It's no secret by now that Napoli's campaign has been disappointing. They sit third with no chance at surpassing Roma for second place, and the second half of the campaign has seen more disappointments than successes.
That disappointment lead many to assume that Aurelio De Laurentiis would be upset with new manager Rafa Benitez and the way he's running the squad. Thankfully, it looks as though he's anything but:
"It would’ve been better to go directly into the group phase, but we are happy because having changed a large part of the squad, the Coach and playing system this was a transitional season," De Laurentiis said in an interview with TGR Campania, emphasizing the importance of maintaining Champions League status even if it will take Napoli an extra step to get to the group stage.
De Laurentiis certainly has a good point when noting the transitional nature of this season. With a new manager, things always take awhile to get sorted out and stabilized, but Napoli's squad went through massive changes after Walter Mazzarri's departure. A new formation, a new system, a manager with only months of Italian experience, no more Cavani, five new regular starters in the summer, three more in January, a massively increased role for Federico Fernandez; all that spells out a team basically starting from scratch, and that's rarely something that goes smoothly.
Frankly, it's amazing that the first half of the season went as well as it did. Rafa lead the squad to a club record in first half points, but injuries and adjustment issues have plagued Napoli in the second half. The squad still isn't as complete as it could be, but with some smart investment this summer to bring better balance to things and more time for the players to learn how to play under Rafa, Napoli can be a force to reckon with.