwhile…

Mazzarri, in his own post match interview, vented his fury at the referee after his red card against Monza, insisting Kvicha Kvaratskhelia is ‘systematically fouled’ without adequate protection, but insists Napoli ‘deserved to win 2-0 or 3-0.’ Napoli managed just seven points from their last seven Serie A games. “Let us start saying things as they area, not trying to look to the past,” Mazzarri told DAZN.

“We had six clear scoring opportunities today and it would not go in. Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen are continually provoked, you in the media should show what happens. Show that they are held and pulled for 20 minutes and do not get booked. Of course someone gets fed up then…” Victor Osimhen was suspended after his red card against Roma, along with Matteo Politano.

“It is a strange moment, we are not clear-headed. With Anguissa, Kvaratskhelia and Gaetano we managed to shoot straight at the goalkeeper from point-blank range. “Having said that, show what happened to Kvaratskhelia, who was held for five minutes and then the coach got sent off. At least show why I was so angry.” Mazzarri was dismissed for rushing onto the pitch from his technical area to separate Kvaratskhelia and William Bondo, as the Georgian had reacted angrily to a foul.

“After five games where nothing happens about this, people get fed up. Last time I said that I didn’t want to talk about referees, but if you allow them to do whatever they want and don’t go down to 10 men, this is what happens.” In a bid to shake off this close marking, Kvaratskhelia seemed to have more of a free role. “We tried different solutions in those three days of training. I tried to get him out of that cage of doubled up marking, because he is harassed constantly. I hope at some point the referees will also realise the treatment he is receiving and that in the long run he can benefit from this experience.

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“At one point, it looked like a game of rugby more than football. I went over to the referee and told him that Kvara was not allowed to play because he was systematically fouled. The rules have to be applied.” Mazzarri also faced criticism for his choices, introducing Giovanni Simeone only in the final minutes. “I don’t think Simeone played that much last season either. We finished today with a 4-2-4 formation and if with four strikers we don’t allow any counter-attacks, that means we have improved.

“The only regret is that we failed to score a goal, but we deserved to win 2-0 or 3-0.” It is not just a dismal campaign considering this team dominated last term to become the Champions of Italy. The tally of 28 points after 18 rounds is terrible in general, as Napoli only did worse with 24 points in 2019-20 and 23 in 2007-08 since their return to Serie A post-bankruptcy. Is Mazzarri worried about their situation? “I am not worried by the table, my focus is on getting my lads to play well and today that is what they did.” He further added.

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