So another year of the Emirates Cup is over, and, perhaps surprisingly, Turkish side Galatasaray lifted the trophy. Gala beat Porto 1-0 on Saturday, then came back to beat Arsenal 2-1 on Sunday. Napoli and Arsenal performed about the same, drawing against each other on Saturday and losing on Sunday, both earning 4 points (I'm not factoring in that "shots taken" tiebreaker here, as who needs a third/fourth place breakdown?). Porto came in second, with their 3-1 victory over Napoli earning them a total of 6 points.
Most importantly for a Napoli blog, however, is how the partenopei performed. We gave a full rundown of yesterday's match against the Gunners here. As for today, it has to be said: the first half was nearly unwatchable. Rafa Benitez made a total of nine changes to the squad that started on Saturday, leaving in just Goran Pandev and José Callejón, both who were pulled at the start of the second half in the last game.
Napoli may have scored in the first half, but let's face it, the penalty given was soft. Fernando nudged Pandycakes, who tumbled over. Pandev stepped to the spot himself to put the ball in the net. Overall, the Napoli side that stepped out for the first half was disjointed and disconnected. They were unable to keep possession in midfield, in direct contrast to Saturday's game, in which Arsenal were overwhelmed by the azzurri midfield in the first half.
Let's hope that this was just a case of having to play two matches in less than 24 hours, because honestly, if Rafa ever voluntarily fields Pandev and Emanuele Calaiò in a front two in a competitive match, the best option for fans will be crawling into bed and putting pillows over our faces.
As for the others, well, it may be too early to call. Dries Mertens failed to impress, but it's likely he's still settling in. Callejón didn't do anything awful, but he still wasn't spectacular. It's worth remembering that these matches were Gonzalo Higuaín's first two sets of 45 in a Napoli kit, so he certainly needs more time before we can call him a waste of Euros.
What we do know, and which Rafa certainly better know, is that Marek Hamsik remains the backbone of this Napoli squad. He's the conductor of the side whenever he's on the pitch, pulling the strings and directing play. He's not the flashiest player in football -- even his hair seems nearly normal these days -- but he is, perhaps, most noticeable in his absence. Without Marekairo, there's a lack of linking up, both from the back to the front as well as across the attack. When he's present, the attack flows, perhaps not flawlessly, but at least with some sort of direction and intent.
There's three weeks until the match against Bologna. While Napoli losing this trophy matters little, if Rafa doesn't learn from the combinations of players he ran out over the weekend, that is what will be worrisome.